The U.S. broke records in 2016 with 19 separate flooding events – the most in recorded history, according to USA Today – and this year’s wildfires continue to threaten homes in the West. Forbes reports that the intensity of storms has increased as the Atlantic and Gulf coasts have seen more category 4 and 5 hurricanes. If Tropical Storm Ophelia reaches hurricane status as forecasted, this year’s hurricane season will be tied for the most seen in one season – a record that dates back to the 1800s.
When was the last time you thought about an emergency-preparedness plan? “Never,” is the answer most people would give, which could have terrible consequences if you happen to be caught in the middle of a disaster. September was National Preparedness Month but hurricane season is here until the end of November and since disasters can strike at any moment, it’s important to prepare before disaster strikes …Today. Creating an emergency plan is a good start, but remember, you should review it with your family annually. For example, do you have a newborn in the family? Did you adopt a pet? Have emergency kit materials expired? If you’ve experienced any of these or other changes, then you need to update your plan to make sure you’re prepared. Here are six things to consider during your routine yearly disaster preparedness check-up:
- Check emergency kit materialsRefresh everyone’s memory of where the emergency kit is located. Check expiration dates of materials in the kit to assure perishable items will last for at least another year, including food, water and batteries. According to FEMA, here’s a full list of materials to include in a basic emergency kit.
- Update your emergency planA basic plan should have a meeting place in case disaster hits and your home becomes unsafe, as well as at least two escape routes. Each year, make sure to remind everyone of the meeting place, ensure it is still a safe location and evaluate everyone’s escape routes to avoid new obstructions. Take into account any special needs of children, seniors, people with disabilities, family members who don’t speak English and pets.
- Know how to turn off your utilitiesLearn where the utility shut-offs are located and how to operate them. Turning off gas mains can prevent leaks and turning off electricity can help prevent potential fires started by electrical sparks. Additionally, turning off your water main can help prevent flooding.
- Practice home safetyHome safety should be observed year-round, not just in the event of an impending disaster. Install smoke detectors in each room of your home and replace the batteries every six months. Store heavy items on the lowest shelves. Combustible items such as firewood, picnic tables, boats and flammable liquids should be kept separately and 50 feet from your home and other structures.
- Prepare your insurance Getting ready for a natural disaster actually starts by choosing your insurance policy. Ask yourself: Do I have enough insurance to repair or replace my home if it is damaged or destroyed? Mercury recommends you get an insurance check-up from your agent or broker once a year to help you make an informed decision about the coverage you need.
- Catalog your propertyRecovering from a disaster takes time. To ease this process, keep a detailed inventory of your property and update it annually. Photos and videos of your home can be presented to insurance adjusters to help your claim. Mashable, a technology blog, provides a list of eight home inventory apps that make creating inventory of your property easy. Visit the Mercury Insurance website for additional tips to help with the claims process in the event your home suffers damage.
Be proactive about disaster preparedness. You’ll be investing in your family’s safety, property and peace of mind.