Most of us think that disasters or emergencies will not happen to us. However, any given day can bring weather, fire and other natural unpredictable events that can significantly impact our lives. You should be prepared now rather than waiting for a disaster to strike. The following are a few simple recommendations that can make any disaster easier to cope with.
Be sure to have a kit readily available that contains a flashlight, batteries, water, portable battery operated radio, first-aid kit, and non-perishable food. Remember that you may be without power for days or weeks and you should plan on having enough resources in case you cannot get to stores for a while. Your kit should be able to provide for all your family members including any pets you may have.
In the event of a total or partial loss to your property, you will have to recreate all of your belongings or contents from memory. This is very difficult to accomplish without photos or videos. Take photos and/or videos of your contents once a year, and then be sure to store these in a fireproof safe or in your bank’s safe deposit box. There are also many “cloud” storage servers that are available for downloading pictures and videos. You should photograph or video each room in your home and be sure to include those often overlooked areas such as the garage, attic, and storage rooms that contain seasonal items or items that are used infrequently. Everything must be documented if you want to claim it after a loss.
Insure your home and contents for their “Full Replacement Cost”. Review your policy each year and verify that you have enough insurance to replace the home and your contents in the event of a total loss. This is not what you paid for the items, but today’s prices. Make sure you have valuables, antiques, artwork, or collections appraised. If you rent a home, you should carry renter’s insurance. Talk with your agent about any exclusions in your policy so you know what is covered and what may not be. Many times, you can add additional coverages to give you extra coverage (i.e. flood, water back up, higher theft limits). It is your responsibility to review your policy and not necessarily your insurance agent’s.
Should you have to evacuate quickly due to fire, flood or storms, know in advance what you will take with you. You should take things that cannot be easily replaced such as jewelry, sentimental items, photo albums, passports, drivers licenses, medications, and insurance papers. Also be prepared to take pets, or have some place to take your pets. Many shelters do not allow pets so you will have to find a facility that will accept them. Be sure to bring food, water, and any medications for your pets along with you. Remember that you can not take everything with you, so take only those items that are irreplaceable to you.
It is a good idea to obtain the assistance of a licensed public adjuster. A public adjuster is a licensed professional adjuster who represents homeowners and business owners -- people like you -- rather than the insurance company. A public adjuster can review your policy and coverages before a claim occurs to ensure you are properly protected. After a loss, a public adjuster will handle all aspects of your claim, including assisting with temporary housing, inventorying contents, and providing estimates to repair the damage to the building. Your public adjuster will handle all negotiations with your insurance company and essentially level the playing field. A public adjuster can assist in many ways when you have suffered a loss.
When a storm or disaster is approaching, supplies (i.e. food, water, batteries) run out very quickly. Don’t wait until the last minute as you will probably not be able to locate supplies. Have your kit prepared and ready to go.
Now is the time to review insurance needs, not after a loss. It takes time to issue a policy or make changes to an existing one. Many insurance companies will not issue new policies when a hurricane is approaching. Let’s face it, you don't want to find out that you have inadequate insurance, or worse--no insurance--after you have a loss.
In many disasters, cell phones will not work, or lines will be tied up indefinitely. Make sure your family, friends and coworkers know your plan, and where you are going if you have to be displaced. It is important to let as many people know as possible where you will be and that you are safe.
Many times even a small weather event can knock out power to thousands, and it could be days, or even weeks, until your service is restored. Be prepared for a long event so your family and work are not unnecessarily adversely affected.
Be sure that elderly neighbors or relatives have someone to assist them. They may need assistance with mobility, medicines or relocating. If the power goes off, they may be subject to extreme heat or cold and may not always want to relocate temporarily. Be sure to include them in your emergency plan and check on them frequently.
We always hope that we will not be impacted by floods, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, or other natural disasters, but we never know. Why not be prepared in case you are affected by a disaster this year? Most of these events strike without warning or time to prepare. Knowing ahead of time what you will do when a disaster occurs can make all the difference in the world to you and your loved ones.
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Photo Credits: Flooding in Cedar Rapids, IA © US geological Survey; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com