There are some easy things you can do before — and after — a flood, hurricane or earthquake to help preserve your appliances.
Natural disasters are, unfortunately, a part of our world. These events often take us by surprise, and when they’re over, we’re thankful that our loved ones are safe and hope that our possessions have survived as well. But if we know something’s coming, we can often prepare our families and homes.
Here are a few things you can do to protect your appliances if a natural disaster strikes.
With floods being the most frequent natural disaster, water is the main enemy.
“If you know something’s going to happen, pull out the power cords or turn off the power at the breaker or fuse box,” says Mike Showalter, a field support engineer for Sears Holdings Corp. in Round Rock, Texas. “If it’s a washing machine, disconnect the hot and cold water lines and drain hose.” If you can do it safely, move the appliance to higher ground.
A lot of us keep our laundry machines, spare fridges and other appliances in the basement. But if you live in a flood zone and have the space to do so, store your appliances and valuables on upper floors.
In the case of an electrical storm, unplug appliances — or you might face a power surge.
“Power boards could be in trouble,” Showalter says. Damaged power boards can be costly to replace and are normally not covered by warranties.
In terms of appliance prep, earthquakes are similar to other disasters. It’s important to take care of those appliances powered by natural gas, such as your stove or gas grill, says Joe Kinney, supervisor of gas training for Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. in Rochester, New York.
“You may not even have to go down to the basement,” he adds. “Each gas appliance has a valve behind it.”
In fact, in some states, such as New York, it’s a code requirement to have an accessible valve behind a stove.
If you need to, you can shut everything off at the main gas meter, which might be outside your home.
Do you live in an earthquake zone? You might also consider anchoring your appliances to the walls to help keep them safely in place.
When Disaster Strikes
One of the most dramatic natural disasters Showalter recalls was back in ’94, when the Colorado River flooded many neighborhoods along its banks.
“I went out on service calls and the water line was above the appliances,” he says. “Whole washers and dryers were underwater. Those were a complete loss. You just need to deal with your insurance company in that case.”
Even if an appliance hasn’t been submerged, or if there was no water involved in a particular catastrophe, have a technician come out to inspect the damage. He or she will determine whether the appliance is repairable.
“You usually can’t just replace one little part,” Showalter says.
If an appliance did get wet, don’t think you can just put it out in the yard to dry. Call a professional for help before trying to turn anything on that might have been damaged in a flood.
“You might short it out when you turn it on. Or if there’s moisture in the electrical parts, it could shock you,” Showalter says.
With a gas leak, there could be a rotten egg smell, Kinney says. If this is the case, or even if you suspect it might be, call 911 or your natural gas supplier immediately.
If you don’t smell anything but want to be extra careful, you can check yourself by filling a spray bottle with dish soap and water and spraying it around the gas meter or gas fittings. If you see bubbles form, chances are you’ve found a leak.
If you’re unsure if your appliances are ready for use after a natural disaster, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Let Sears Home Services help.