Between 1980 and 2004 extreme weather cost the world an estimated $US $1.4 trillion and many lives were lost. Changing weather patterns are producing more extreme storms, winds and floods and, of course, as the global population grows so do the death tolls from these events. But quite often the events are so localised that authorities argue it is impractical to introduce new safety standards when, in fact, they will only be of value in a few areas.
So what can you, the homeowner, do to safeguard your property?
There are quite a few things homeowners can do to protect their property and, of course, themselves. Your safety is paramount in an emergency. And the good news is that the end result of addressing life safety issues is often a more secure and sustainable home.
Here are a few tips that may help.
If you’re building from scratch
• Align the development to follow slope contours and design it to minimise land excavation and filling. If you need retaining walls design them as an integral part of the building.
• If you are building in a bush fire area or an area prone to floods you will be governed by regulations already…. but go one step further and consider how the home might operate during and after a disaster. Are there enough exit points? Would you be able to access fresh water? Do you have mobile coverage? How well does the home function when the regular services like electricity and water are knocked out in a disaster?
• Think about the species and position of trees you plant around the building. If you are in an area of high rainfall the waterlogged ground provides little support for tall trees during a high wind and they may come down.
When Cyclone Tracey struck Darwin in 1974 it was catastrophic. But one of its more positive results was the introduction of vastly improved high wind design criteria. It meant that subsequent Cyclones like Larry in 2006 and Yasi in 2011 resulted in remarkably few building failures for structures that were built after 1980 under the new codes. The buildings that did suffer the worst damage were built pre-1980. In other words, if you own a house that is 40 years old or more you should have it checked to assess how it might stand up to high wind. Here are some things to look out for:
• Is there an easily accessible and safe storage area for outdoor furniture, bins, pot plants etc so you can quickly move them if a storm is forecast?
• Are roof tiles and anchorage systems strong enough to resist high wind pressure?
• Are door and window hardware, hinges and locks suitable? Large roller doors can be particularly vulnerable in gale force winds.
• Minimise non-essential glazing in exposed parts of the building.
• How secure are air conditioners or solar panels or antennas on the roof? These could damage the structure and might also result in the loss of services when you need them most during and after a storm.
• Think carefully about the location of power boxes, data cables and electronic equipment so they aren’t inundated if water does get into your home.
• Consider how or where you might move furniture and precious items in the likelihood of a flood.
• Should you invest in a small generator to supply emergency power if the main power goes down? It’s particularly useful if you need to pump out water or maintain essential services.
• Is the home as flood proof as it could be? Seek advice from a local builder or architect. New materials are coming onto the market all the time and it may be possible to retrofit solutions to an existing home.
• Clearing around the immediate area is just one safeguard. But if you aren’t sure how the house and any other buildings on the property would stand up to radiant heat, burning embers and, at worst, flame contact take advice. There are usually ways to improve what is already there.
We always hope it won’t happen to us but wild weather and natural catastrophes are expected to become more prevalent. It’s worth taking a little time to assess your property now rather than running risks later.
If you’ve got any questions or a topic you would like us to explore in future blogs just let us know. You can email us here.