Floods, tornadoes, wildfires and hurricanes are among the costliest – and most devastating – events the U.S. experiences each year, and they can be especially life-altering if you’re unprepared for one. A recent emergency preparedness survey conducted by Mercury insurance revealed that more than half (51%) of the respondents don’t have a plan, with 20% reporting that having a plan “never really crossed our minds.” Neglecting to think ahead could lead to terrible consequences if you happen to be faced with a natural disaster.
It’s better to prepare for the unexpected than wait until it’s too late. Mercury Insurance recommends checking the following six tasks off your to-do list on a yearly basis so your home and your family are ready in case of a natural disaster.
1. Check emergency kit materials.
Eighty-eight percent of Mercury’s survey respondents said they have an in-home emergency kit stocked with essential items they will need if disaster strikes. If you’re among the majority, refresh your family’s memory of where the emergency kit is located. If you need to assemble one, a downloadable checklist can be found here . Check expiration dates of materials in the kit to assure perishable items will last for at least another year, including food, water and batteries. Additionally, the CDC recommends adding personal items to help protect yourself and others from the pandemic, such as hand sanitizer, cloth face masks and liquid soap.
2. Update your emergency plan.
Many things can change over the course of a year. For example, do you have a newborn in the family or did you adopt a pet? If you’ve experienced these or other changes, then you need to update your plan to make sure you’re prepared. A basic plan should include a meeting place outside of your home – 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 modify your escape routes if needed 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. The Red Cross offers a free downloadable emergency app that can help you to monitor conditions in your area and check in with friends and family.
3. Review how to turn off your utilities
Ensure everyone in your household knows 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.
4. Practice home safety.
Home 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 – and anchor the shelves to the wall for added support – to prevent items from falling, especially if you live in an area where earthquakes happen. Combustible items such as firewood, picnic tables, boats and flammable liquids should be kept separately and 50 feet from your home and other structures.
5. Prepare your insurance.
Getting ready for a natural disaster actually starts by choosing your insurance policy. Mercury found that 39% of people surveyed are unsure if they have enough insurance to rebuild their home if it is damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster. Check in with your insurance agent or broker once a year to help you make an informed decision about the coverage you need. Also, be sure to purchase flood or earthquake insurance if you live in an affected area.
6. Catalog your property.
Recovering from a disaster takes time, but keeping a detailed inventory of your property can help ease this process if you need to file a claim. Photos and videos of your home are a visual record of your belongings, as well as where they’re located, and are valuable resources to share with your claims representative in the event of a loss. Being proactive about disaster preparedness is an investment in your family’s safety, protecting your property and peace of mind.
Visit Mercury Insurance’s Catastrophe Center for more information and helpful resources.