Purchasing a home is a major milestone in your financial life as well as your commitment to a particular place. After all, most people stay in a purchased home for a minimum of a few years, if not for the rest of their lives.
It is also a chance to settle into preparedness, no longer being tied to a lease cycle when it comes to creating structures for your family’s safety.
If you want to buy a home with preparedness in mind, you’ll need to work through what makes this home a good opportunity and be intentional about buying and constructing what you need to make the home safe.
Consider The Safest Spaces in the Homes You Might Buy
When you’re narrowing down your home buying options, consider what kinds of spaces the home has for your needs. Homes that stand tall in natural disasters:
- Are constructed well with strong materials.
- Are in good repair, with no surprise repair needs or code violations.
- Have plenty of storage space for items you might need in the event of an emergency.
- Have sheltered spaces like basements away from windows.
Your particular natural disaster needs vary, but without strong construction, storage space, and sheltered areas without windows, you’ll have a harder time creating an effective emergency plan.
Evaluate Your Options for Self-Sufficiency in This Home
While the average natural disaster may only require a few hours or days of disaster preparedness, many who value preparedness are also interested in at least the basics of homesteading and self-sufficiency.
If you buy a home with, for instance, a postage stamp of a yard and then later decide you want to be able to grow your own food, you have limited your options in a big way.
So instead of waiting until after the fact, consider what options are available to you on this property:
- Would you be able to easily grow food, raise livestock, or have other outdoor means of producing your own sustenance?
- Do you have the cool, dry spaces needed to store canned or frozen food for future use?
- Are any of the systems in your home completely reliant on electricity? What would you do if electricity was out for a long duration?
- What kinds of disasters could render your home inhospitable, and what can you do to mitigate it?
Some changes that can make a promising home even better are things like requesting a discount on the home price if there isn’t sufficient insulation.
You also might consider homes more heavily if they have a pre-existing solar or wind power system to make you more self-sufficient in times of natural disasters.
Develop an Emergency Plan for Most-Likely Disasters
Speaking of disasters, while you want to be prepared for anything, it makes sense to prioritize the most prevalent disasters in your area. As you choose and move into your home, consider what you’d do to handle the potential disasters that occasionally plague your area.
Making an emergency plan ahead of time avoids letting worry or panic set in, rather giving everyone in the family something useful to do. Waiting to make the emergency plan until you buy the home allows you to tailor the instructions to the actual home you have.
For instance, if flash flooding is possible in your area, knowing who and what should get to the second floor when a certain level of water rise is seen is a very smart move. If your home doesn’t have a second floor, developing your plan for how to handle rising water is even more important.
You’ll want to explain the key steps to children or family members, but you don’t necessarily need to tell them everything – the whole family only needs to know their particular parts in a plan. Feeling helpful can help to mitigate fear in an uncertain situation.
Emergency plans are a great place to store important radio and telephone numbers, along with a spare cell phone and external battery to be able to charge it up.
Other smart financial choices while developing your emergency plan include photographing the objects you own and making sure you have all of your insurance information and important papers in a waterproof, fireproof box or safe. These tasks take time now, but they can be the key to rebuilding a life if a disaster does strike.
Devote Some Unfinished Space to Supplies
If your home has either an attic, a basement, or both, the unfinished parts of them can be a great area to store natural disaster supplies. Remember that having more than you need in the event of a natural disaster can ensure you and your family are not stressed out attempting to find food and other necessities. The initial investment in supplies is worthwhile, even though you should evaluate your store of supplies every year or two to remove expired or non-functional items.
Supplies can take up a lot of space, so evaluate which items could handle the more wide temperature variation of an attic versus needing the relative stability of an interior closet or basement. Supplies you might want to store in your new home include:
Drinking water (the Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests keeping a 3 day supply of one gallon per person per day, minimum).
- Non-perishable, easy to access food that doesn’t require heating to be safe to consume.
- Flashlights, a weather radio, and batteries for all of them.
- Phone chargers/backup batteries.
- A first aid kit.
- Dust masks.
- Local maps.
- Duplicates of necessary medical or hygiene supplies, from prescription medication and glasses to infant formula and diapers.
- Sleeping bags and blankets
- Waterproof matches
- Cash, identification, copies of key documents.
Your own list will likely be much longer, recognizing that your particular family will want to evaluate everything you’d need to survive and thrive during a multi-day natural disaster. The key, however, is to optimize the use of space. If your home is low on storage space, get creative about where to store, for instance, the bulky drinking water or sleeping bags.
Considering where you will put these items from the start avoids feeling like you have to choose between comfort and preparedness.
Think Through The Least Safe Parts of Your Home and Mitigate Them
Natural disasters can come from the outside to the inside of your home if there are weak points. Large windows, for instance, can be unsafe in hurricane or tornado conditions. While you don’t have to board up your house every time it rains, knowing what you’d do in the case of a particularly violent storm is wise, including whether or not you want to store some plywood in your basement that you could use for home window protection.
If at all possible, walk through with your home inspector as they evaluate the home. Many of them will be willing to do basic education along the way about what they are seeing and what warning signs of home instability or damage you need to look for over the years.
Keeping your home in working order is a major aspect of disaster preparedness, because when a natural disaster comes, you don’t want there to already be hazards lurking in the systems of your home.
While most people cannot afford to shore up every system in their home all at once, if you make a plan to save a little money each month and make repairs incrementally, you can budget for the needed home repairs or protections. Even just buying plywood and learning how to install it as window protection can be a good step if large windows are your biggest concern.
Better Safe Than Sorry
As a new homeowner, you may be tempted to focus on the good times you’ll have in this house, and you will! However, it is also prudent to spend just a little bit of time working on giving your future self a security net in the case of a disaster. By making a plan, purchasing supplies, and evaluating your home’s needs, you are much more likely to feel secure and prepared during an unexpected disaster.
Suggested resources for prepper and survivalists:
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