Home can feel like one of the safest places in the world, but dangerous and even deadly disasters such as earthquakes, floods and storms can threaten that safety.
When disaster strikes, being prepared is crucial to your survival. For apartment-dwellers, it’s critical that they understand how their apartment could be at risk during common disasters and what they or the community’s management should do to prepare.
Apartment living doesn’t make one safe from the threat of floods and the damage that they do. Often, flooding is caused by leaks, such as those from malfunctioning appliances or faulty pipes, but it can also be caused by natural causes, such as hurricanes and prolonged rain.
Water from flooding can damage both personal belongings, such as furniture and electronics, and the apartment itself. Mold and structural damage to flooring and walls are some of the common problems that come from flooding.
To protect your valuables, get flood insurance in addition to renters insurance. This type of insurance will cover damage caused by flooding, where renters insurance alone may not.
Another important step in protecting your valuables is to place items that can be destroyed by water in a location that’s high enough to be out of the way of rising water in the event of a flood. These types of items should be moved off the ground and away from areas, such as bathrooms that may flood accidentally.
Residents living in flood zones should ask apartment management about sandbags during heavy rainfall, which can prevent outside water from reaching ground-level apartments. Unplug electrical items if the apartment begins to flood during a storm, and if possible, vacate the premises.
In a hurricane, people living in an apartment face damage from heavy rain and winds that can be as strong as 155 mph. This may result in windows breaking and damage to the apartment’s roof. Flooding from rain creates another concern during hurricanes.
To protect the apartment, bring in any patio/balcony furniture that high winds may toss against windows. Board up windows and sliding doors, and ask the apartment management if they’ll provide the necessary materials.
People who live on upper floors should shelter in apartments at lower levels when possible. Regardless of where the unit is located, stay toward the center in a room with no windows. Closets and bathrooms are good spots within an apartment to seek shelter. Keep a battery-operated radio on, and evacuate if instructed to do so.
Renters, particularly those who live in hurricane zones, should also verify that they’re covered with hurricane insurance.
Tornadoes are highly destructive, with winds that reach as high as 300 m.p.h. This can lift objects like trees from the ground and the roof off of a building. Damage to an apartment may include harm to walls and windows from outside projectiles and roof damage that ranges from mild to ripped off entirely.
The first step of protecting your apartment and yourself is to purchase an insurance policy that covers tornado damage. This is crucial for individuals living in areas that are at high risk for tornadoes.
To reduce the risk of projectiles, remove furniture from the patio or balcony. Speak with management about securing or removing items that can be lifted by high winds. The management should also trim branches in the complex that may break and fly through the air. Individuals living in high-risk areas should also talk with the management about the installation of storm shutters.
During a tornado, apartment residents generally don’t have a basement to shelter in. Instead, they should avoid windows and go to an apartment or room on the lowest floor, if possible. The room you choose to take shelter in should be near the center of the apartment. If staying in a bathroom, get into the bathtub. Wherever you go, covering your head and neck or wearing a helmet can help to prevent injury.
When the violent shaking of an earthquake hits, it can cause more than just serious injury â it may also damage the structural integrity of an apartment. This could include cracks in walls, the ceiling or the foundation itself, should it shift during the quake. Earthquakes may also shatter or crack windows in the apartment.
Steps that you can take beforehand include anchoring heavy or breakable items that may fall or be flung around, such as mirrors, TVs and heavy and tall furniture like bookshelves. These items should be anchored to the floor or the wall.
Breakable or heavy items that can’t be anchored should be kept on lower shelves and never stacked. You should also check your renters insurance policy to ensure you’re covered for earthquake damage.
During an earthquake, renters should move away from mirrors or windows that may shatter and cut them. Ideally, they should find a sturdy desk or table to seek shelter under. Once under shelter, covering the back of the head and neck with one’s arms can help prevent serious injury.
If there are no objects to duck under, crouch against a wall inside of the apartment, protecting the head and neck. Stay indoors and under shelter until the shaking stops completely. Avoid going down apartment stairs during the quake and avoid elevators.
Before a crisis strikes, create an evacuation plan for when leaving the home is advised. Everyone living in the home should know what the plan is and have practiced it.
When creating an evacuation plan, families should have locations in mind where they can stay. Often, evacuated people will stay in a public shelter, or one can make plans to stay at the home of a friend or family member if the need arises.
Hotels and motels are options, but if evacuating with a pet, be sure to find out where pet-friendly hotels are located. Because families must also have a way to contact each other, every family member should have a list of phone numbers that are kept in a wallet or purse, including the number of an out-of-town friend.
Putting together an emergency supply kit is another universal and necessary step when preparing for potential disasters. An effective supply kit contains items that are crucial to a person or family’s survival following a disaster like a first aid kit, batteries, a flashlight and a battery-powered radio.
The emergency kit should also include enough nonperishable food for at least three days and a gallon of water per person per day. Also, pack important documents and an extra supply of medications in a waterproof bag.
- Tornado Safety Tips for Apartments
- Hurricane Preparedness for Apartment Dwellers
- Tornado Safety Checklist (PDF)
- Tornado Safety
- What to Do During a Tornado Event
- Where Is the Safest Place in a High-Rise Apartment During a Tornado?
- Get Ready for a Major Earthquake. What to Do Before and During a Big One
- Tips for Tenants
- Here’s What to Keep at Home in an Emergency Supply Kit
- Emergency Preparedness: Make a Plan
- Family, Health, and Safety Preparation
- Putting Together Your Emergency Supply Kit
- Disaster Preparedness Guide for Seniors and Caregivers
- Emergency Preparedness Checklist (PDF)
- Build Your Own Pet Emergency Kit
- Disaster Preparedness: A Checklist (PDF)
- These Are the Best Foods to Stockpile for an Emergency
- Checklist for Disaster Preparedness (PDF)
- Preparedness Guide for Disasters and Emergencies: Personal Preparedness (PDF)
- Floods and Flash Floods
- How to Prepare for Hurricane Season
- Seven Tips for Hurricane Preparedness
- Hurricane Preparedness Tip
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If a fire happens, will your important documents stay safe?
Apartment dwellers need to be proactive about protecting critical information in case of a fire. Plenty of us have gone digital when it comes to storage of personal information, but certain items still need to come in hard copies. And some things, other than papers, also need a tangible safe place.
The safety deposit box at the local bank is still an option. However, bank hours aren’t always aligned with yours. If you want to go the digital route, look for companies that specialize in the storage of critical data. You can access your info directly from your phone, tablet or Amazon’s Alexa device. But if you prefer to go more old school â you need to think about protecting your valuables that are difficult to replace.
What will you need easy access to when you’re in an emergency fire crisis? Your list will probably look like this: an original birth certificate, social security card, insurance papers and car titles and other original docs. You could also include spare keys, passports and irreplaceable items like heirloom jewelry. A fireproof safe box will give you peace of mind. And, it will act as a security measure should a fire occur.
Are all fire safe boxes the same?
Did you know that not all fire safe boxes are alike? For example, standard fireproof safes protect your valuables against intense heat and smoke damage for periods of up to 120 minutes, according to Western Safe, while others can withstand the heat for longer. So, what’s the best type of fireproof box? Experts say it all depends on what you intend to store.
You should look for a fire safe box that has emergency override keys so you can open it up even if you forget the passcode. The keys are also good if the batteries run out on the keypad.
To help you know what things to keep in a fire safe box in your apartment, we’ve organized a list. These items make good sense to safeguard against fire:
- Critical documents: Store your checking and savings account bank books, birth certificates, social security cards, wills and passports in a fire safe box. If you need to get out at a moment’s notice, these important documents will be safe and accessible.
- Digital media: Your digital must-haves include USB sticks, memory cards and CDs. These items are your physical back-up. And this is especially true if you don’t want your most private data to live on remote servers.
- Insurance policies: Talk to your insurance company about your renters insurance following the fire. Having access right away to your policy will help you to take action post-fire.
- Cash: Life today is debit and credit card-driven. But it’s also smart to keep a stash of small bills on hand. If an emergency calls for quick cash, you’ll be glad you thought ahead and put some aside.
- Other valuables: Remember to organize a file with essential information. Include emergency numbers of family members. Have your prescriptions, who your family doctor is and contact info for your pet’s vet, too.
Do your homework
Before purchasing a fire safe box, be sure to research what’s on the market. You’ll be surprised to find a range of choices. You can even select from fireproof safes that you can bolt to the ground or wall. Is the fire safe box waterproof? If not, be sure to protect all contents by storing them in plastic.
An official fire rating from the Underwriters Laboratory comes with all safes, according to Haven Life. The rating lets you know what temperature the fire safe box will stay inside during a fire. It will also let you know how long it will stay at that temperature.
Look for fire safe boxes that are either 125 degrees Fahrenheit or 325-degrees safe. They typically come with up to three hours’ worth of protection. Spruce reports that some fire safe boxes can withstand fires with temperatures up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Does size matter?
Fire safe boxes are compact to mid-size and come in a range to meet your needs. You can find options with a capacity of 0.17 cubic feet and weighing in at just 14 pounds. Or, one that weighs a little less than 28 pounds and can store flat 8-1/2-by-11-inch, letter-sized documents.
Extra-large capacity fire boxes can hold much more. They can weigh more than 100 pounds and measure more than 1-1/2-feet on each side. But the size is worth it because it gives your stuff a greater chance of surviving a disaster, according to Wirecutter. The site recommends a fire safe box the size of a mini-fridge that weighs in at 56 pounds.
Choose a fire safe box that has all the protective features and benefits to keep your important documents safe. In the long run, the investment could prove to be a wise one.
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