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Emergency Preparedness Guide and Checklist [Download]

Emergency preparedness can mean the difference between weathering a disaster and finding yourself vulnerable in a long-term crisis. From power failures to hurricanes, emergencies strike every day, often without warning. By the time they do, it’s too late to start planning.

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do now to prepare yourself and your family for a future emergency. But it can be an involved process, and it’s easy to forget something. That’s why it’s a good idea to start with an emergency preparedness checklist.

These recommendations will help you create your own family emergency plan, including a checklist of steps to take and supplies to pack in a disaster supplies kit in the event of an emergency.

Download our printable emergency preparedness checklist

This printable emergency preparedness checklist can help you take the steps needed for creating an emergency plan to keep yourself and your family safe and secure.

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1. Understand the risks for your area

Start getting prepared for emergencies specific to your location by assessing the risks of your particular location. Though there are basic requirements for preparedness, each type of natural disaster also requires its own specialized preparations.

For example, an ice storm might cause an extended power outage, so you may want to install a portable generator. In an earthquake or tornado, you’ll need to know how to find the safest place to shelter. (In both cases, stay away from windows, near the center of an inside room.)

And different regions are prone to different disasters: Texas has been hit by freezing weather, hurricanes, floods, hail and fires. In California, earthquakes and fires are common threats. Oklahoma is in “tornado alley,” and is often hit by ice storms.

Consult relief agencies in your area to get information about emergency alerts for the community, evacuation routes from the area and special assistance options for elderly people and those with disabilities. Ask at your workplace and your children’s schools or daycare to learn about each facility’s emergency plan.

Monitor weather and fire reports via NOAA weather radio. Download a reliable weather app, and sign up for emergency alerts. Wireless Emergency Alerts sent to your smartphone will signal you with a unique tone and vibration, then brief text messages explaining the type of alert and recommended action.

2. Write down emergency contact numbers

Important phone numbers should be available in multiple locations and formats. It’s a good idea to post them on the fridge — along with your home number and address for reference — as well as near any landline telephones. Also, program these numbers into the cellphones of every household member.

Choose a primary emergency contact and at least one secondary contact to call if your family gets separated. One should live out of state, and one should live locally. Tell your family members and loved ones which to call during each possible type of emergency. Remember that sometimes during a crisis, it’s easier to get through to out-of-state numbers than local ones.

It’s also a good idea to know which emergency management and response organizations you may be dealing with following a disaster, such as FEMA or the American Red Cross. Post these numbers, as well, and store them in your contacts.

Program emergency services numbers into your phone and put them near the top of your list, so you can find them right away. Hint: Most phones list contacts alphabetically, so you might want to list emergency contacts with “AA” or the number 1. Then write them on a small card to place in your wallet, in case you’re away from the list you’ve posted, your phone isn’t charged or your WiFi is down.

Here are some numbers you should include:

  • Fire / paramedics
  • Police
  • Local relief agencies
  • Area utilities
  • Work
  • School
  • Child care
  • Relatives
  • Poison control

3. Identify escape routes

Draw out the floor plan of your house and determine which escape routes would be safest for a quick getaway in each type of emergency. Escape routes also should be practical for pets, if you have any.

Post escape route plans in a central location in your house, preferably alongside the important contact numbers, and in each bedroom. Consider loading these directions into your smartphone, too.

It’s important to know when to get out and when to take cover where you are. Fires can occur in any climate and are the most common type of emergency that require escape or evacuation routes; if you’re indoors during a tornado or earthquake, you’re better off staying put.

Strategically store any equipment that could help you escape more quickly, such as collapsible ladders in upstairs rooms or window breakers for shatterproof glass. If your windows or doors have security bars, be sure they’re equipped with emergency releases so you can get out quickly if you need to.

And if you have pets, make pet carriers easily accessible so you can load them up quickly. (Herding cats is even more difficult in a crisis.)

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4. Locate emergency meeting places

Designate two different locations where family members can gather to find each other after leaving your home. One should be directly outside the home in the event of a fire. Identify a location that’s a safe distance from the house, such as a neighbor’s home, mailbox or nearby stop sign.

The other designated meeting place should be outside the neighborhood in case of an evacuation. In the event of a major disaster that requires an evacuation, tune in to local media and be on the lookout for alerts about where to find help at emergency shelters.

You might also designate an out-of-state meeting spot if it’s common for your whole area to be evacuated, as in hurricane season. Make sure your family members have these addresses and phone numbers among their emergency contacts.

Include all locations in your escape route plan, clearly marked on a map. Post the meeting plan alongside the important contact numbers and escape routes.

5. Practice escaping, responding and meeting with family

Discuss with household members what to do during a fire, storm, earthquake, etc. At least two people in your home should know how to shut off utilities and respond to power outages. At least two should be familiar with first aid procedures to address personal injuries.

Make sure your household takes time to review the escape routes and practice using them so your whole family will be ready in the event of an emergency. Hold periodic drills the way schools, businesses and other public facilities do, to be sure everyone can get out of the building. If you can, have your family meet up at the designated local emergency meeting spots.

6. Pack an emergency supplies kit

Have a go-bag or preparedness kit ready that includes family records and other important documents (stored in a safe portable container), along with survival essentials that you may need during an emergency. Refer to the emergency preparedness checklist below for supplies to include in your emergency kit.

“Go bag” supplies

“Go bags” are emergency kits that contain the essentials for people to stay safe and secure in a crisis. Most items listed will apply across the board. However, you can decide whether you need to pack other essentials that address special needs — for instance, specialized medical supplies, prescription medications, spare eyeglasses, personal hygiene items or pet food.

For more information, check with the U.S. government’s official emergency preparedness website, ready.gov.

Essential survival supplies

  • First aid kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlight
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pocket knife
  • Sleeping bag/tent
  • Drinking water
  • Protein bars
  • Canned food
  • Manual can opener

Additional supplies

  • Cellphone
  • Cellphone charger
  • Credit cards
  • Birth certificates
  • Garbage bags
  • Insurance policies
  • Traveler’s checks
  • Contact information
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Sleeping bags
  • Face mask
  • Rain gear, if applicable

Tool kit supplies

  • Pliers
  • Pocket knife
  • First aid kit
  • Duct tape
  • Can opener
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries]

Personal hygiene and health supplies

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Prescription medications
  • Feminine supplies
  • Extra change of clothing
  • Washcloths
  • Household chlorine bleach
  • Clean wipes or towelettes

Food and drink supplies

Plan on having a 3-day supply of non-perishable food in a waterproof container, plus a supply of water. Keep a gallon of water per day for each person for several days, to be used for drinking and sanitation. Pack as lightly as possible without leaving out essentials. Foods like protein bars are great space- and weight-savers.

  • Drinking water
  • Peanut butter
  • Granola bars
  • Vacuum-packed meats
  • Canned foods
  • Crackers
  • Protein bars

Stay safe with our emergency preparedness checklist

It can be a complicated process to create an emergency plan and assemble a kit of supplies for your family. But it’s an endeavor that’s worth every moment of effort when your preparations keep your family safe and secure during a disaster.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

How to Baby Proof Your Apartment

As a new parent, you know how fast your baby grows. Just when you get used to your baby’s feeding schedule and diaper changes, you realize you need to accommodate his or her ever-changing routine. As your baby grows older, take some precautions to make your apartment safe and secure for crawlers and toddlers.  Here is how you can baby-proof your apartment as your growing baby explores the world around him or her.

For the first three months, you may have not given much thought about how safe your apartment is for babies. They don’t really move much as you carry them back and forth to their cribs, playpens, car seats and strollers. But be prepared after four months to think about the nooks and crannies that your baby will be exposed to as soon as she starts to crawl.

Step 1: Inspect from a baby’s eye-level

One of the best ways to see potential hazards is to crawl around your apartment floor. Dog bowls, nails, wires, dust, and other small objects are some things that you may not even think about while standing upright, five or six feet above the ground. Babies have keen eyesight for small things up close. They’ll inspect things you wouldn’t even notice if you weren’t looking for them. So, get down on the floor and remove anything you wouldn’t want them putting in their mouths.

Make Room for Baby: How to Prepare Your Small Apartment for a Little One

Step 2: Remove or cover sharp edges

Furniture with sharp corners and clumsy babies learning to stand or walk are not a good combination.  You may want to exchange your square or rectangular coffee table with a round one or, better yet, just get rid of the coffee table so your baby has room to scoot about on the floor. If you can’t part with furniture or sharp edges in your apartment are unavoidable, you can always buy safety guards to turn sharp corners into soft corners.  They are not very stylish, but you may as well face it: If you have a child, your apartment is probably not going to look stylish for the next several years.

Help Make Moving Easier for Your Kids

Step 3: Cover electrical outlets

Electrical outlets that are floor level should all have covers on them –unless they are being used, in which case they should be blocked from access to prevent your baby or toddler from playing with electrical plugs. Baby-safe outlet covers can be found on most online stores. One of the most popular outlet covers on the market is the sliding panel outlet cover. The cover automatically slides over the outlet when the plug is pulled out, protecting your baby from an exposed outlet.

Teach Kids the Importance of Chores

Step 4: Rearrange houseplants

What kid doesn’t love to play in the dirt? A potted plant is a perfect playground for babies and toddlers, so say goodbye to any houseplants that are on the floor or within reach to a small gardener prodigy. If the weather is warm enough, put them outside or find another location for them, such as hanging them from the ceiling.

How to Decorate a Child’s Bedroom

Step 5: Install baby locks for cabinets

Kitchens are the most dangerous place in the house – especially for babies. No baby should be roaming around on the kitchen floor unattended. Even if you’re keeping a close watch on your child, it’s wise to secure your bottom kitchen cabinets with baby-proof locks. Accidents happen so fast, and the last thing you want is for your child to get into cleaning chemicals under the sink or cut himself on a sharp appliance.

Cheap Hobbies for Kids

Step 6: Keep bathroom doors closed

Does your dog drink out of the toilet bowl? What about your baby? Bathrooms are the second-most dangerous place (after kitchens) for a baby or toddler to explore. Medicine cabinets, showers, tubs, faucets, and chemicals are not baby-friendly. The best way to keep your baby safe from the bathroom is to get in the habit of closing the bathroom door – always. Aside from that, adding locking doorknobs and cabinet locks can help you gain peace of mind.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Moving: Q&A

Step 7: Invest in a baby gate (or 2)

In areas that don’t have a door, the best investment you can make is a baby gate. The safest baby gates are the plastic ones with solid panels. It’s best to avoid ones with fancy bars, as babies can get their hands or heads stuck between the rails. Accordion-style baby gates are not even made anymore, but if you happen to come across one, don’t even think about using it. They are very dangerous and can pinch or even strangle your baby.

How to Make Moving Fun for the Whole Family

Step 8: Remove or hide anything fragile

Glass, fine china, crystal, ceramics and delicate artwork are some of the household materials in your apartment that may need to be placed out of baby’s reach, or removed from the apartment altogether. You might need to say goodbye to tables with glass surfaces or decorative vases within a few feet of the floor. And perhaps a separate storage unit is worth the investment.

How to Pack Up Valuables

Step 9: Secure your TV

Modern TVs are thinner, sleeker and lighter than ever before. They are also easier for babies to tip over or pull on top of themselves. Make sure your TV is either mounted securely to the wall or kept at a level just out of reach.

How to Hang Your TV

By putting yourself in the mind of a curious baby, you can get ahead of the game and create a baby-safe apartment before your child has a chance to get hurt or injured.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

How to Assess the Security of a New Apartment

A lot of apartment hunters worry more about being close to friends or near the right subway line than assessing apartment security before they move in.

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Of course, finding the balance between location, price and security can be tricky. Here is a checklist to make sure apartment security is part of the evaluation. The next time you start looking for a place, ask the following questions:

How far can you get without a key?
Some apartment communities leave their main office doors unlocked during business hours for mail or other deliveries. If you’re looking at a place that follows this practice, try to choose one with 24/7 controlled access or a dedicated front desk security guard. And be sure that secondary entrances, such as the courtyard or garage, are also secured. In smaller buildings without a security guard, make sure the front door is always kept locked—with a deadbolt, ideally.

Does your door have a peephole and deadbolt?
Your apartment doors should be made of steel with a one-inch deadbolt. Wooden doors with a simple doorknob lock are no match for the ol’ credit card trick, much less a determined burglar. All apartment doors should come with a peephole so you can safely see who is on the other side without opening your door. (In some older apartments, peepholes have been painted over; ask maintenance to fix this prior to your move in). Also, confirm that your landlord will change the locks before you move in.

Read more: Locked Out? 8 Things to Do Before and After Losing Your Key

Can anyone see into your unit?
This is especially important if you live in a ground floor unit in a major city. Can a passerby on the street see inside your unit? Are there security bars on your ground-floor windows? Window security is a first line of defense against criminals. Make sure your window locks work, and if they don’t, have maintenance fix them ASAP.

Read more: 4 Great Reasons to Befriend Your Neighbors

Is there an open, well-lit parking area?
If your building offers parking, assess the parking lot or garage. Is it well lit, even at night? Is access controlled? Does a security guard patrol the lot? Is it covered or below ground? Covered parking may be great for keeping leaves off your car, but remember that it can be very dark at night. Keep an eye out for any dark corners, overgrown shrubbery or open courtyards.

Read more: Apartment Parking Tips: Take the Stress Out of Finding a Space

Are the gym, pool or other amenities secure?
If your building offers amenities like a pool, gym, business center or recycling center, confirm that access is limited to residents. Pathways to these facilities should be well-lit and in an open area.

Apartment security requires everyone in your building to be mindful and alert. Be sure to talk to your landlord about the safety practices of residents and whether there are any additional community safeguards in place. And it doesn’t hurt to research the neighborhood before you sign a lease.

This guest post is from the the Allstate Blog, which helps people prepare for the unpredictability of life. Follow The Allstate Blog on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/sumnersgraphicsinc

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Familiarize Yourself with Emergency Procedures and Home Safety

If an emergency were to hit your apartment community, how would you react? Read on for ways to help ensure that you and your roommates are ready, should an emergency situation occur.

Have a procedure

Emergency procedures may seem unnecessary — until you actually need them! It is a good idea to check with your local government to see if there are specific requirements or recommendations for procedures about what to do in case of earthquake, fire, tornado or other disaster. Be sure that your plan features a clear evacuation route that guides people out of the building to a safe gathering spot, as well as noting the location of fire extinguishers.

Be sure that you fully familiarize yourself with any automatic systems in your building. If corridor doors close automatically to prevent the spread of fire when an alarm sounds, for instance, you need to know this. In some buildings, elevators automatically descend to the ground level and become inoperable. Make sure everyone in your household is aware of these details.

Provide emergency information

Furnish roommates and neighbors with a detailed list of emergency procedures and building systems, if possible. If one exists, make sure everyone has access to a building diagram and post it somewhere where people can easily see it. Ask your property manager to provide one and post it near building exits.  You should also ask your manager to provide all tenants with a list of essential emergency numbers, including emergency contact numbers and those for the fire department, police department, gas company, electric company and poison control center. Make sure they post the building address on any emergency signage or documentation, as it’s easy to become disoriented when placing an emergency call.

Help define “emergency”

Ask your property manager to provide guidelines for the types of situations which constitute an emergency. Inconveniences such as a slow drain, an interior door off the hinges, or a stove burner that’s not working are items that likely can wait till morning. A sewer back-up, lack of heat in the winter, storm damage or flooding caused by a plumbing failure, however, could require immediate attention and might affect more than one tenant.

In the case of burglary, vandalism or a domestic dispute, tenants need to know that they should contact the police first. For fire or a carbon monoxide leak, tenants should call the fire department immediately.

Do practice drills

All the best planning in the world won’t help without regular trial runs. Consult your landlord about doing practice drills that follow an emergency preparedness plan. Local government offices may have requirements or recommendations on how often your type of residential housing should hold drills. Contact your nearest fire department for details.

You can do your part as a resident to prepare yourself for emergency and to alert your property manager about the importance of being prepared. That means requesting information needed to handle a variety of urgent situations, which will help protect everyone involved.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Be Aware of Actions That Might Violate Your Lease Agreement

Did you ever consider you might be breaking one of the rules in your apartment lease agreement — without even realizing it?

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When you move into an apartment, you sign an apartment lease agreement that spells out many specific rules to live by.  Keep in mind that there are some actions which could violate your apartment lease agreement, and these actions might not be immediately obvious to you.

Here are a few things to watch out for.

Altering the apartment

Before you hang a shelf or paint your bedroom, check your lease. Some apartment communities have specific regulations spelled out in the lease agreement about which modifications can and cannot be made to an apartment. In some cases you might be allowed to make modifications but also required to return the apartment back to its original state before you move out.

No Paint Allowed? 5 Options for Temporary Wall Coverings

Living with long-term guests

If a houseguest stays too long, you could be in violation of your lease. Having a friend stay for a few days is typically within your rights as a renter, but if that short-term guest turns into a longer-term roommate, you could be in trouble. Know your lease and the length of time you are allowed to have guests stay in your apartment before they are considered additional residents who must be added to the lease.

Grilling out on the balcony

Thinking about firing up a grill on your apartment balcony? Better read your lease first! Some apartment management companies consider apartment balcony grilling a fire hazard and specifically forbid it, so know your lease terms before you use the equipment.

Fire Prevention Tips: 14 Ways to Avoid Setting Your Apartment on Fire

Operating a business out of the apartment

Are you hosting clients or assembling products for sale in your apartment? You might be violating lease terms. Check for a clause in your apartment lease agreement concerning the operation of a business from your apartment.

Subletting the apartment

Subletting is prohibited by most leases, and in rare instances where it is allowed, the renter usually has to go through his or her apartment manager to sublet the apartment. If you have to leave your apartment for a period of time, meet with your apartment manager to see whether you can work out an arrangement directly.

Parking an unregistered car in the community

Apartment communities have limited parking spaces and often will ask residents to register their cars with the office when they sign a lease. If you get a new car, remember to register that car, as well, or you might risk getting towed.

Apartment Parking Tips: Take the Stress Out of Finding a Space

When in doubt, ask!

If you are unsure whether something you are about to do regarding your apartment will violate the lease, it’s best to ask your apartment manager for advice first. Your landlord would much rather answer a question about your lease than see you violate its terms. Ask before you act if you are unsure!

May a Landlord Choose Not to Renew a Lease?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Gordana Sermek

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Source: apartmentguide.com

What to Do If Your Apartment Floods

Flooding is, to put it mildly, no fun. Between the amount of damage typically done, the stress of dealing with repairs and trying to get back to normal, there’s a lot to cover.

While we can’t help you deal with the stress directly, these precautions and additional information should give you a better idea of what you’d need to do before, during and after you have a flooded apartment.

Pre-flood

The first thing is preparing for the possibility of any kind of damage by getting renters insurance that includes a flood policy covered under the National Flood Insurance Program.

The whole thing is usually no more than a few hundred dollars per year, and it covers you from floods, fire and theft. It isn’t a legal requirement, but some property managers will ask you to get it. Considering the low cost for the level of coverage you’ll get, it’s worthwhile.

Catching problems before they happen

To address the possibility of water damage and a flooded apartment more directly, keep an eye out for drips and leaks. You also want to watch for the appearance of water stains or mold growth, signs of a previous water leak. This includes checking the walls and ceiling when it rains and periodically looking at faucets and pipes in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Report anything you see to your property manager since these are issues they’ll need to repair. Make sure you have the emergency phone number for your building saved and accessible. It isn’t only good for flooding, but anything that happens unexpectedly and needs immediate attention.

Securing your belongings

While the likelihood of a flood is low, it’s still a good idea to keep valuable items away from the most obvious places they’d get wet. “The easiest way to keep smaller items safe is with a waterproof, fireproof box. These safes come in a variety of sizes. You will want to consider what items are most important to you before deciding on the size,” says Soil Away, a disaster restoration company.

Keep items like electronics off the floor if they’re near the kitchen or bathroom as well. These strategies both protect your valuables and also give you more time to get to things if the water is rising and you need to grab and go.

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During the flood

When the flooding starts, get everything you can away from the path of the water. Take what valuables you can and move them into your car, into another room or into a neighbor’s apartment — anything to keep them dry.

Next, call that emergency maintenance number you’ve saved, as well as the management company itself. They should respond immediately, but if not, you may have to take matters into your own hands, contacting a plumber or other repair person.

While you wait for help to arrive, try to get things under control. Attempt to seal the leak if you can reach it and have the right materials. Use plastic bins or any other containers you have to contain as much water as possible.

After the flood

Unfortunately, the stress of a flooded apartment doesn’t end once the leak is fixed. Now you have to try and pick up the pieces, get things repaired and get back to life as normal. Sorting this out involves insurance claims and a close review of the terms of your lease.

Since you have to establish who handles what, there can be some confusion, so it’s important to know what general areas are more likely whose responsibility.

Documenting the damage

The first step after a flood is documenting all the damage that occurs. This is both for your insurance company and for your property manager to have. Take photos of both your damaged items and visible damage on walls or ceilings. Save all damaged property until an insurance adjuster is able to come out and document the damage. Don’t throw anything away until they give you the all-clear.

Establishing responsibility

Damage to the building itself normally falls under the property owner’s insurance. The actual structure and anything that comes with the unit like carpet or appliances are also covered. You’re responsible for your personal property, and having flood damage as part of your renters insurance should make dealing with that easier.

Exceptions to this breakdown occur when flooding happens because your property manager didn’t fix a known issue. In that case, they may end up paying to replace your own property. The opposite is also true if something you did caused the flooding. In this instance, you might have to pay for all the damage, including damage to the building itself. If there’s any conflict, don’t hesitate to consult a lawyer.

Terminating the lease

If the flooded apartment ends up with too much damage to remain livable, you may have the right to terminate your lease without penalty. If your property owner has another, equivalent apartment available, you could try and negotiate a move into that unit, signing a new lease. You could also try and work out a temporary living situation while your apartment is getting repaired.

Your lease should have a section on termination, but you can also research the local renter laws in your area to get a better idea of what your rights are. If you can’t work out a deal with your current property owner, it may be best to find a new place to live altogether.

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Common causes of flooding

Flooding can happen anywhere, beginning from a natural phenomenon or from within your own apartment. Common sources of flooding include:

  • Heavy rain: “Heavy rainfall is more than 0.30 inches of rain per hour,” according to Weather Shack. Rain at this rate can overflow streams, drains and even entire sewer systems. This backs everything up, sending water overflowing into homes and apartment buildings.
  • Clogged or frozen pipes: Plumbing is often the internal culprit when it comes to flooding. Clogged pipes mean water can’t drain properly, so it comes back up into sinks, bathtubs or toilets. In the extreme cold, pipes can freeze, as well. When they thaw, they can end up bursting, sending water spraying. Issues like these going unchecked can lead to flooding.
  • Drainage basins in urban areas: Large cities like New York and Los Angeles use concrete drainage basins, which don’t provide a place for groundwater to get absorbed. In heavy rains, these basins can overflow, creating street flooding that can spread into the first few floors of buildings.
  • Leaky roofs: What may start out as a small crack in the ceiling can quickly become an access point for water to drip down if it’s not addressed. Any small imperfection in your ceiling should be reported immediately to your property manager for repairs.

“Just in case” is enough risk to prepare

Nobody likes to think about the disaster a flood could cause in their home, but it’s a risk to think it could never happen to you. In fact, 14,000 people in the U.S. experience some kind of water damage at home or at work every day according to Water Damage Defense.

Whether a little leak or a full-on deluge, some preparation and a deeper understanding of how easy it is to be ready, can help you can get ahead of the stressful situation that’s possible from a flooded apartment.

Read more about keeping your apartment safe:

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Source: apartmentguide.com