El Niño is Back: Don’t Forget Storm Preparation

In any year it’s important to brace for winter storms, especially if you’re in an area that has previously experienced high winds, flooding, or mudslides.  And in an El Niño year that’s doubly important.  With the record-breaking ocean currents last fall, Southern California could still be in for trouble.  After discussing disaster preparation in general, this article will go over some tips specific to rainstorms including some plumbing checks property owners and managers should take now if they haven’t already in preparation for each rainy season.

And remember:  implement these measures now rather than waiting until later when time is critical and stores may already out of stock.

Not So Much Different from Earthquake Preparedness

Our lives depend so much on a reliable source of electricity, yet utilities deliver so dependably that we may forget that we need to be ready to go hours or even a few days without electric power.  In remote areas, where power is often restored last, some people have their own back-up generators.  That may also be necessary for those with equipment necessary to maintain their health.  Otherwise the key needs are a battery operated radio and a cell-phone boost battery.  It’s also important to keep some cash on hand.  With an area-wide power outage you may not be able to get to a working ATM.

EXTRA TIP:  If you hear a storm alert, turn your freezer and refrigerator to the coldest settings and if there’s a power outage open them as little as possible.  That could earn you several extra hours or even a day before foods start going bad.

We can go a week or more without food, but only a couple of days without drinkable water.  The typical recommendation is to stock 7 gallons of bottled water per person (1 gallon per day for 7 days).  It’s also advisable to keep several days of non-perishable food on hand.  You’ll also want to stay warm.  Store clothing and bedding well above the floor, and ideally in water-tight bags or containers.  And for health, people should also keep a well-stocked first-aid kit and at least a week’s supply of any prescription medications.

Additionally, be sure that important documents are stored in a safe location.  Finally, every family should have evacuation, communication, and meet-up plans so that everyone knows what to do and so that there will be fewer worries.

Storm Preparation

There are several things you should also do that are specific to rain and wind.

  • Before each rainy season make sure that your gutters and down spouts are clear so that rain can run away from the building.
  • Even though it may be the city’s responsibility, make sure that nearby storm drain grates at the street are unobstructed.
  • Make sure that landscaping is such that rainfall drains away from the building rather than towards it.
  • Have your roof inspected for leaks and damage every few years.
  • Check the foundation for cracks.  They may let in more water, and might even widen to the point of structural failure.
  • Check that weather stripping around windows and doors is in good condition.
  • Have any nearby trees pruned and checked every few years to avoid downed limbs or uprooting.

If you haven’t done so recently, check that your insurance policy covers all the types of damage that might occur in a storm, and make an inventory of all your valuable possessions.

Whenever a storm is approaching, keep up to the minute on weather and flood advisories.  It’s often advisable to pre-pack for a possible evacuation, as well as to move lawn furniture, garbage cans, and the like into the garage or indoors.  That way they won’t be damaged or become projectiles in heavy winds.

SAFETY TIPIf you actually experience flooding, turn off the electricity (to prevent electrocution hazards) as well as the gas (pilot lights can go out, and poor combustion due to winds or wetness can create carbon monoxide).

Plumbing Preparation

There are also a few things you should check that may need a plumber to correct.

  • Test that floor and patio drains as well as leader drains (lines that go from down spouts or low lying areas to the storm drain) are clear by pouring in a few gallons of water.  It should all quickly drain away.
  • Make sure that the main sewer line is clear to avoid back-ups.  If it hasn’t been cabled recently an in-pipe inspection may be in order.
  • If even minor flooding is common in your property’s area or you have a basement, installing a sump pump may be a good investment.  If you already have one, be sure it and its battery back-up are in good working order.

In Conclusion

That’s a lot of things to look into and do!  Even with the best of intentions it’s likely to take you quite a while to check off everything.  So think things through, and make a priority list for your particular situation.  Work on the most important items first, with the goal of getting everything checked off before the start of next fall’s rainy season.  And be prepared to shift into high gear if you hear any heavy rain or heavy wind warnings over the next few months.