Defending a House from Disaster: Introduction and Article Index

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Home Emergencies | Glossary

Besides preparing for weather’s usual vagaries, homeowners every where must be ready for natural disasters of one sort or another: blizzards and ice storms in the North, red winds or Santa Ana’s in the Southwest, hurricanes along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, earth quakes along the Pacific Coast. Tornadoes cut destructive swaths at least once a year through every state except Alaska and Rhode s land; the annual average for Texas is 108, for Oklahoma 53, for Kansas 46. and no part of the United States or Canada is completely free from the threat of seasonal or flash floods, or of thunderstorms and the lightning that accompanies them. Floods drive about 100,000 Americans from their homes each year, killing 200 persons and destroying or damaging over $950 million worth of property. Lightning kills about 350 Americans each year and injures 550; annual property loss is estimated at more than $500 million.

To protect life and property from such climatic calamities, both the United States and Canada have established storm forecasting ser vices. Under these systems a storm or flood “watch” (“advisory” in Canada) cautions the public about the possibility of trouble, and a “warning” alerts them when the storm or flood is imminent and shelter must be sought at once. Unfortunately, not very many flash floods can be predicted in advance and earthquakes are difficult to forecast—although warnings are broadcast for the tidal waves that frequently follow their tremors.

Aside from updating your homeowner’s insurance and adding policies for contingencies it may not cover, you can use your carpentry skills to safeguard the house against the most likely disasters. A simple wooden cover, made like a shadow box out of 2-by-4s and plywood, will protect a picture window from the grab bag of trash a hurricane or tornado might fling against the glass. You can get the cover ready months before storm season and put it over the window in a matter of minutes any time a hurricane or tornado watch is announced.

With more effort you can permanently brace the inside of your roof to keep it from being blown off in a high wind or crushed under heavy snow or ice. Or you can strap your chimney with metal bands to prevent it from pounding against the house or collapsing in an earthquake. Providing real protection from thunderstorms, however, is not a do-it-yourself project; you need a lightning protection system contractor as explained below. and when nearby rivers or streams go on a rampage all you can do is to try to minimize the damage by turning off utilities and moving possessions upstairs beforehand, and then cleaning and drying the house as quickly as possible afterward.


Disaster example:Threatening thunderbolts. Lightning strikes some part of the earth’s surface 100 times each second with a stroke that may carry over 200,000 amperes of electricity—enough current to light a quarter million 100-watt bulbs. Against such odds, a homeowner’s best bet is to get an ex pertly installed protection system—the modern version of yesterday’s lightning rods.


Defending a House from Disaster articles:

Also from our Weatherproofing guide...

The Battle against Moisture (relating to basements, etc.)

Down Below: Barriers to Stop Cold, Conserve Fuel and Insulating the Warm Spaces (basements, etc.)

Next: Wind-proofing a Picture Window

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