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Living in an Apartment: Preparing for an Emergency

If you live in an apartment and are renting, when disaster strikes the best plan of action is to plan and to be prepared. Although it may sound basic, preparing means knowing what to expect, what you will do if an emergency happens, and of course, knowing your backup plan like the back of your hand for apartment emergencies caused by severe weather or natural disasters. 


This article will discuss some fundamental safety tips for those living in apartments, followed by specific natural disaster advice, such as flooding and earthquake plans of action.

Fundamental safety tips for apartment dwellers 

If renting or living in an apartment, there are several things you can do to increase your safety in case of natural disaster or severe weather conditions. These include:

Create an accessible emergency kit 


This kit should include a first aid kit, battery-powered flashlight, extra batteries, water, food, and a wireless charger for your smartphone. In the event of an emergency, you need additional supplies, sometimes to last for days, so don’t get caught out.

Discuss with your neighbors their plan of action 

It never hurt to know your neighbor’s plan of action in the event of severe weather or a natural disaster. Perhaps one of them lives on higher ground (great for flooding) or has a bunker where you can all gather? 

Create a plan 

Not only should you make a plan with your neighbors but you should also make a plan with your household and family. Let your family know in advance where you plan on meeting, and where you would go if you cannot meet at that location. Also, let them know where your emergency kit is stored- it could save a life.

Purchase renters insurance 

Purchasing insurance, in some cases, will help replace damaged items in the event of a natural disaster (it’s important to check the policy to make sure this is included). You can also look at purchasing flood insurance to cover the water damage from flooding.

Apartment safety during a tornado 

In the United States, tornado season usually lasts anywhere from May to early June for the southern plains and on the Gulf coast, earlier in the spring. However, despite them being more common during the “tornado season,” they can happen any time of the year. For this reason, it’s important to have preparations in-place year-round, just in case. 


Firstly, it’s important to ensure you receive tornado warnings. Either sign-up for notifications on your local news app or enable/make sure you receive emergency notifications on your smartphone in your local area. If you hear the words “tornado watch,” this means there is a possible tornado in your area. But if you hear the words “tornado warning,” then there has already been one spotted.


If you hear these warnings, it’s important to take immediate action. Stay away from doors and windows and head to the lowest floor of the apartment, preferably in a central room with few entrance and exit points. Consider adding cushioning such as mattresses and blankets, as most tornado accidents occur due to flying debris. Once in position, you should brace: place your hands on the back of your head and kneel - making yourself as small as possible. Some apartment buildings, or local communities have a tornado shelter - so look these up ahead of time!

Apartment safety during flooding 

In the event of natural flooding, listen to a news channel or radio station for updates, warnings, and necessary information, e.g. if you need to be evacuated. Unplug all electronic items and move these to a higher floor- electric and water don’t mix well. 


As a result of natural flooding, internal flooding may become a problem which could also lead to a problem with your plumbing. In this case, contact your landlord or emergency apartment maintenance service. Once again, move all electronic items in the vicinity and turn off the water supply (turn the shutoff valve to the right) to stop the flow of the water. 

Apartment safety during earthquakes 

As a renter, even if you’ve never experienced an earthquake, it’s important to prepare for the worst-case scenario. You want to make your apartment more “earthquake-friendly”. For example, heavy or breakable items such be placed on lower level shelves and picture frames and mirrors should be secured tightly and checked regularly.


Once an earthquake actually hits, move to the ground floor if you can. Position yourself under a strong and sturdy piece of furniture, in-between a door frame, or against an inside wall, but most importantly, stay away from doors and windows and heavy lighting fixtures. Also, never use an elevator during an earthquake.

Apartment safety for hurricanes 

Alongside tornado season, hurricanes are equally as dangerous. Some areas are more prone than others to this type of natural disaster, so check your local area and whether or not you’re at high risk. 


Hurricane season typically runs from June 1st to November 30th while the Eastern Pacific hurricane season lasts from May 15th to November 30th. During this time, high winds, flooding, and other surge storms are a high-risk threat to residents. For this reason, it’s essential that you have a hurricane disaster plan in place. 


Listen to your emergency radio and listen for updates, such as evacuation information. Those who evacuate are often safer than those who do not, so evacuate while you can if advised to do so. If you hear the words “hurricane watch” on your radio, this means a storm is expected in the next 36-hours. However, the words “hurricane warnings” means a storm is expected within the next 24-hours.


If you are unable to evacuate during a hurricane, find a central room or closet with no to very few windows on the lowest floor of your apartment. Keep your emergency kit with you and listen for updates on your emergency radio.