Rental Report: Tips for Preparing for Natural Disasters in an Apartment

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Right now, blizzards and bitter cold are slamming parts of the country. Soon it will switch from blizzards to thunderstorms. Are you prepared for when disaster strikes?

Find Out 

  • Does your building have a generator? If it does, what will it power? It may only power minimal things to keep the building in operation, and not cover your apartment.
  • Does your water heater run on gas? If so, you will still have warm water if the power is out. That is a definite plus when it is cold outside.
  • Do you have a gas stove? You can still cook sans electricity too.
  • Does your renter’s insurance cover your fridge contents during a power outage? If so, you could file a claim if your power goes out for several days to replace your contents. This can be very helpful, as it isn’t just your milk and meats you need to replace, but all your condiments and extras, which can add up quickly. If you don’t have that coverage, see if you can add it. It should only cost a few dollars more and could save you hundreds later.

Have on Hand

  • At a minimum, review the Red Cross Survival Kit basics. Non-perishable food, water, medications, cash, batteries and so on.
  • Also check out the Red Cross Store for some handy other items.
    • Blackout Buddy $9.99 — a small LED light that is charged in water.
    • Emergency Bivvy $17.00 — Emergency blanket that keeps you warm and reflects 90 percent of your body heat back to you. This is good to keep in your apartment if you are without heat for several days, and would also be good to keep in your vehicle, if you have one, in the event you get stuck in the snow somewhere.
    • Emergency Radio $60 — This particular one is multipurpose. It has a light, a USB port to charge a phone, and also has a solar panel and hand crank in the event you run out of battery power.
  • If you are able to make a little more investment, check out a battery-powered generator. You can charge your electronics, jumpstart a car among other things. You may even be able to power an electric heater for a few minutes at a time to warm up a room a bit, if necessary. Don’t forget to make sure this is fully charged ahead of time.
  • Hands and feet get cold easily? Grab some hand warmers at your local outdoor store or ski shop.

What about Pets?

  • Depending on the disaster, you don’t want to forget to make some preparations for your pet. If it is a cold weather issue, just be sure to have enough food, water, and medications on hand in the event you are stuck somewhere for a few days.
  • If you have to evacuate, remember most shelters will not allow pets. Your best bet is to either find a hotel, or go to a family or friend’s house that will let you bring your pet. In Arlington County, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington has a temporary pet shelter available if necessary. One thing you don’t want to do is leave your pet behind.

Make a Plan

  • Unexpected disasters do happen every so often — remember the earthquake that hit the D.C. area a few years ago? Fortunately, it didn’t cause too much trouble other than slow commutes home and overloaded cell lines. It could have been worse. Be sure to have some sort of disaster kit on hand for when you least expect it. Have a plan on how to communicate with your loved ones, but keep in mind other people need to communicate too. Stay off your cell as much as possible.

Talking about disasters is never enjoyable. But some simple preparation can help you sail through the many events Mother Nature throws at us. Have a good plan in place with your family for communication, meeting places and so on.

Most importantly, don’t wait until the last minute when you do have time to prepare. And you don’t want to be caught off guard when you don’t. The time is now to start your prep, build your kits over time so you are not hit hard financially all at once, especially for some of the bigger items. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Learn about what your apartment or home has in place for emergencies and develop your plans around that.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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