Planning for a natural disaster
Nobody wants to have a natural disaster strike them. Natural disasters do occur, however, whether we want them to or not. Lightning strikes cause fires, high winds cause tree limbs to break off and trees to blow down, flooding can occur from torrential rains, hurricanes regularly strike the eastern seaboard, and earthquakes can occur anywhere and at any time.
Disasters may be unpredictable, but planning for them can help protect you and your loved ones in the event of an unspeakable calamity. Just as importantly, a plan can help you recover.
Your children’s schools and your office place hold fire drills, but we are all too quick to ignore this need at home. It is important to have escape routes laid out for all of the rooms of your home and apartment. You should also practice using those escape routes.
Make sure you and your family know where the safest place is in your home in the event of an earthquake, hurricane, or tornado.
Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are required in homes and apartments. Check the detectors for proper power and functionality at least twice a year – make it part of your Daylight Savings routine. “Tot Finder” stickers on the windows of your children’s bedrooms help fire fighters and police locate your children and ensure their safety in case you are unable to do so.
Your homeowner’s insurance is designed to cover the repair or replacement of your home in the event of fire damage or other named causes of loss. A tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake is a different case entirely, however. For starters, you may have a separate hurricane, named storm, or windstorm deductible. Most insurance policies do not cover floods; you have to purchase a separate flood insurance policy for that. And finally, earthquake insurance is an optional endorsement to your current home insurance.
You ought to have a safe place for storing your valuable documents such as insurance policies, stock certificates, title deeds, passports, birth certificates and wills. This location should not be a drawer in your bedroom or study, but a location designed to survive a natural disaster, like a safe deposit box. Be sure to keep copies of these documents close at hand, as well as directions for recovering the originals, and be prepared for only the original documents to be recognized legally. Talk to your advisor about ways to archive these documents digitially.
Emergency cash reserve
Insurance might provide funds for housing and living expenses during a disaster recovery period, but those funds might not be immediately available to you and your family. Set up an emergency cash reserve to cover your immediate needs following a disaster. This reserve could take the form of a credit card to be used only in the event of an emergency, or a specially designated bank account accessible by means of an ATM or debit card. During some emergencies, ATM machines may not be available. Be sure to have cash on hand.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov) recommends having an emergency kit prepared in case of a natural disaster. It should contain the following supplies:
- non-perishable food
- first aid supplies
- a way to filter water
- toilet paper
- hand sanitizer
- dust masks
If you have to evacuate, you’ll also need prescription drugs, a medical kit, sleeping bags, and a battery operated radio
Creating an action plan can help you and your family avoid the hazards of a natural disaster as well as recover from its effects. If you aren’t sure how much of this list applies to you, think of it this way: being proactive rather than reactive can help reduce your loss, speed your recovery, and give you greater peace of mind.
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