How to Prepare for a Major Disaster

How to Prepare for a Major Disaster

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Following Hurricane Sandy and any major catastrophe that has hit the American populace, homeowners may quite suddenly become aware that their preparation for a major weather event can use some improvement. Even with a working generator present and plenty of food on hand, there are some things that can escape you, becoming all too apparent when you’re in the midst of a crisis.

Preparation for a major disaster begins right now. Here is what you can do to ensure that you and your loved ones are protected.

1. Review your insurance policies. Every homeowner should have insurance and sufficient coverage to protect against major damage. You may not live in a flood zone, but if your home receives significant flood damage that cannot be blamed on wind damage, you may not be covered. There is a 30-day window before flood insurance kicks in; learn more about the National Flood Insurance Program today. Speak with your insurance agent about your homeowners insurance policy; make sure that coverage and deductibles reflect your current needs.

2. Update your food inventory. Going a week or more without food seems like a far-fetched thought, but that is exactly what some consumers in New Jersey and New York faced following Hurricane Sandy. Most people were prepared to ride out the storm, with 3 to 5 days of food and supplies stockpiled. After about 7 days, those supplies were exhausted or stretched very thin. You may not want to store food for six months or longer, but having a basic supply of goods for 1 to 2 weeks seems more critical these days than ever before. Review your food inventory, keep more medicine on hand, and have a backup generator available to keep your freezer going.

3. Set up an emergency file. Quite easily, everything that you own can be destroyed in a fire, a landslide, a tornado or a hurricane. An earthquake can decimate your property, making it impossible to retrieve important documents. Keep copies of your most important documents in a safe deposit box at a bank far enough away from your home. Also consider keeping these documents with a close relative in another state. Take photos of your valuables, inventory your goods and keep a list of emergency numbers. An online backup of your documents is important too, what you can access once power has been restored.

4. Clean up your property. How many homes were damaged or destroyed in the last storm by limbs and trees? Many more than we can count. When the weather is calm, that’s a good time to survey the limbs that hang over your house and the trees that, theoretically, could collapse on top of your house, destroying it and possibly hurting or killing your family members. You may prize that 100-year-old majestic oak or that rare elm tree, but it can become a lethal hazard if the “perfect storm” were to hit. Contact an arborist and make an appointment to have your landscaping examined — some perfectly healthy-looking trees may be riddled with disease and in danger of falling.

5. Map out an evacuation plan. A late season hurricane, an unexpected earthquake or a devastating tornado can turn your life upside down. You might imagine yourself riding out the disaster, but you might just as easily evacuate your home and leave the premises until your area is secure. Sit down with your family and develop evacuation contingencies. These contingencies should be based on the severity of the crisis. For instance, if your neighborhood is blacked out, identify a hotel within a few miles of your home that has an electric generator and is receiving guests, lights or no lights. If your area is encountering widespread disruption, plan to move as far as two or three hours from your home, preferably to stay with family or friends. Or at least at a hotel where everyone is comfortable and there are enough amenities available. Find a middle ground, too, in the event that you want to secure your family, but check up on your home from time to time.

Disaster Planning

There are many other matters to consider when preparing for a potential disaster. A safe supply of gas is needed to run your generators — use only regulated containers and keep this fuel away from your home and your neighbors’ properties. Your pets need a safe place to stay too — your domestic animals can likely go with you. Farm animals need to be taken to a secure location. Always keep your cell phones charged; buy backup cell phone batteries and update your lists to include your important numbers.

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