How to prepare your home for an emergency

Emergencies happen. And while you can’t be sure how and when one might arise, you can take steps to be prepared for the impact it will have. Whether it’s a sudden flood, power outage or freak snowstorm, here are some strategies to minimize danger to your home, family and even your pets.

Before a Disaster

Step 1: Create an emergency plan

It is critical for everyone in your home to know what to do in an emergency, so having a plan is key. Your plan should include the following information:

  • Available shelter on short notice
  • Sources of emergency updates
    • Local media
    • Radio stations
    • Social media
  • Two or more potential evacuation routes
  • A rendezvous point in case you are separated
  • How different types of emergencies are to be addressed
  • Emergency contact information

Make sure to meet with your family to review the plan and make sure everyone understands and knows their role. You can find a disaster plan template on the Red Cross website.

Step 2: Consider the unique needs of your household

Every household is different, and the needs of your family may not mirror those of a friend or neighbor. Keep in mind the following information when developing an emergency plan:

  • Ages of household members
  • Dietary restrictions
  • Medical needs, including prescriptions and equipment
  • Disabilities and accessibility requirements
  • Language barriers
  • Cultural and religious considerations
  • Pets or service animals

Step 3: Gather your supplies

A “Go Box” in an easily accessible location can be a lifesaver during a quick evacuation. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends including:

  • Three days’ worth of food and water (at least a gallon per person)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank flashlight and radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency whistle
  • Trash bags and duct tape
  • Dust masks
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Regional maps
  • Cell phone with charger
  • Personal sanitation supplies
  • Enough cash on hand for five days of basic needs — but any amount is helpful
  • Personal identification such as driver’s license, passport, social security card, etc.
  • Vital records such as birth, marriage, divorce certificate, child custody papers, etc.
During a Disaster

An alert has been sent and a disaster is imminent – now what? Listen to local radio stations to follow evacuation instructions and updates. If an evacuation order is in effect, back your car into your driveway and keep your “Go Box” at the ready.

If time allows:

  • Call or email an out-of-state contact and tell them where you are going.
  • Unplug electrical equipment such as radios, televisions and appliances.
  • If there is damage to your home or you’re instructed to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity.
  • Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going.
  • Check with neighbors to make sure they are prepared and able to leave.
  • In case of wildfires, shut off gas and move propane tanks away from structures.
    (Do not leave water or sprinklers running as this can reduce water pressure needed for hydrants.)
After a Disaster

Now that the storm has passed, it’s time to assess the potential damages and return home. Call your area fire or police department to see if roads are open, power is restored and utilities are back online. Twitter and Facebook often have the most up-to-date information.

Visit Denver’s Office of Emergency Management website for more information about Denver’s disaster preparedness program, and look to the following resources for information during an emergency:

  • Sign up for Swift911, Denver’s high-speed emergency notification system
  • Tune into radio station 850 KOA (AM), the designated primary Emergency Alert System (EAS) activation station for the Denver area
  • Visit comemergency.com for emergency updates from the Colorado Department of Public Safety
  • Follow @READYColorado on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram

Recovering from a disaster can be costly. In the event you need help making repairs to your home following a disaster, contact the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA). Through our housing rehabilitation programs, you may qualify for a grant or zero- or low-Interest loan for home repairs like a new roof, plumbing and electrical fixes, window and appliance upgrades and more. Click here to learn more about DURA’s programs.