Hurricane Ian affected many Southwest Florida residents last year, and many of our Naples office clients are still recovering from the storm damage. And in upstate New York, certain areas recently suffered catastrophic flooding. Unfortunately, we have found many people were unprepared. Same old story, “Nothing will happen to me.” Now that we are back in Hurricane season, we thought it might be a good idea to review some tips to be prepared for natural disasters.
No matter where you live in the United States, someday you may experience a natural disaster that impacts your home, your family, your lifestyle, and even your finances. In recent years, we’ve seen high incidences of drought and wildfires, hurricanes and flooding, and plenty more severe environmental events around the country including tornados and blizzards. While we certainly hope you never experience a devastating disaster, if you do, it’s best to be prepared!
Take time in advance to thoughtfully build (and then regularly review) your disaster preparedness plan; it will help reduce the fear and anxiety of the unknown. It can also help mitigate the potential loss of human life and property often accompanying a disaster. As you put your plan together, follow these emergency preparedness tips to help keep you and your family safe.
Know your hazards. Most disasters are natural in nature, and can occur with little or no warning. First, determine the “risk score” for living in your area. To do this, visit the National Risk Index website and click on the interactive National Risk Index Map. This can aid in identifying the disaster potential where you live. Identify all the possible risks you face and make emergency plans for each scenario to help you prepare for a safe outcome.
Home proofing. While you can’t thoroughly prepare for every disaster scenario, there are steps you can take to reduce the impact of an event. Proactive measures such as floodproofing, securing heavy items that could topple during a storm, and protective window blinds or shutters can make all the difference in safety and loss prevention.
Build your emergency plan and kit. When disaster strikes, your family should know how to respond. Hold regular family meetings to review your emergency plan and rehearse when to shelter and where to meet should you become separated. This resource from Ready.gov outlines what to consider when building your preparedness plan. Having an emergency kit is crucial. At minimum, it should contain adequate water, food, and emergency medical supplies to fend for yourself for a while.
Know your route. While state-of-the-art tools and technology can predict some natural disasters, there is often limited time to get to safety. Know your way out of your home, where your safe spaces are, and the best route out of town. Try not to rely on GPS mapping to find your routes in case that service is unavailable.
Have an emergency fund. While having an emergency fund doesn’t prevent a disaster, it can help you navigate during and pick up the pieces after. Consider setting aside cash as part of your emergency kit to pay for essential items in case you can’t access an ATM or bank. In addition, set aside longer-term funds to cover immediate needs like deductibles or critical repairs.
Safeguard your critical documents and valuables. There are several types of documents and items that you should consider protecting from natural disasters. These include, but are not limited to financial and legal documentation, medical information, emergency contact information, and valuables and priceless personal items.
There are numerous ways to keep your important information safe, including storing paper copies of important documents at home in a fireproof and waterproof box or safe or in a bank safe deposit box. Electronic copies of important documents can be stored in a password-protected format on a flash drive or external hard drive, or you can use a secure cloud-based service. Be conscious of where you store valuable belongings, for example you may want to move them to a higher location and put them in waterproof containers to avoid water damage.
An excellent resource, developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), called “Safeguard Critical Documents and Valuables” is a convenient tool to help you gather your important documentation. Download FEMA document: Safeguard Critical Documents and Valuables
We hope your family never has to experience a natural disaster, but we hope these tips can help you be prepared in the event one does occur. If you have questions on how to be prepared financially for the unknown, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!