Ready, set, prep!
"Failing to plan is planning to fail."
This old adage certainly rings true as we recognize National Preparedness Month this September. For some, preparing for disaster may seem like an oxymoron. How can I prepare for that which I don’t see coming? While we may not be able to forecast crisis, we can certainly put ourselves in the best possible position to face it.
In the United States, natural disasters have been costly on both personal and financial fronts. In 2017 alone, Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria surpassed $265 billion in damages. The fatalities for these events have risen well above 350 and have been estimated by some to be in the thousands if including deaths related to displacement, loss of medical services, and crisis clean-up services. While deeply harrowing, one positive consequence of these events is the development of protocol to better prepare us before disaster strikes.
Ready.gov has spearheaded National Preparedness Month and has come up with 4 main focal points for the month:
Make and Practice Your Plan
It is imperative to have a plan in place with your family, neighbors, and workplace ensuring that each person knows their role, should the worst occur. First, you’ll want to be sure to go over the following questions, and then practice that plan with all involved parties:
1. How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
Keep in mind that during severe weather, electricity can often fail. Be sure to have backup batteries and chargers for cell phones. It is also wise to keep a battery powered AM/FM radio to stay up-to-date with the latest weather and evacuation alerts in your area as cell towers can be affected by wind, rain, and hail, making phones unreliable in emergencies. Click here for our best tips to stay safe in extreme weather.
2. What is my shelter plan?
- Be aware of your options for shelter in case of evacuation. This can mean planning ahead to stay with friends and family out of town if there is advanced evacuation notice, or nearby in mass shelters. If you are able to “shelter in place” at your home, review guidelines for preparing for the specific severe weather you’re facing and be sure to have adequate supplies such as food, water, batteries, blankets, and flashlights. Additionally, make sure you have a plan in place for your pets, and never leave them alone in a disaster.
3. What is my evacuation route?
- When evacuation becomes imminent, don’t wait. Roads and routes can become congested as driving conditions worsen. Sort out shelter, and plan your route ensuring you have a map or printed directions, should your phone fail. When evacuation may be likely, keep a full tank of gas in the car and a bag stocked with food and water for the trip. If you do not have a vehicle, coordinate with friends, family or community members on how you will leave if it becomes necessary.
4. What is my family/household communication plan?
- If your family is not together at the time of an emergency, it is important to know how you’ll get in contact and begin to enact your emergency plan. Have hard copies of contact information for all family members, out of town contacts, school, and workplaces. Know that texting may be a more reliable way to communicate as texts will sometimes go through when a call will not.
Learn Life Saving Skills
In an emergency situation such as a flood, hurricane, tornado or earthquake, knowing how to prepare your home to mitigate risk can mean the difference between safety and serious hazard. Inform yourself of best practices for preparing your home to face these crises, especially if you are considering sheltering in place. Always ensure that inspections are up-to-date, and smoke and gas alarms are in working order for both your home and business. If flooding becomes an imminent reality, consult this list from FEMA to help prepare your structure and reduce potential damage.
For both sheltering in place and evacuation, knowledge of CPR and First Aid can be lifesaving as stress and dangerous conditions may cause any number of accidents on the road and at home, and emergency help may not be able to reach you in a timely manner. The Community Emergency Response Team program offers an even more in-depth training in fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.
Check Your Coverage
If you live in an area that is prone to severe weather, check your insurance plan and be certain that you have opted for appropriate coverage for relevant hazards. Work with an insurance professional to find out exactly what will be covered as well as your financial responsibility in case of an incident. Also, be sure to keep up-to-date records of the inventory of your home and business. Keep in mind what you’ll be responsible for, and look for these suggested coverages:
- Dwelling—coverage for your house.
- Other Structures—coverage for structures such as garages, decks, and fences.
- Personal Property—coverage for items such as furniture, clothing, and appliances.
- Loss-of-Use—compensation if you need to relocate temporarily due to covered damage.
- Personal Liability—coverage for accidents occurring on your property.
- Medical Protection—payments for a person who is injured on your property.
- Property—protection of your physical business location, such as a store, and its contents.
- Liability—payment for medical costs and other obligations if someone gets hurt on your business property or you or your employees cause property damage, including legal defense costs if you are sued.
- Business Interruption, or Business Income—coverage for lost revenue in the event that a business needs to close due to fire, burglary, or another covered disaster; assistance making rent and utility payments; and coverage for operating your business from a temporary location. An insurance professional can assist a business owner with these additional types of commercial coverage.
- Business Vehicle—automotive insurance specifically designed for business vehicle use.
- Workers’ Compensation—coverage that provides cash benefits and/or medical care for employees who are injured or fall ill as a direct result of their work activities.
- Flood Insurance—coverage designed for damage to a business property and its contents caused by flooding, which is not typically covered under general business insurance.
- Cyber Liability—protection against cyber risks and costs, including data loss or corruption, identity theft, extortion, and reputation recovery.
- Terrorism—coverage for buildings, equipment, furnishings, and inventory damaged or destroyed in a terrorist attack.
In addition to coverage for home and business, keep important documents in an accessible, safe container such as a waterproof, fireproof box or a safe deposit box. It can also be useful to keep copies with a trusted family member.
Save for Emergencies
When financial planning, set aside some savings for an emergency fund. While having a comprehensive insurance plan will keep you covered in the long run, you will need a monetary bolster immediately following a crisis. Keep a small amount of cash at home as banks are likely to shut down and ATMs may not be functioning. Keeping relevant records at the ready in a safety box or a secure offline app on your phone can ensure that the insurance processes following a disaster are speedy and that any medical necessities can be easily attended to while you are temporarily relocated.
Emergency planning can be a daunting venture but having a plan in place means that if crisis strikes, you’ll be ready. Use this list and the linked resources to provide emergency arrangements for your family, pets, and business so that you are as prepared as possible, personally and financially, and that you are ready for recovery.
Visit Ready.gov for more information on how you can participate in National Preparedness Month by clicking below!