Preparation for Homeowners
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In preparing for natural disasters, homeowners face a distinct set of challenges related to physically securing their property and limiting their liability for damage and loss. While homeowners may rely to a certain extent on local, city, and state agencies to provide pre- and post-disaster services, they are ultimately responsible for caring for their property in disaster scenarios. This document is designed to help homeowners understand the steps they may take to reduce the threat of disasters against their home and property.
The most critical resources for this topic are marked below with a check.
Each type of natural disaster poses different threats to a home, and consequently requires a different sort of preparation. Please note that as disasters, building types, and other conditions vary geographically, appropriate planning solutions for one location may not work in another.
- www.floodsmart.gov, official website of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
- Protect Your Property(FEMA). A collection of disaster-specific resources providing instructions on how to protect your property.
- Home Builder's Guide to Coastal Construction Technical Fact Sheet Series (FEMA) A series of 31 technical fact sheets detailing such things as Using a Flood Insurance Rate Map, Moisture Barrier Systems, Coastal Building Materials, and more.
- Fire Damage Assessment(4.5) (Minnesota SHPO). Minnesota's Thinking About the Unthinkable: A Disaster Plan For Historic Properties in Minnesota talks about properly venting heating equipment and reducing fire hazards in buildings.
- Fire Safety in Historic Buildings(National Trust for Historic Preservation)
- GSA Fire Safety Retrofitting(General Services Administration)
- Fire Suppression in Historic Buildings(The Building Conservation Directory, 2001)
- NFPA 914: Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures, (National Fire Protection Association) used by National Trust properties.
- HUD Guidelines on Fire Ratings of Archaic Materials and Assemblies, (HUD) A 184-page HUD document detailing the fire safety of materials often found in historic buildings but often omitted from contemporary fire ratings sources. This document can assist in the modernization and reuse of historic buildings by providing more thorough information on the fire safety of certain materials.
- Fire Inspection Checklist, (National Fire Protection Association) Designed for professionals but relevant to building and homeowners, this checklist can help identify and reduce fire risks in historic buildings.
- Strategic Fire Protection in Historic Buildings (The Building Conservation Directory, 1996). Written for the UK, this article mentions laws not applicable in the US, but is nevertheless relevant.
- Up In Smoke (Preservation Magazine, November/December 2002).
- Considering Fire-Safety Improvements to Historic Buildings (APT Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 4, (2003), pp. 10-17)
- Automatic Fire Suppression for Historic Structures (APT Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 4, (2003), pp. 35-40).
- Preserving History from Fire: Bridging the Gap Between Safety Codes and Historic Buildings (Old House Journal, November/December 2000). Addresses fire code issues for older buildings.
- Water-Resistant Design and Construction: An Illustrated Guide to Preventing Water Intrusion, Condensation, and Mold(McGraw Hill 2007, 286 pages). An in-depth guide to preparing your home to withstand water intrusion threats from floods, hurricanes, and severe storms.
- Disaster Mitigation for Historic Structures: Protection Strategies(Florida SHPO/1000 Friends of Florida). A guide to help building owners understand which protection and mitigation strategies maybe appropriate for their property based on its specific characteristics.
- Wind Damage Assessment(4.3) (Minnesota SHPO). Minnesota's Thinking About the Unthinkable: A Disaster Plan For Historic Properties in Minnesota talks about integrating an "uplift chain" to prevent penetrating wind from moving buildings.
- Flood Damage Assessment(4.4) (Minnesota SHPO). Minnesota's Thinking About the Unthinkable: A Disaster Plan For Historic Properties in Minnesota talks about determining past flood levels and creating basement level water flow-through channels in below-ground areas.
- Floodplain Management Bulletin for Historic Structures(FEMA). How the National Flood Insurance Program addresses historic structures; measures to protect historic structures; special relief for historic structures. For properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, there is an exemption opportunity in the National Flood Insurance Program that allows buildings within the 100-year flood plain not to be forced to elevate occupied floors above that level. To implement this exemption requires an appropriate ordinance by local government. If properly done, such an exemption still enables the property owner to obtain Federal Flood Insurance.
- Hurricane Preparedness: Are You Ready?(North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources) A quick guide to preparing your home for an impending hurricane.
- Prepare A Saferoom, for tornadoes only (FEMA).
- Controlling Disaster: Earthquake-Hazard Reduction for Historic Resources (National Trust for Historic Preservation)
- Perimeter Security Retrofitting for Historic Buildings (APT Bulletin, vol. 35, no 1, 2004, fee for access)
Owners of historic homes should be centrally concerned with acquiring adequate insurance coverage for their property. Older homes were often built using materials or methods that would be a challenge to replicate today. It is not unusual that if an historic home is severely damaged in a natural disaster, an insurance company will only provide funds to either demolish the structure or cover "in-kind replacement" or "substitute materials and techniques"—neither of which is a defined quantity, and almost certainly indicate a bare minimum of workmanship and materials falling far short of the original object.
Among the options for insuring historic homes, National Trust Insurance Services (NTIS) is a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation created in 2003 to address the growing issues regarding proper insurance for historic property owners and the organizations that work to protect historic resources. NTIS works to address the critical needs of all historic property owners (homeowners included), including proper valuation of the historic property and collections, protection against the loss of a structure's historic craftsmanship, materials and historic significance.
- National Trust Insurance Services(NTIS). NTIS is the nation's leading insurance agency specifically designed to offer comprehensive insurance solutions to historic property owners and preservation organizations.
- Getting the Right Insurance for Your Historic Building(Forum News, March/April 2009, Volume XV, No. 4).
- The National Flood Insurance Program(FEMA).
- Floodplain Management Bulletin for Historic Structures(FEMA). How the NFIP addresses historic structures; measures to protect historic structures; special relief for historic structures.
- National Flood Insurance Program Technical Bulletins (FEMA). A series of technical bulletins related to floodproofing.