1. Neighborhood–How is the crime rate? Do the neighbors have bars on their windows or well kept yards with children playing outside? If you have time to check out the area thoroughly, see what kind of community events and facilities there are–you’ll want to know who your neighbors are once you move in. Avoid high crime areas if at all possible.
2. Proximity to Targets–Is there a power plant down the road or a dam upstream? Avoiding areas around potential targets for terrorists or others wanting to harm a large number of people with one blow will help lower your likelihood of ever experiencing some emergencies. This might also mean moving out of the city and into a less populated area.
3. Geologic and Potential Weather Hazards–Is the house built on an ancient sand bar? Too near a river, slide zone, cliff, etc.? In my college geology class, the instructor had slide shows prepared demonstrating all the dumb places people build houses and said if we learned nothing else in that class we should learn to check geology before we move in somewhere. So have a look at the geology of the area–if your house is going to fall in the river when the hundred year flood comes, or if it is sitting on a fault line, you should probably consider looking for a different house.
Weather hazards can encompass large areas, so are sometimes difficult to avoid. You can’t live anywhere along the gulf coast, for example, and expect to avoid hurricanes. If your job, family, or other reason requires you to live somewhere, at least know what your most likely weather events are and do your best to prepare for them. Check this map for some of the more common natural disasters in the US.
4. Storage Space–Food storage is like having an extra child. It can take up a lot of space. Does your house have enough space to store the food and supplies you will need? It is best if there is a cool dark location for foods, like a basement or north facing room you can block the window in. A shed our outbuilding is great for the tools and other supplies. There are solutions for squeezing a lot of food into a small home without giving up a bedroom, it’s just LOTS easier to inventory, organize, and use what you have if you don’t have to hide it behind every couch and under the beds and above the closets.
5. Garden Space–Does the house come with enough dirt to grow something? Does that dirt get enough sunlight? If not, are you able to grow in planters on a balcony or window box? Even though sweet husband has threatened to buy a condo and let someone else do all the yard work, he knows we need the garden space. You’ll also want to check what type of water is included with the property–do you have secondary/irrigation water to water your garden or will you be using the more expensive culinary water?
6. Animal Regulations–Will your city or Home Owner’s Association let you have those chickens? What about larger animals like pigs or a cow or a goat? Does your area require the property to have animal rights in order to have larger animals? Do you need to keep animals on the property to avoid losing the animal rights? Check your local animal regulations.
7. Proximity to Water–Is there a stream or river nearby or on the property? What about a well? Where is the nearest source of water in an emergency and how do you plan to access it?
8. Heat–Does the house have a way to keep it warm in the winter without electricity? A wood or coal burning stove or other non-electric heat source is great. Y’all in the south, is there any way to stay cool in the summer if the electricity is off (like a backyard pool!)?
9. Safe Room–Does the house have a room that can be made into a safe room? Usually this isn’t too hard to figure out and won’t rule out many homes. If you’re really lucky, your house will have some type of shelter built into it–a storm room or even a secret entrance to your underground bunker. But for the rest of us, one easily accessible room that can be made secure through a lock on the door and/or reinforcing or blocking windows is good.
Bonus #10. Defendable–How does the house’s location help you in defending your property and family? Or help you not be found by bad guys at all. Off the beaten path is better than right on the highway. Also know your local firearm laws–what firearms you can own and how and when you can use them can vary greatly from state to state and even from city to city.
My home is my castle (albeit a very small castle). It is where I want to ride out any disaster. I’d rather be in my home than in some public shelter, so I want my home to have the greatest advantage possible to keep me and my family safe and secure through any emergency. We cannot always control exactly where we live, however, so approaching your next move with a preparedness mindset can help you avoid some potential disasters–or at least be aware of them.