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How to handle an exterior emergency

By Paul F. P. Pogue, Ask Angi
Published: June 15, 2024, 6:01am

Completing our series on handling difficult home emergencies, here are tips on how to deal with three potentially dangerous or destructive exterior emergencies.

Roof Leak

Among the many purposes your roof serves, one of the most vital is that it keeps rain and snow outside where they belong. So, a roof leak can cause a lot of anxiety, and you should address them as swiftly as possible when they develop. Unfortunately, most leaks aren’t immediately obvious and can cause significant damage before you even notice they’ve happened.

To prevent this, watch for roof problems after storms or major winds. Visually inspect your roof for damage or missing shingles. (Don’t forget to look down; shingles on the ground provide their own evidence of roof damage.) Your gutters and downspouts can also give clues on roofing damage. Asphalt granules washed into the gutters show that shingles have taken damage.

Take a look inside your attic as well. In many cases, that’s where the first visible leaks will develop. Stains on ceilings, especially upstairs ceilings, also indicate likely leaks.

Of course, if you spot leaking water from roofs, walls or corners, you know you have an emergency.

If you detect a leak, try to perform first aid by covering the hole or damage with a tarp. Contact a roofing contractor right away, even in the middle of the night. You want a pro to take a look as soon as possible. Beyond the obvious damage from the water, leaks can cause mold growth, rotted wood and electrical shorts.

Fallen Tree

Here’s another one that calls for immediate action. If a tree falls in your yard, first check for any danger, including more potential falls. Your top priority is to verify it’s not touching a power line. If that’s the case, keep your distance and call 911 and your power company.

Before touching or moving anything, take as many pictures as necessary to document the damage and what happened. This will be valuable later, in the event of legal or insurance questions.

Contact your insurance company as swiftly as possible. Talk to your neighbors. In many cases, a downed tree affects more than one yard. Coordinate with each other early on to help avoid tensions down the road. You’d much rather work together than not.

If the tree has damaged your home, including breaking holes in the roof or walls, contact a professional immediately, no matter the time of day or night. Gaping holes in the home are among the highest-priority repairs, and you want to get on that list quickly, especially if the fallen tree is a result of a storm that probably damaged many other homes. As with a roof leak, use duct tape, a tarp or whatever you can in order to temporarily cover the hole and prevent the elements from getting inside.

Downed Power Line

Whether the power line fell on its own, got knocked over by a tree or collapsed in the wind, you must take this seriously. Don’t let anyone get near the wire, especially children and pets. It could still be live and dangerous. If the ground is wet, go inside and stay there. Call 911 and your power company immediately to address the situation. You’ll also need to call a licensed electrician to address whatever damage was caused to your home. In most cases, the power company is responsible for the power lines up to the point where they attach to the building. At that point and beyond, the homeowner needs to hire an electrician to perform the restoration and necessary repairs.

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