During the time a natural disaster strikes is not the time to think about what you need to do to protect your assets. While many of us go through life thinking nothing will happen to us, it’s a huge eye-opener when something does happen and we’re left unprepared. What’s the key to finding relief instead of panic after a catastrophe?
Preparedness plans have become a necessity in our lives as severe rainstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes occur more often than not. Entire towns are wiped out and no longer exist, whether it be New Orleans, LA or Joplin, MO. Families are faced with the loss of their homes and cars which have been destroyed by water damage, fallen and uprooted trees, and downed power lines.
Preparing an emergency kit and having an emergency plan in place does not have to be difficult. A very easy plan can be started now so that when the time comes that you are faced with disaster, you won’t have to scramble. And, putting a plan in place and gathering necessary items does not have to take up a lot of room or be expensive. If you plan ahead, you can create a kit over time, spending a portion of your grocery expenses each month for items on your list. Designate an area in a closest or garage to store a few plastic crates labeled “emergency” and situate them so they are easy to access and won’t be overlooked. (You can Google “72-hour emergency kit” for additional resources, or visit a site like www.EmergencyEssentials.com). With some forethought, you can be one those who doesn’t have to run all over town at the last minute looking for water, batteries, candles, matches and other items to keep you, your kids and your pets safe.
In addition to your list of items, here are some other thoughts to keep in mind as you start to prepare.
- It’s obvious, but it’s necessary: purchase flashlights and batteries to be used only in the case of an emergency. It’s amazing how many of us don’t replace flashlight batteries immediately.
- Have you looked into a battery back-up for the electricity in your home? If you or someone in your family uses oxygen, how long will that last in the case of a power outage? And, how long will the oxygen last in the case of an extended power outage, after a back-up generator has been exhausted?
- Stash a few old blankets and an extra change of clothes and undergarments in your kit. Do you have a pet? You’ll want a few comfort items and a five-day supply of food for Fido or Fluffy, as well.
- Order a battery-operated nightlight that automatically activates when the power goes out.
- When purchasing candles, look for ones that are thick, long-lasting, and easy to grip. They should be thick enough so they won’t tip over if they have to be placed on a flat surface temporarily. Know where the candles are located in your home so you’re not stumbling around trying to find them.
- Store a few lighters and matches in plastic bags to avoid possible water damage.
- Stockpile some non-perishable food items that will last five days or so, along with a hand-operated can opener.
- Acquire a minimum five-day fresh water supply in containers that cannot be tainted by flood residue. Check the supply frequently to ensure nothing has leaked. (In one instance, a woman found that her water bottles had frozen, cracked and thawed; many items in her emergency kit were ruined. )
- Stash some cash and, if possible, a credit card that is to be used just for emergencies. Seal these items and don’t use them until needed. It will be a relief to find cash on hand when you’re unable to access an ATM.
- Purchase a fireproof safe and store copies of your policies in a waterproof, heat-resistant material within the safe.
- You’ll want to take photos after the incident. A disposal camera will do the trick. If you’ve really thought ahead, you’ll have a sealed set of photos of your home or car that were taken beforehand showing them in their original conditions.
- If you find yourself in a hotel room or staying with family or friends, a phone charger will come in handy when the power is restored.
Once you have the basis of your kit formed and have taken some of the precautions listed above, additional practices for preparedness can also come into play. Reviewing your insurance policies and taking a home inventory are next on the list. Home inventory apps now make it very easy for us to list our assets in the event of damage or destruction, and those lists can be saved to a flash drive or sent to a friend or family attorney for safekeeping. It no longer becomes the best practice to keep everything we own at home; backup copies are necessary and can do much to protect us and ensure a smoother process when it comes time to file an insurance claim.
Being safe and smart is necessary, but being safe and smart early is even better. Our family assets are what matter the most to us and to our future generations, and sadly, some of us have found ourselves not nearly as lucky as we could have been after recent events. Let’s put our thoughts and hearts out to those who have been affected by any recent devastation, lend our hands where needed, and learn from those experiences by taking immediate action for ourselves as we put a solid plan in place… just in case.