New publication helps Alaska homeowners prepare for emergencies

Alaska Emergency and Disaster Homeowner's Handbook cover

Alaska Sea Grant released a new homeowners guide to help Alaskans prepare for natural disasters and extreme weather conditions around the state. The free book, Alaska Emergency and Disaster Homeowner’s Handbook, is available immediately for electronic download or can be ordered in print from the Alaska Sea Grant bookstore.

Alaskans—whether in large or small communities that are coastal or inland, connected by roads or accessible only by plane or boat—can prepare for extreme weather conditions and potential natural disasters. These include heavy rains, high winds, freezing temperatures, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, erosion, and flooding from storm surges.

Davin Holen, Alaska Sea Grant’s coastal community resilience specialist, worked with energy specialist Art Nash at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extensions Service to create this handbook for Alaska. Nash has authored several guides, each focused on a specific natural hazard, which he pulled together into this more comprehensive guidebook. Holen added information on how homeowners can plan for future risks and uncertainties, drawing on climate data, decision support tools, and conversations about preparing for the future in communities across rural Alaska.

The Alaska guide was inspired by Hawaiʻi Sea Grant’s Homeowner’s Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards. In addition to keeping their own handbook up-to-date with the latest advice, Hawaiʻi Sea Grant provided valuable assistance to Alaska and other Sea Grant programs around the country creating their own region-specific handbooks.

Sample page from Alaska Emergency and Disaster Homeowners Handbook

Alaskans need to plan for unique logistical challenges, including transportation and supply chain issues, when building and maintaining homes to cope with the conditions and events particular to their region. The authors kept a view toward self-sufficiency, given the geographic remoteness and limited emergency services of many small communities, according to Holen. 

“We wanted this guidebook to be useful to all homeowners, including in rural Alaska,” said Holen. “It’s focused on simple ways they can fix their homes’ foundations to mitigate effects of thawing permafrost, clearing the area around the house to limit fire danger, or fastening a roof to withstand high winds. We also looked at preparedness, in case you have to leave your home, and what to expect when you return.”