The newest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released in August 2021, summarizes global climate change science and impacts, and concludes we are at a “code red for humanity.” The report confirms the rise of more frequent extreme weather events due to climate change throughout all regions of the globe, including the United States (US). About one in three Americans experienced a climate disaster during the summer this year. These increasingly frequent and intense natural disaster events underscore the importance of National Preparedness Month.
Climate Change Preparedness and Mitigation Tips
The first step in preparing for an increase in extreme weather events is understanding how climate change affects you and your community; then you can take action to protect yourself and others from the devastation brought by these events.
How Does Climate Change Affect You and What Can You Do About It?
Here are some steps you can take to understand how climate change and the hazards it creates affect you, and how to prepare for them:
- Identify what natural hazards are prominent in your area. This is a vital first step that will allow you to customize your preparations. There are various online tools to help you with this, including this interactive map of climate threats. You can assess risks to your property through tools like Flood Factor, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service’s wildfire risk map, and the US Drought Monitor. Additionally, look for hazard assessments from your state or local government, which are often provided through county or city open data websites or through high-resolution maps in hazard mitigation, comprehensive land use, or sustainability plans.
- Prepare for extreme weather events. Different weather events require different types of preparations. Once you know the most common natural disasters where you live, you can start to prepare. Ready.gov has an emergency preparedness checklist and Hagerty’s first 2021 Preparedness Month post offers important, lesser-known preparedness actions. It’s especially important to prepare for extreme weather events by reviewing what your home and/or renters insurance policy covers (and doesn’t), and by organizing important documents and backups. Updating your insurance coverage and having backup documents at-hand may help you repair or rebuild more efficiently after an extreme event.
- Build a strong local network. Strong social networks help individuals and communities better withstand and recover from disasters. Prepare for climate change and extreme weather events by reflecting on what help you may need and what assistance you may be able to provide to your neighbors, then start building those critical social connections. Consider participating in or hosting an event like Neighborfest, an innovative community preparedness and connection celebration in a block party format.
- Adapt your home and property to withstand local hazards. There are several ways you can weather-proof your home and its surrounding landscape to minimize damage from extreme weather. Consider how to “harden” (i.e., protect) against damages and how to mitigate (i.e., reduce risk). For example, you can harden your home against flooding by sealing cracks in your foundation and basement walls, and you can lessen flood risk by creating natural green spaces with local plant species (instead of impervious surfaces like asphalt and concrete) to better absorb water. The Firewise USA program offers specific, easy to understand guidance for homes in wildfire-risk zones. Extreme weather events often contribute to power outages, so climate-proofing your home also involves preparing for extended outages.
How Can You Help Slow Climate Change?
Climate change is a global problem and addressing the root causes of climate change is critical to protecting ourselves and our communities over the long-term.
- Choose strategies to reduce your carbon footprint. Our daily choices – such as how we travel, what we eat, the materials in our clothing, and the temperature we set the thermostat – have a significant impact when aggregated. Carbon footprint calculators estimate the amount of greenhouse emissions generated by our daily activities. Try the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to find out how your carbon footprint compares to the US average and how you can reduce your environmental impact.
- Advocate for climate mitigation solutions. Decreasing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions substantially enough in the timeframe needed to avoid catastrophic consequences requires large-scale coordination, not just individual action. Encourage climate action in your community by voting in all elections, showing up for public comment events, volunteering with environmental organizations, and/or engaging with local decision-makers.
Extreme weather events are increasing in intensity, frequency, and cost. Planning as individuals and households for the climate extremes that affect us is a critical component of emergency preparedness overall.
Elizabeth Foster is a Senior Managing Associate in Hagerty’s Preparedness Division. Ms. Foster works with Hagerty’s clients on climate resilience, disaster recovery planning, and continuity of operations projects. Prior to joining Hagerty, she managed technical assistance focused on development and land use strategies to improve urban resilience with the Urban Land Institute. Elizabeth also served as a Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Program Officer for the US Peace Corps in Amlan, Philippines, supporting the municipality’s capacity to implement climate change adaptation and disaster management programs.
Gianna Christopher is Hagerty’s Coordination and Administration Associate within the Preparedness Division. She supports the division by creating written publications, performing Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) on important documents as requested with tight deadlines, as well as performing other assorted administrative tasks.