“My home is my fortress” is a comforting sentiment. But taking it literally is a mistake when it comes to disaster planning. “The truth is that almost every home has vulnerabilities to natural disasters like fire, floods and extreme weather,” says Brian Rigsby, Paul Davis of the Tri-State Area in Kentucky. “You can’t ‘disaster-proof’ your home but you can and should fortify strategic areas and eliminate weaknesses where you can.” 

As hurricane and fire seasons wind up, concentrate your efforts, Rigby advises, on six areas now:

Strengthen your roof: Ask a certified roofer to inspect your roof for loose or worn materials, repair where needed and replace if your roof is nearing the end of its useful life. If replacement is on the docket, talk to your roofer about securing the deck with ring-shank nails, sealing the deck with high-quality membrane material and choosing a storm-resistant top layer. Ensure that flashing is comprehensive and tight, too.

Update your windows: If replacing your windows, opt for storm-resistant models that are rated to withstand wind and impacts. These heavy-duty windows are increasingly available from major manufacturers. If retaining your current windows, consider storm shutters.

Secure siding and eavestroughs: Inspect siding and eavestroughs to ensure they are sound, adequate and firmly attached. While you are outside scrutinizing, ensure that the ground next to your foundation is sloped properly and clear of flammable materials and landscaping. These measures channel drainage away from the structure and provide a fire buffer zone. 

Unclutter rooms: Disasters do more than strike structures – they devastate the possessions inside. Moving vulnerable items to higher, safer, protected areas or enclosures – or moving them off site altogether – reduces overall risks to your home and disruption if disaster strikes.

Revamp garage and basement: Investigate your garage doors: are they reinforced to resist wind and impacts? “When there is an opening that wind enters, it acts like a bellows to push and pull on your home, damaging the structure,” Rigby says. “Garage doors are a major source of wind infiltration because of their size and inherently vulnerable construction.” Experts also recommend waterproofing basements and inspecting sump pumps.

Protect/replace inferior wiring: When disaster strikes, poor wiring can magnify the damage by transmitting power inconsistencies or even starting fires through shorts and arcing. Ask an electrician to verify that your wiring is up to code and consider installing protective measures like a whole house surge protector.

Interested to learn more? Many insurance carriers happily advise on how to fortify residences against disasters. As a bonus, many offer discounts for taking steps to reduce disaster damage risks.