Emergency Preparedness Guide for Landlords

Managing a property can often be a daunting task. That’s why, as a landlord, you should always be aware of the impending risks and know how to mitigate them.

A home should be a place of comfort and safety where tenants can be sure to feel secure; that being said, in the advent of an emergency, it is imperative that one is prepared. It is better to act now than to wait and regret it later. It could happen tomorrow, or it could happen in five years, but the point is you are ready for it whenever it does.

Gaining relevant knowledge, relaying it to residents, and aiding in the development of an effective action plan are the key aspects of emergency preparedness. Within this guide, you will learn how to effectively approach potential hazards and risks, to make your property less vulnerable to damage in the future. In addition to that, it will also include comprehensive recommendations for contacting your tenants and maintaining a good line of communication.

Know Your Hazards

Be conscious and wary of hazards before they occur — if you educate yourself and the residents of your property, it will diminish potential damage caused by costly and careless mistakes. Understanding the consequences of each kind of hazard is crucial when taking preventative measures. Some regions of the country are more susceptible to certain kinds of disasters than others, so make sure you know what your area may be prone to.

Hurricanes

Hurricanes, sometimes referred to as tropical cyclones, are forceful storm systems that affect vast ranges of land and can destroy entire communities. They happen fairly often and may last from a few days to a few weeks. They produce violent, swirling winds of 74 mph or higher, making them increasingly turbulent. They form over warm ocean waters as a collection of storms in the tropics, rotating counterclockwise in the Northern hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern hemisphere.

As hurricane winds blow against the vertical surface of a structure, such as a wall or steeply pitched roof, it exerts great pressure against the surface. As the wind flows over or around the home, it exerts “suction” on the walls or roof. The combination of these pressure and suction forces can cause uplift (stripping roof coverings and sheathing or, in extreme cases, destroying the entire roof), sliding (blowing a property straight off its foundation), overturning (the entire structure may rotate off its foundation resulting in the complete destruction of a home), and/or racking (causing walls to tilt and/or collapse).

In order for this occurrence to reach the status of a “hurricane,” it must first pass through two intermittent stages known as tropical depression and tropical storm. Hurricanes are the product of a successive increase in power and severity, leading to the categorical wind scale that determines how forceful it may be.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

This system is used to outline hurricanes’ 5 different categories:

Hurricane Watches and Hurricane Warnings may be issued in your general area if a storm gives the impression of forming. A Hurricane Watch indicates the increasing likelihood of hurricane conditions developing within the next 36 hours. If this happens, you must gather supplies and be ready to implement your emergency plan. Once a Hurricane Warning is given, your plan should be implemented immediately; this means hurricane conditions are expected to take effect by the next day.

Hurricane season officially begins on June 1st and ends November 30th, but the storms may occur at any moment outside of this time frame. Tracking a hurricane before it reaches land allows people to have enough time to prepare, however, accurately predicting its behavior and consequences is impossible.

How to Prepare
  • Secure outside decorations or fixtures such as potted plants, patio furniture, fountains, and figurines.
  • Remove debris or damaged trees from your property that may become airborne with strong winds.
  • Install hurricane shutters and hurricane glass for your windows to prevent shattering. Use hurricane straps, gables, end brackets, and/or braces to fortify your roof; if possible, replace it with a “hip roof.”
  • Clear gutters and storm drains.
  • Back up computers and other devices, as power outages may lead to data loss.

Floods

Floods are the overflowing of water in habitually dry areas and are one of the most common and most destructive natural hazards. Only a handful of places on Earth aren’t prone to flooding, but anywhere that receives rainfall is vulnerable. The most common cause of floods is bodies of water overflowing their banks. Large amounts of rain, ruptured dams or levees, melting ice on mountains, and misplaced beaver dams may all contribute to the formation of floods.

Residents often have ample time to prepare for an impending flood, as it can take hours or days for a flood to develop. However, flash floods happen rapidly and without any warning. When a flood occurs, water may only reach a few inches, or it can reach the ceiling and submerge the home entirely. Consequently, floods can destroy all of a resident’s property. In the United States alone, 140 fatalities and $6 billion in damages occur every year. Cars, trash, mailboxes, and road signs can be seen half-floating in massive pools of water during severe flooding. After it subsides, areas are often enveloped in thick coats of silt and mud, usually containing dangerous materials like sharp debris, hazardous chemicals, and untreated sewage.

Here are signs of flooding occurring within a property:

  • Humidity in the air
  • Condensation droplets on your floor, walls, and pipes.
  • Wall cracks
  • Smell of mold and mildew
  • Discoloration and rot on your floor, rug, columns, and/or walls.
  • Rust, mold, and rot building on surfaces.
  • Clay, silt and a white powdery substance coating floor boards and wall corners.

Here are signs that damage has been inflicted upon the property due to flooding, specifically damage to the foundation:

  • Doors do not shut properly and door frames have cracks.
  • Windows no longer open or shut properly and have cracks in the frame.
  • New cracks have appeared in the walls, ceiling, or floor boards. Large tears in the wallpaper also indicate a wall crack.
  • Foundation outside has moved (above, below, or further to one side) from the level of your lawn.
  • Bricks on the outside of the property have cracked.
  • Garage doors no longer close properly.
  • Sloping floors.
  • Wall rotation has formed which can be seen through large, outlining cracks in wall panels.
  • Gaps or separation between the walls, ceiling, and floor.
  • There is separation and cracks in the crown molding.
How to Prepare
  • Identify the areas of your home where water may enter (i.e. doors, air vents, pipe gaps, etc.) and build sandbag defenses.
  • Move all furniture, appliances, and personal property, to the outside or highest level of the home.
  • Shut off all power sources (water, gas, electricity) and unplug all technology before the home is flooded.
  • Don’t step into the water, as it poses a risk of electrocution.
  • Plug basement floor drains to prevent sewage backup.
  • Remove all porous materials and prepare your flooring.
  • Keep in mind that some types of flooring like pressed wood cannot be salvaged in the event of flooding.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes are one of the most treacherous types of storms. They are intense spirals of rotating air that often form distinct funnel clouds that cause devastating destruction. Signs of danger include stillness in the air and a greenish hue in the sky, a large, dark low-lying cloud, and a loud booming noise that may sound like an oncoming freight train.

Tornadoes commonly occur during the spring and summer months, peaking in March and May, and most often occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. However, tornados can develop quickly and unexpectedly — striking at any given time. They usually form from thunderstorms or may accompany hurricanes and tropical storms in their progressions toward land. Tornadoes usually move from Southwest to Northeast but are known to move in any direction.

Be that as it may, tornadoes can be larger than 1 mile in length and can tread ground for more than 50 miles. With powerful winds of over 250 mph, tornados cause an average of 70 fatalities and 1500 injuries every year in the United States. Hail and lightning are often seen as a result, though it is not uncommon to catch a glimpse of bright, sunny skies behind the dusty cloud of debris.

The Enhanced Fujita Scale

This measures the intensity of a tornado based on the damage it causes. Here are the different ratings:

How to Prepare
  • Build or designate a safe place on the property that is anchored to the ground and strong enough to withstand airborne debris. This area should be located on the lowest level possible — preferably in a basement, storm cellar, or interior room with no windows.
  • Arrange furniture far away from all windows, mirrors, and glass.
  • Fortify all doors, including the garage door.
  • Secure your roof and ensure the foundation of the property is grounded.
  • You may pin down your home using services like Cable-Tite.
  • Reinforce wall strength by insulating concrete forms or adding concrete cloth to parts of the structure.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes can be fatal and happen at any moment, without warning. It is when the ground begins to move and shake in an increasingly rapid, violent, tumultuous manner, caused by the friction of Earth’s tectonic plates. As they begin to slip past each other, the earth may begin to crack and even destroy entire buildings.

The Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale

This assesses the effects of ground shaking on the environment, its inhabitants, and its structures. There are 12 levels characterized by the following:

The Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale shows how earthquakes affect property.

In addition, similar to how hurricanes are distinguished, the Richter Scale is a system used to identify the respective magnitudes of earthquakes. The scale determines the strength of the seismic energy produced by the hazard, but it does not calculate potential damage.

Earthquakes usually last under a minute, but that doesn’t mean anything in terms of the devastation they can trigger. They are usually caused when rock underneath Earth’s surface suddenly breaks along a fault. Earthquakes may also accompany tsunamis or volcanic eruptions.

How to Prepare

  • Identify weaknesses in your property that may make it more vulnerable in the event of an earthquake.
  • Unanchored structures, weak crawl space walls, unbraced foundations, and unreinforced masonry walls/foundations are common examples of areas that may lack fortitude.
  • What’s inside of your home may pose a significant threat as well. It is important to identify unsecured objects that can move, break, or fall — especially large, heavy, and/or expensive items. This includes anything from furniture to appliances.
  • Consider relocating these objects to safer areas, away from beds, seating, and windows or on lower shelves or cabinets that can remain clamped shut.
  • You may also secure your possessions by using hooks, straps, or latches.

Winter Storms

Winter storms are characterized by precipitation in severely low temperatures, causing large amounts of sleet and snow.

A blizzard is a very severe snowstorm, possessing winds of 35 mph or higher and persisting for an extended period of time (3 hours or more). Low visibility of up to ¼ of a mile is also associated with this hazard. When both of these conditions occur, the National Weather Service will issue a Blizzard Warning.

When they are not expected to occur simultaneously, a Winter Storm Warning or a Heavy Snow Warning may be issued instead. Freezing ice and rain, persistent snowfall and threatening blizzards can all occur, leaving people trapped inside of their houses. Though characterized by the season of winter, these threats may strike at any time from early autumn to late spring, in practically any region of the U.S. They may last days, causing power outages, burst pipes, and dangerous environments. Winterize your property to minimize potential damage.

How to Prepare
  • It is important to designate the responsibility of shoveling snow to a particular individual; whether it be the landlord or one of the residents. If you are the owner of an apartment building or multi-unit property, however, it is your sole responsibility to do so.
  • Make sure to have snow shovels on hand.
  • Provide tenants with sufficient heating fuel like a substantial supply of dry, seasoned wood for a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • Regularly check the property’s pipes, particularly at the beginning of the winter season, and ensure they are protected and well-insulated. This can be done with newspaper or plastic.
  • Tell your tenants to leave faucets running to just a trickle during severely cold weather to avoid freezing.
  • Secure your property’s windows by covering them with plastic or using storm windows.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms, as related fatalities tend to be much higher in colder months.
  • For decks and porches, remove furniture and planters and store them inside.
  • If the property has a pool, cover the pool and close it off. Deflate all pool toys and store furniture.
  • Store all gardening and landscaping tools. Make sure to put away bird feeders and outdoor lights as well. It is also recommended that you pull all weeds and reseed the lawn or replace mulch before a storm.

Tsunamis

Tsunamis are defined as seismic sea waves or series of large ocean waves with extremely long wavelengths that last for substantial amounts of time. They may travel hundreds of miles from the deep ocean and be over fifty feet tall when they reach the shore.

Tsunamis occur any time massive amounts of water are displaced very suddenly. Undersea landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and explosions can all cause a tsunami. Even the impact of a meteorite or comet in the ocean can trigger one of these hazards.

They prove to generate catastrophic destruction, uprooting buildings and vehicles, wreaking havoc on entire communities and leaving them in devastation. Tsunami Warnings may be issued when dangerous conditions are imminent, such as during the instance of a high magnitude earthquake.

A Tsunami Watch is when a tsunami has not yet been verified, but very well may be just an hour away. Though they are not very common, if you have properties in vulnerable areas, it is important to recognize the inherent risk.

How to Prepare
  • Elevate coastal homes in susceptible locations.
  • Know the evacuation routes relevant to your properties and share them with your tenants.
  • Know the height of your street above sea level and the distance of your street from the coast or other high-risk waters. Evacuation orders may be based on these credentials.

Volcanoes

Volcanoes are mountains with large openings in the earth’s crust that are created when molten material is propelled upward through the surface.

Volcanic activity can be very destructive; distinguished by extensive lava flows or explosions. Large amounts of ash and rock that are shot out from volcanoes can travel several miles at high speeds and are known to destroy entire forests. Lava destroys everything in its path and will cause death on impact.

Volcanoes are especially volatile and can be accompanied by several other hazards such as earthquakes, mudflows, flash floods, landslides, acid rain, fire, and tsunamis. Land within a 20-mile radius of a volcano is considered a danger zone, however, land up to 100 miles away from the volcano can be at risk as well.

How to Prepare
  • Be aware of evacuation orders issued by officials in your area.
  • Turn off gas, electricity, and water if possible.
  • Telephone equipment may be damaged during this occurrence, so having a hard-wired phone is ideal.
  • Consider an air purifying respirator, as ash exposure can be very damaging to one’s health.

Sinkholes

Sinkholes, also referred to as shakeholes, swallets, or dolines, are depressions or holes made in the Earth when the surface layer collapses. Recently, there have been disastrous sinkholes forming in the state of Florida. It is a likely occurrence in limestone-based soils and humid climates. Sinkholes can make cracks in both the interior and exterior of a home, break doors and windows, cause the floor to slope or become uneven, and contaminate well water. They cannot be predicted, but there are a few things you can do to prepare.

How to Prepare
  • Determine your risk by inspecting your foundation and other buried items. Pipes are subject to bursting and trees and fences may collapse or break.
  • Watch for signs of water disappearing from the surface, like loss of steam or a pond draining.
  • If you live in a sinkhole-prone area, talk to your insurance provider to see how you can customize your policy.
  • Tell your tenants to get their emergency kit ready and contact their family members to make the necessary arrangements. Don’t forget about pets too.
  • Move all machinery away from the sinkhole if you see it forming.
  • Call 9-11 if you notice a sinkhole and do your best to barricade it.

Landslides

Landslides happen everywhere in the United States, usually with little to no warning. They can be caused by earthquakes, fires, volcanic eruptions, heavy storms, and human modification of land. When a landslide occurs, masses of rock, earth, or debris begin moving down a slope. Debris and mud flows are rivers of rock, earth, and debris saturated by water. This happens when water quickly gathers in the ground, usually during heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt, and turns the land into a flowing river of mud, sometimes called “slurry.” They can travel several miles and move exceptionally fast; they may even pick up cars, trees, and other objects along the way, destroying what lies before them.

How to Prepare
  • Get a ground assessment of your property.
  • Plant ground cover on slopes and build retaining walls.
  • Install flexible pipe fittings to resist breakage.
  • Build channels or reflection walls to direct the flow around buildings. Keep in mind that if you build walls to divert debris and it moves onto a neighbor’s property, you may be liable for damages.
  • Talk to your insurance agent if your property is at risk for landslides.
  • Recognize the warning signs:
    • The landscape on your property beings to change. i.e. Land movement, minor slides, or leaning trees.
    • Cracks begin to appear on the walls, doors, in the ground, and paved areas.
    • Stairs begin to pull away from the building.
    • Fences, walls, and utility poles begin to move.
    • Utility lines break.
    • Faint rumbling sounds or trees knocking together indicate that debris may be moving.

Fires

Fires can occur anywhere and at any time. Wildfires tend to occur during distinctly dry periods when there has been little to no rainfall. Some areas have recurring dry seasons when wildfires are more probable.

Human interference and carelessness also contribute to these tragic disasters. House fires are deadly and contribute to a great number of fatalities each year. Fires spread very quickly; within a minute, it can become life-threatening. There is no time to collect valuables or shuffle around to make a phone call.

The heat and smoke emitted from the fire can be more dangerous than the flames themselves, causing horrible damage to one’s lungs and can lead to asphyxiation, disorientation, drowsiness, unconsciousness, and even death.

How to Prepare
  • Properly install smoke alarms and maintain them.
  • They should be replaced every 8-10 years and the batteries should be checked monthly.
  • Ensure no windows are stuck together and that they are easy to open. Also, check that screens can be removed quickly and that security bars can be opened as well.
  • Provide tenants with a fire extinguisher and proper fire evacuation routes.
  • Consider providing escape ladders as well, specifically if your property has more than one level.
  • Exiting ramps and widening doorways should also be considered if accessibility is an issue.
  • Replace all old, worn, and/or damaged appliance cords as these are fire hazards.

Wildfires

Like any other fire, a wildfire will be unexpected and dangerous. With the increasing amount of natural disasters occurring across the United States, the Western Wildfire Season has lengthened. The Red Cross has provided an active wildfire map that shows local shelters. Check it out here. To prepare for a wildfire:

  • Listen to the radio and TV for the latest wildfire information.
  • Be ready to evacuate at any time. That means, make sure your emergency kit is in order and that you have a plan. Consider asking a friend or family member to take shelter in their home during an emergency.
  • Clear 30 feet of vegetation around your property.
  • Plant some fire-resistant shrubs and trees like hardwoods, maples, roses, and honeysuckles.
  • Install mesh screens in doorways and under the flooring.

Know Your Risk

Natural disasters like those listed above tend to have regional preferences, occurring more often in certain places than others.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided the public with maps of the United States depicting the areas most susceptible to specific types of disasters. The colors on these maps indicate the overall vulnerability of each area in terms of the specified hazard. The lighter regions represent a lower amount of risk and the darker regions represent a higher amount of risk. That being said, the areas with noticeably purple coloring are much more susceptible to the disaster specified.

It is very important that you identify your personal level of risk, according to which region your property is in, as well as its proximity to shorelines, volcanoes, and fault lines.

Property Types and Vulnerability

Different kinds of real estate call for different approaches to emergency preparedness. Assessing the varied protocols of each property type is absolutely essential. There are certain needs and conditions that apply to each unique setting, meaning every little thing should be accounted for.

Apartments

Owning an apartment means taking on the task of generating and enforcing a planned evacuation route for tenants. Rounding up resources and talking to those who live in the buildings to establish a rapport is a great way to ensure safety in the future.

  • Know to seek refuge in the lowest level, or in a central room, during a disaster.
  • Move large and fragile items to the floor or low shelves to prevent damage.
  • Check your pipes and lower the thermostat to a reasonable temperature to counteract bursts and flooding.
  • Inform your tenants about renter’s insurance and underline the probable consequences for negligence.
  • Also highlight weather-specific insurance to guarantee optimal security.
  • Make sure that leasing agreements are thorough and detailed; clearly distinguishing who is responsible for what and which protocols must be followed for every prospective situation.
  • There should also be clear evacuation routes in place and supplies like fire extinguishers should be easy to access.
Houses

In a home, it is important to communicate with your residents and develop an efficient system in preparation for an emergency. The household should develop a clear, concise plan and be aware of the necessary precautions.

  • Installing fire alarms, shutters, and purchasing a fire extinguisher are good ideas.
  • Setting aside “safe places” in the home for emergencies, like a storm shelter or the basement, may make events of disaster much easier to deal.
  • Monitor the space for any weaknesses and have monthly checkups for the foundation, structure appliances, alarms, and so on.
  • Tend to repairs promptly and regularly check on the house’s status.
  • Let tenants know where the utility shutoffs are located.
Mobile Homes

Due to the structure of mobile homes, these properties tend to be at greater risk for damage during a natural disaster. If you own this kind of property, it is critical that you assess the fortitude of the home’s construction and make arrangements as needed.

  • Ensure the buildings are anchored properly.
  • Install strong skirting.
  • Consider installing a storm shelter, keeping in check with the special regulations that may apply.
  • Evacuation routes should be outlined clearly and concisely. Residents of mobile homes should not count on sheltering in place during a natural disaster.
Vacation Homes

Beach Homes: If you own a beach home, your property may be susceptible to flooding, depending on your proximity to the ocean. For this reason, assess the area and make proper adjustments to guarantee the safety of your tenants.

  • Lush greenery and trees on your property are good for drainage — but be careful with fire hazards, as too much foliage may pose a threat.
  • Hiring geological inspectors, land surveyors, or engineers to inspect your land is helpful in identifying issues that may be hidden underneath the surface.
  • Raising your home may be an option if it is unstable, so as to prevent future flooding and property damage.
  • If your home is on stilts, or you wish to install them, make sure they are made of sturdy material and that you maintain their conditions.

Winter Homes: These kinds of homes require special care and attention months in advance of the winter season; it becomes more and more difficult to alter your property once this time of year comes around, so your property and your tenants have to be ready.

  • Use weatherstripping and insulation to protect your home.
  • Items as simple as curtains and blankets can make a world of a difference in terms of bringing warmth into your home, so always make sure to keep them on hand.
  • Consider replacing window screens, screen doors, storm windows, and storm doors.
  • Check for drafts and secure each area to prohibit heat from escaping.
  • Weatherize the lawn, garden, and deck and trim overgrown branches to prevent iced-over or wind-swept branches from causing harm.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to automate temperature changes and save money on fuel costs.
Commerical Buildings

Commercial properties require a great deal of planning in regards to emergency preparedness. The workplace is an essential environment in any community and should always be well-protected. If you own a commercial property, you should carefully review your property insurance. Pay careful attention, especially, to the details concerning emergencies and hazards. Here are the proper procedures for preparing your property:

  • Determine and establish a written protective plan for the business property and its contents.
  • Provide managers and owners of businesses with specific responsibilities for the event of an emergency. You should also give them a copy of the written procedures so they can relay the information to employees.
  • Suggest an employee training program, if it is deemed necessary.
  • During a hazard, those in the commercial building should secure the interior and exterior by:
    • Cleaning drains and gutters.
    • Removing antennas and other loose objects from the roof.
    • Removing outdoor signs and storing other loose objects, like trashcans.
    • Installing shutters or boarding up windows or other glass frontage.
    • Moving goods, equipment, and furniture away from skylines and windows.
    • Clearing all desks and tabletops.
    • Taking down plaques and picture frames.
    • Disconnecting all electrical appliances and equipment, except for refrigeration.
    • Locking all the doors and closing all the windows.

General Procedures

  • Take extensive pictures of your property.
  • This should include all areas of the interior and exterior — every room and every angle.
  • Keep a folder of important documents (including the photographs of your property) pertaining to your preparation plan.
  • Share a copy of this folder with your tenants as well, so that both of you have it in your possession for future reference.
  • Always record tenants’ emergency contact information and provide them with your own.
  • Make an agreement with your tenants on when you are able to enter the residence, whether it be to make repairs or conduct an inspection.
  • Create an emergency fund to store money for any unexpected expenses that may not be covered by your insurance.

For more information on how to effectively manage your property, read this guide.

Dealing With Other Types of Emergencies

All things considered, there is a handful of other unforeseen events one should acknowledge. It may not seem very obvious at first, but preparing for situations like these can prove to be very helpful in the future. Your tenants should be made aware of these possibilities and understand how to react if such a situation arises.

Wild Animal Invasion

Although an uninvited squirrel, raccoon, or possum running loose in your house may not appear to be a situation of much urgency, these animals can cause a substantial amount of damage in a very short amount of time and can also be very dangerous, as well as carry diseases.

  • First, you must isolate the animal — enclose them in the area that they are in and open a window.
  • Leave the room, secure the door, and wait until the animal finds its way out of the window.
  • Do not try to chase the creature out of your house. It will make for increased difficulty, as the animal will only panic and hide.
  • Do not allow your pet to interfere either.
Home Intruder

Another type of hazard one may not be prepared to deal with is the breaking and entering of your property by a stranger. Express the following procedures to tenants:

  • You must establish a safe space in your living area. Keep in mind that more than one place of safety should be designated; this way, if the intruder is blocking your path, you have a solid plan of what to do next. Have an alternate escape route, like a window.
  • A window may make for an easy and quick exit so that you may flee and contact emergency services right away. If you’re not on the first level, keep a ladder stowed away as well.
  • Do not confront the intruder — this may lead to unwanted and unnecessary conflict.
  • Arm yourself.If your life is in a compromising position, you have every right to defend yourself. You can use a baseball bat, bottle, or any other blunt object as a weapon if needed.
  • Do not move from the area you are in; wait for the police to arrive and search your home.
  • Stay in your safe place with all of your household members; it is important for everyone to remain together.
Power Outage

Sometimes this kind of emergency can be quite alarming. If a power outage is caused by a thunderstorm, it should only last a couple of hours and there is no need to worry. However, for a prolonged outage, here is what your tenants should do:

  • Keep perishable foods in a cool, dry spot and covered at all times.
  • Keep refrigerator doors closed as much as possible. An unopened fridge can keep food cold for 4 hours and a full freezer can keep food cold for 48 hours.
  • If the power outage looks like it will last for over a day, it is a good idea to fill a cooler with ice and keep food in there.
  • Turn off and unplug all unnecessary electrical equipment.
  • Turn off and disconnect any appliances that were in use prior to the outage. When power comes back on, surges can cause great damage.
  • Keep one light on so you know when the power has come back.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or any other gasoline powered device inside an enclosed area. The unit should be positioned away from doors, windows, and vents to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Tips For Tenants

There are a variety of actions one can take in advance of an emergency to lower the risk of damage and loss. Not all homes possess the same level of vulnerability, as some areas may be more affected by particular types of emergencies, — especially natural disasters — but everyone is still susceptible to some kind of situation like this. It is of utmost importance to be as ready as you can be, before even receiving a warning. As a landlord, you must warn your tenants of the repercussions associated with certain events. You should provide them with the following information so that they gather applicable knowledge on how to prevent, prepare for, and react to emergencies.

Make sure to build a kit for potential emergencies.

Building a Kit

Gathering essential supplies and organizing them in an accessible manner is vital in preparation for future emergencies. Here is what you, as a tenant, should do to guarantee your safety:

  • Store at least a 7-day supply of water for your household; 1 gallon per person per day should be the standard.
  • Gather foods that are ready-to-eat, canned, and have a long shelf-life. This includes canned juices, milk, soup, high-energy food items like crackers, peanut butter, granola bars, and trail mix.
  • Keeping comfort foods like candy, favorite cereals, and instant coffee can make the process just a bit more bearable.
  • Also consider household members like infants and elderly individuals, who may have special dietary restrictions.
  • Keep essential tools and supplies organized in a simple, easy-to-use manner, in a place that will be easy to access. Here are the suggested contents:
  • A first-aid kit; this can be homemade or purchased. It is recommended to keep a first-aid kit not only in your home, but in your vehicle as well.
  • Disposable cutlery, plates, and napkins/paper towels
  • Aluminum foil and plastic storage containers
  • Cleaning supplies for any potential messes
  • Hand-crank or battery powered radio (some of these may even have attachments to charge cellphones or other electronic devices)
  • Portable charging pack (these can be charged ahead of time and ensure a lasting supply of energy for your devices; just make sure you have the charging cords in your kit!)
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Cash, coins, and/or checks
  • A manual can opener and utility knife
  • Pliers
  • Scissors
  • Duct tape
  • Work gloves
  • Signal flare
  • Whistle
  • Waterproof matches
  • Fire-starting kit
  • Map of area (with nearby shelters)
  • Insect repellent
  • Plastic sheeting (for shelter protection)
  • Sleeping bags and blankets
  • Extra clothing (make sure it’s practical and that you keep items for certain types of weather, like thermal underwear, raincoats, umbrellas, and sunglasses)
  • Personal hygiene products (toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, liquid detergent, hand wipes, garbage bag, plastic bucket, etc.)

Moreover, there may be unique items necessary for your particular home and situation.

  • Have copies of important family documents ready (forms of identification, insurance policies, wills, etc.).
  • If you take prescription medication, keep an emergency supply.
  • For babies, having formula, diapers, wipes, bottles, and medications is a must.
  • If you have pets, store supplies for them too (food, water, toys, dishes and water bowls, collar/harness and leash).
  • Consider denture supplies, contact lens supplies, and extra eyeglasses
  • Have board games, playing cards, books, and other forms of entertainment to keep your household busy and dbuildistracted.
  • You can keep some of these things in your vehicle too so you’ll be prepared no matter where you are.

Make sure your home is adequately equipped and you have a set plan.

Developing a Personal Strategy

Your emergency management plan is your course of action to effectively mitigate the damage of any emergency that may prevail. After talking to your landlord about the necessary emergency procedures, a unique, personal plan should be created as soon as possible. This plan should be outlined in a convenient and simple fashion and be kept handy for the future.

Placing it in an accessible location (perhaps even more than one, since, in an emergency, you may not sure where exactly you will be) like your wallet, glove compartment, bedside table, or backpack/purse. You should provide this with each of the members of your family, discuss the inner workings of the plan, and encourage them to refer to it frequently. It is indispensable that each household member is completely aware of the urgency and seriousness an emergency can pose and everyone must know how to act in a sufficient, collected manner.

As mentioned beforehand, your plan should be easy to use and practical. You may make these easily at home, by hand or on the computer. They can be printed cut-outs that are small enough to keep in one’s pocket, or entire sheets of paper to store in folders or put on the fridge. One should make it visual, legible, and straightforward — so that even young children may be able to use it effortlessly. It should include every piece of information you may find crucial in an emergency event.

Recognize the following suggestions and outline a strategy that adheres to your home’s needs and traits:

  • Express the objectives of performance response; for instance, include steps to contact immediate family members, obtain an emergency kit, go home, or to the safest area in the moment, and wait there.
  • Provide emergency contact information on the plan, like parents’ phone numbers, providers’ information, etc.
  • This could also include numbers like 911 or that of your local police department.
  • Assign roles to different members of your family; like whom will pick the kids up from school if something occurs, or who is responsible for securing their home and arranging the supplies.
  • Though a general response plan should be assessed and created, one should also acknowledge the varied procedures that will be taken in different kinds of emergencies.

This is why it is extremely important that you communicate with those in your family and develop a strong understanding of the risks associated with every possible circumstance. Consider the following example when creating your plan: Again, this should seek to meet your household’s needs and conditions, so speak with your family ahead of time. It’s important to communicate in this kind of situation so that you encourage a mutual understanding of the according consequences and procedures with your loved ones.

Here is a template for a Disaster Preparedness Plan, provided by the American Red Cross.

Pet Safety

If your tenants have pets, then they should develop an emergency plan for them. To ensure that pets are properly protected, inform your tenants to do the following:

Pet-Proof Your Residence
  • Go through your home and eliminate potential hazards like loose wires and cords or small items your pet can choke on.
  • Remove or lock the knobs on your stove.
  • Never leave your pets alone around an open flame and keep all flammable objects of your pet’s reach.
  • Keep potentially poisonous plants, chemicals, and medicines away from your pet.
  • Beware of insects, poisonous toads, and lawncare pesticides that could endanger your pet. Always make sure you watch your pet if it is outside and unleashed.
Make a Plan
  • ID your pet. Make sure your pet’s tags are up-to-date and securely fastened on their collar.
  • Make sure to have a current photo of your pet for the identification process.
  • Make a pet emergency kit. Here are some suggested contents:
    • Pet food
    • Bottled water
    • Medications
    • Veterinary records & other documentation
    • Cat litter/pan or potty pads
    • Manual can opener
    • Food dishes
    • Plastic bags and paper towels for messes
    • Pet bed & blanket
    • First-aid kit
    • Toys
  • Identify shelters that accept pets. If there are not many options in your area, identify hotels/motels that accept pets well in advance of an emergency. If you are not able to return to your home in an emergency, then you may have to board your pet. That means you should also find potential boarding facilities. As a last resort, some animal shelters provide temporary foster care for pets during emergencies.
  • Have a secure pet carrier, harness, and/or leash to protect your pet if he/she panics.
During a Disaster
  • Bring your pets inside immediately.
  • Never leave a pet outside or chained up during a storm.
  • If you evacuate your home, take your pet with you. It is very unlikely that they will survive on their own.
  • As mentioned previously, if you are going to a shelter, verify whether or not your pets will be allowed there. You will probably need to make special accommodations for them.
  • Separate dogs and cats. The anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally.
  • Feed them moist canned food so that they will have to drink less water.
  • Make a back-up emergency plan in case you are not home when the emergency happens or you cannot care for your animal by yourself. It is a good idea to talk to a neighbor and develop a “buddy system.”
After a Disaster
  • You should always leash your pet for the first few days after a disaster. Unfamiliar scents and landmarks can throw your pet off and make them panic. Leashing them and watching them closely will prevent your pet from endangering itself or escaping.
  • It’s important to note that your pet’s behavior may change after a disaster. They may become aggressive or defensive. Pets are very sensitive to these kinds of situations and their instincts will tell them to act a certain way. Be careful and make your pet feel as comfortable as possible.
Resources

For more information on pets in rental properties, check out this guide.

What To Do If You’re Away

A home away from home should always be a place for relaxation, serenity, and peace of mind. Sometimes it may seem like extra weight in your luggage while on that long-awaited trip to the Caribbean, or a wavering cloud of fear back home after leaving your retreat in paradise, but no one should have to be stressing the safety of their home while they are too far to know what may be happening.

With that taken into consideration, one truly must know to educate themselves on how to prepare their homes before they depart. Here are certain precautions you can take, in addition to the general ones already stated, to ward off burglars and intruders, secure your belongings, and eliminate that pesky anxiety.

At Home Before Vacation
  • Tell a neighbor or friend when you will be leaving and when you will be returning.
  • Let the landlord know of your departure as well.
  • Don’t make your plans known all over social media, as this could tip off potential burglars online.
  • Park your car in the garage if you have one, if not, leave them where they are usually parked.
  • Consider using a rental car or taxi to go to the port, train station, or airport so it looks like you’re still home.
Before Leaving a Vacation Home
  • Don’t leave spare keys under the mat or in other precarious locations — give it to a neighbor or consider not leaving one there at all.
  • Check with the landlord and make sure all emergency equipment is already installed.
  • Leave no valuables or important documents in the home after you leave. Only what is meant to be there.
At Any Time That You’re Away
  • Unplug all appliances and electronics. Turn off water valves.
  • Dispose of perishable items and take out the trash.
  • Use home security technology to monitor the area.
  • Have someone check on pets or use a boarding/kennel service.
  • Ensure your landlord and/or neighbors have emergency contact information.

To ensure the safety of your home, remember these tips:

For more information on vacation rental safety, check out this guide.

Helpful Resources

Accordingly, there is a variety of other tools that will tremendously assist you in the future. Owning a home is an invested commitment, and every owner truly wants what is best for it — it is your place of comfort, ease, and contentment. That means it is most definitely ideal that one utilizes all the help that is presented to them. So, here are a few other resources for your consideration:

Apps

Apps like Guardly and Disaster Alert let you know when something out of the ordinary is occurring. They allow you to always be alert and informed about whatever transpires. Red Panic Button is an app that allows you to preset an emergency message with the recipient already selected, letting you seek help with the simple touch of a button. SafeTrek is quite similar, though it consists of a button the user holds until they are in a safe location — the app will subsequently contact the police if the user becomes unresponsive.

Emergency Services

Know the phone numbers for emergency services in your area. Record all emergency contact information — including your own — and provide tenants with copies. Emergency numbers include those of Poison Control, Animal Control, the fire and police departments, nearby hospitals, a locksmith, your water and power company, and 9-1-1. You should also tell your tenants to write down the phone numbers of immediate family members and their insurance agents.

Websites

In addition, there are some wonderful, convenient websites that you and your tenants can refer to while you develop your safety plans. Here’s a list of a few prominent ones:

Jaleesa Bustamante