Wildfires and hurricanes have devastated many parts of the country in recent weeks, and our thoughts are with those who are facing the difficult recovery process. If your property has been affected by fire or flood, we hope the following information will be helpful as you move forward while navigating homeowner’s insurance claims and more.
And, if you live in an area that is prone to severe storms or fires, check out the tips below to learn how you can help potentially minimize damage in the event of a disaster. Though your home warranty does not cover damage from natural disasters, as your trusted ally for your home we want to help you be as prepared as possible should the unexpected happen.
How Wildfires Affect Indoor Air Quality
Wildfire smoke can travel long distances, and it can affect your home even if you live miles or hours from the actual location of the fire. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), smoke from wildfires is made up of a combination of gases and particles that can have adverse effects on your health, including burning eyes, runny nose and respiratory conditions like bronchitis. The EPA says that people with chronic heart and lung disease are at greater risk, as smoke can aggravate these conditions.
You might be wondering how smoke from a wildfire can enter your home. The fact is, it’s easier than you might think. There are three primary ways smoke can get into your house:
- Natural ventilation – through open doors and windows
- Mechanical ventilation – through systems that bring in outdoor air, such as bathroom and kitchen fans or HVAC systems
- Infiltration – through small cracks and gaps in your home’s structure
Of course, it’s important to pay attention to news outlets and emergency alerts during a wildfire. And if your area receives an evacuation order, it’s important that you follow it. If you’re further away from a fire and notice smoke in your home, there are a few things you can do:
- Close all your windows and doors
- If your HVAC has a fresh air intake, set it to recirculate to avoid bringing outdoor air inside
- Close the outdoor air damper on window A/C units
- Don’t burn candles, and don’t use air fresheners or smoke, as these activities introduce additional particulates in your home
- Use portable air cleaners, high-efficiency HVAC filters and N-95 masks if necessary. Note: High-efficiency HVAC filters clog up faster and restrict air flow sooner than standard filters, so it’s recommended to change these out at least once a month.
How Flooding Affects Your Home’s Electrical
Hurricanes, and even tropical storms, can dump large amounts of rain over an area in minutes or hours, resulting in flooding and permanent damage to home systems, including your electrical. Many elements of your electrical system will likely have to be replaced after a flood. These include:
- Circuit panels and breakers
- Fuse boxes and fuses
- Outlet receptacles
- Circuit boards
- Blowers and fans
- Heaters and air conditioners
- Furnaces and boilers
Everyone knows that electricity and water are a dangerous combination, so it’s important to know what to do — and how to stay safe — if your home floods.
- Never enter a flooded basement or room – Any area where water meets electrical elements or outlets can be a health hazard. Wait for your utility company, fire department or an electrician to remove the electrical meter – this will help ensure your home is “off the grid” and there is no flow of electricity.
- Don’t touch anything – When it comes to flooding, things are best left to the professionals. Don’t attempt to turn off power at a breaker box, and avoid contact with wires, switches, appliances and systems, such as your HVAC.
- Don’t go alone – Even if you’re sure your home is safe to enter, you should never do so alone. Always make sure you’re accompanied by someone in case of an emergency.
Before you enter your property, have a professional electrician inspect it to ensure it’s safe.
Preparing for Future Natural Disasters
Mother Nature is unpredictable, but there are a few steps you can take now to help minimize damage to your home’s systems and appliances in the event of a natural disaster.
- Change your air filters
- Seal your windows and doors, and replace weatherstripping
- Replace old wiring
- Make sure appliances are grounded
- Check for and repair frayed cords, overloaded outlets or flickering lights
At American Home Shield®, we know that dealing with the unexpected is difficult. That’s why we’re here when you need us, whether it’s offering helpful tips and advice, or helping you maintain your home’s covered systems and appliances.