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Home Inspector - Emergency Preparedness; How Your Home Inspector Can Help...

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

Natural disasters such as floods, fires, and earthquakes force people to either flee from or barricade themselves into their homes every year. What should families do to prepare for these natural disasters?

Here are some tips from InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) with advice that, as a home inspector, I can offer to help everyone prepare for an emergency and assess any property damage upon their return home.


Safety and Personal Health Care - If Possible, Take These Items with You if You Must Leave Your Home:

  • an all-purpose, waterproof first aid and emergency kit that includes hand sanitizer, a flashlight, a radio with batteries, and matches;

  • glasses, hearing aids, and prescription medications for all family members;

  • supplies for pets, including carriers, leashes, plastic or collapsible/camping-type water bowls, food and medication;

  • a kit of personal toiletries for each family member that’s ready to grab and go;

  • a change of clothes, including undergarments, footwear and outerwear;

  • sleeping bags and Mylar™ camping blankets;

  • personal paperwork in waterproof pouches, including irreplaceable or hard-to-replace documents, such as:

  • drivers' licenses and other ID;

  • birth certificates;

  • Social Security cards;

  • passports;

  • insurance policies, and other banking, business and legal cards and documents;

  • contact information for relatives, friends and neighbors, as well as local shelters, including the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which may be directing disaster relief activities in your area;

  • keys;

  • cash and credit cards;

  • firearms;

  • personal electronics, including cell phones and chargers;

  • irreplaceable personal effects, such as albums of photos that haven’t been digitally preserved;

  • enough snacks, including special food items such infant formula, and non-perishables, along with a can opener (if needed), to last until reaching alternative housing and supplies;   

  • water.  If the emergency may be extended, FEMA recommends a three-day supply of one gallon per person per day, to be used for both drinking and sanitation;

  • plastic bags, wet wipes, hand sanitizer and other items for personal sanitation and hygiene; and

  • a basic toolkit that includes work gloves, pliers, an adjustable wrench, a hacksaw, and other tools to fix a flat tire, turn off and on household utility shut-off valves, pry open a damaged door, or cut through tree branches that may be blocking a road.

An Expanded Emergency Supply List Can Include:

  • a gallon of bleach to be used as a disinfectant and to purify drinking water, if necessary.  Adding 16 drops of plain household chlorine bleach to a gallon of water will make the water potable;

  • a gasoline-powered portable generator, along with extra gasoline;

  • a portable fire extinguisher;

  • portable lanterns and flashlights;

  • a camping toilet;

  • tents;

  • a portable cook stove and mess kits;

  • face masks for every family member;

  • plastic sheeting or tarps, duct tape and scissors to create a “shelter in place,” if a more secure shelter cannot be accessed in time.  These can also be used to create a barrier from flying debris if it is not safe to leave and you must take refuge in your home; and

  • other supplies that can aid in daily routines if temporary accommodations are too difficult to reach or overcrowded.


Shut Off All Utilities Before You Leave if Possible & Check Doors and Windows:

  • Water

  • Gas

  • Electricity

  • Lock All Doors and Windows


Exterior of the Home - Check Before Re-entry:

  • Make sure that there are no downed power lines on or near your property.  If there are, do not attempt to move them yourself; immediately contact utility company personnel or law enforcement. 

  • Check for broken tree branches that may impede your access to your property, or which themselves may be in contact with power lines; again, enlist help in such situations to avoid a potentially fatal injury. 

  • Make sure the perimeter of your property is secure before allowing pets back onto the property.  Natural disasters can be disorienting for them, and they may try to escape.  

  • Check any damage to windows and exterior doors, as well as the roof, chimney and other penetrations, but do so safely.  You may defer this to your InterNACHI inspector. 

  • Check gutters, downspouts and exterior drainage for blockages, and clear them as soon as it's possible to do so safely.

  • It’s always best to document damage from the ground and contact your InterNACHI inspector who can make a more in-depth and detailed inspection.  Even after you contact your insurance carrier, an unbiased inspection by a trained home inspector may reveal issues that are not immediately apparent, such as hail damage, which requires some expertise to properly identify, especially if the insurance investigator must inspect damage incurred by multiple clients in the aftermath of a widespread emergency.

Interior of Home - Before Turning Appliances Back On...

  • Before turning on the water and gas service to the home, check the individual appliances to make sure that they’re undamaged.  Document all damage, and contact utility personnel if you don’t feel safe turning the fuel or water back on yourself. If there is no apparent damage or telltale smells or sounds (such as hissing) emanating from any appliances, it should be safe to turn on the gas and water at their shut-off valves. Make the same damage assessment before turning the electricity back on, too.

  • Securely dispose of perishable food items left in the refrigerator during a power outage.  Ensure that stray animals foraging for food can’t access it.  Some food left in the freezer may be salvageable, but always err on the side of caution to avoid serious illness caused by bacteria.

  • Go back through your home to check for structural damage, including broken glass. 

  • In the aftermath of a storm or flood, check the basement, crawlspace and attic areas for moisture intrusion, as well as areas at window sills and exterior doors.  Unchecked moisture can lead to mold problems and structural issues down the road.  Have your InterNACHI inspector survey your home with an infrared camera, which can identify areas of moisture intrusion and energy loss that may not be visible to the naked eye.

Reach out to me, home inspector Adam, at Area Wide Home Inspection whenever you have the need for a home inspector. Click to view all the services offered and all certifications.

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