How would you react if the news came that a hurricane, tornado, or fire were heading in your direction? Would you scramble to protect your home and family, uncertain where to begin? Or, would you calmly pull out a detailed plan for such emergencies? Would your family be ready to evacuate quickly with essential supplies? Would your house be secure?
Planning for a disaster is no different from other measures you likely take to protect yourself and your family from future hardship, such as insuring your life, saving for retirement, and getting regular medical checkups. Preparing for a disaster takes a small investment of time and money. Even a very basic plan could one day save you and your loved ones from financial ruin, injury, or even death.
Here are some steps you can take to prepare your family to cope in an emergency:
Plan to evacuate.
Think carefully about what you and your family would do if you were advised to evacuate your home. Plan in advance where you would go and how you would get there. Establish a meeting place for family members in case you become separated. Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times. Prepare a kit of emergency supplies to last you three days, including food and water, a first aid kit, clothing and blankets, and prescription drugs. You should also have on hand an envelope with enough cash or travelers' checks to last your family about three days, as well as several credit cards with high available balances.
Store important documents in an "evacuation box."
Collect and make copies of all your key financial and personal documents, and make a written and photographic inventory of all your valuables. Essential documents should be stored in a bank safe-deposit box located some distance from your home or in an airtight, waterproof, and fireproof safe or container that can be easily taken with you in an emergency evacuation.
Protect your property.
If you live in an area that is frequently hit by natural disasters, consider what you can do to mitigate potential damage to your property. Depending upon the type of disaster likely to strike, you may want to take steps like anchoring the foundation and roof, installing hurricane shutters on windows and glass doors, adding fire-resistant siding, securing objects that could fall, moving electrical panels and furnaces to upper levels, installing smoke detectors, and clearing brush from around the house.
In addition, develop an action plan for evacuation. Before leaving your house, secure outdoor furniture, unplug electrical equipment, shut down gas and water utilities, and lock windows and doors.
Get the family involved.
Assign evacuation-related tasks to each family member and conduct drills to ensure that everyone in your household knows exactly what to do in an emergency situation.
Purchase necessary insurance coverage and review your policies regularly.
Many people who have lost their homes to disasters find their insurance policies do not cover the cost of rebuilding. Review your homeowners insurance policy annually to make sure it reflects the actual replacement cost of your home and its contents. Be aware that your policy may not cover damage due to specific causes, including flooding. Contact us for more information on how you can insure against disaster.
Your particular circumstances will ultimately determine what measures are necessary to prepare your family for weathering an emergency. Whatever action you decide to take, remember that most disasters strike with little or no warning — the time to get ready is now.
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