Disaster Preparedness Part II: Preparation Now Defeats Panic Later
Nature is a harsh mistress. Changing conditions, from calm to an angry fury can suddenly and frequently happen without notice. Knowing what to do when nature strikes creates pathways for survival whereas not knowing what to do can lead to frequent and unnecessary pain and suffering. Let’s avoid it unnecessary pain.
During my years as an adjunct professor at Foothill College in Los Altos, California, we were advised that should an earthquake event occur, it could be up to seventy-two hours before help arrives. Three days is the benchmark necessary to allow first responders to resolve the most urgent and life-threatening matters before basic rescues may begin.
Living in Oregon, it is no different when an ice storm arrives; hurricane coastal storms pound our shorelines and low lands; rains cause floods, and even the unlikely repeat of a volcano eruption. In all cases, power can be disrupted, stores may be closed, gasoline in short supply, and even battery-operated devices may have severe limitations.
In all circumstances, preparedness outstrips speedy reaction times and especially money in the bank. The question revolves around how best to prepare?
As an Eagle Scout and likely the first recipient of the Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge in my region back in 1972 or 1973, I rely on my Emergency Training and Education. My Emergency recommendations include:
- Protect your property. Think about ways you can avoid or reduce property damage if a disaster were to strike again. A few ideas: Know where to turn off water, gas and electric lines; install smoke detectors, and clear surrounding brush to protect your home against wildfires. If you’re not sure where to start, contact your local fire department for recommendations.
- Conduct a household inventory. Make a list of your possessions so you can estimate their value for insurance or tax purposes. Include model and serial numbers. Computer software programs are available to help with this task. If possible, take photos of your possessions or videotape them. Don’t forget to photograph your property’s exterior, your vehicles, and contents of your garage, closets, and attic.
Save receipts for valuable items and get professional appraisals of jewelry, collectibles, and artwork. These expensive items need to be listed individually in your insurance policy. Store this list in a safe place away from your home, such as a safe deposit box at a bank located away from disaster-prone areas. Update your inventory annually.
- Have adequate insurance. If necessary, seek special or additional coverage for floods, earthquakes or other losses not covered by standard insurance. If you own a home, buy at a minimum, full replacement or replacement cost coverage. This means the structure can be replaced up to the limits specified in the policy even better protection, although not always available, is guaranteed replacement cost coverage. This means the policy will pay to rebuild your house at today’s prices, regardless of the limits of the policy. However, you must make an effort to keep the policy coverage amount current. In addition, check to see if the policy covers building code changes, and look for a policy that covers the replacement cost of your possessions, not just the actual cash value
If you rent, buy renter’s insurance, which pays for damaged, destroyed or stolen personal property. You also may need special insurance if you live in an area prone to floods or earth movement. Ask your insurance agent.
Finally, don’t overlook the importance of health, disability, long-term care, umbrella liability and life insurance. You may need to draw on benefits from one or all of these policies if you are ever faced with another disaster.
- Keep cash available. Stash a small amount of cash or traveler’s checks at home in a place where you can get at the money quickly in case of a sudden evacuation, or if a disaster shuts down local ATMs and banks. Set aside extra money in an emergency fund in a bank savings account, and keep your credit cards paid off so you will have enough credit to get you through a disaster.
- Use an evacuation box and safe deposit box. Place important papers in a box that you can grab in the event of an emergency. Some items to put in the box: emergency cash, a few rolls of quarters, negatives of important personal photographs, a list of emergency contacts, copies of prescriptions and medical records, copies of insurance policies, backup disks of critical computerized information, copies of other important family and financial records, and your safe deposit box key. Store original documents, property deeds and birth certificates in a bank safe deposit box. Make an evacuation plan. Imagine that you could take only one suitcase or pack a single carload in the event of a disaster. What would you take, how would you leave your home, where would you rejoin your family and who would you call if you became separated?
There are several emergency type kits available in the marketplace. The Federal Government has a Build A Kit at https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit. The Red Cross also has recommendations as well (http://www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/be-red-cross-ready/get-a-kit)
Now – think about it and then act to preserve that which is irreplaceable.
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