Disasters come in a variety of forms, large and small, and with adequate forewarning, or with little or no indication until it is too late. In almost all cases, thorough and adequate preparation can be the key to minimizing damage and other negative impacts. Understanding some basic insurance policy terminology BEFORE it’s needed is an excellent first step in being prepared for the unknown.
Types of Disasters
There are three basic categories of disasters:
- Man-made Disaster.These would include war, terrorist attacks, destructive riots, etc.
- Technological Disasters. Serious or long-term power outages and natural gas explosions fall into this category.
- Natural Disasters. Tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, and floods, etc.
While the variety of possible disasters is near endless, there are several types of more common disasters that the average person is most likely to experience:
- Fires. These can be either a fire originating in and damaging or destroying a home, or a vehicle fire, or a forest or grass fire originating on adjacent property that eventually impacts the home and property.
- Floods. Floods also come in many forms. From rising water flowing from a nearby lake or river, from rain causing damage either from roof leaks, from an extreme rain volume event or wind-driven rain ingress, or an internal malfunction such as leaking pipes or plumbing fixtures.
- Tornadoes and Severe Storms.Preparing for storms or other forms of bad weather is something those in East Texas know all too well. Tornados and severe storms can occur anytime and anywhere. Modern weather forecasting is often able to provide advanced warning, but prior preparation is needed to take full advantage of the ‘heads up’ this can provide.
- Power Outages.An extended power outage can quickly escalate from a minor inconvenience to a major problem with serious consequences that can be financial, security-related, or an impediment to safety. Short of installing a back up whole house electric generating system, there is often little the average homeowner can do to prepare.
HOW CAN INSURANCE HELP IN THE EVENT OF A DISASTER?
The importance of maintaining proper insurance protection to avoid an unexpected insurance emergency cannot be overemphasized. And adequate homeowner insurance is a critical component of any disaster preparation plan.
The most basic homeowner’s policy covers the dwelling, but the policy may also include other structures on the property, such as storage sheds, fences, or a detached garage. The typical policy will also protect most personal property kept within the home, such as furniture, clothing, and electronics. Special items like jewelry, firearms, art, and cash above preset limits may need additional coverage.
For those who do not own but instead rent or lease, consider rental insurance. Like homeowner’s insurance, it’s designed to protect property and safeguard the policyholder against incurring an extreme and unexpected financial loss.
And if you live in an area subject to flooding, flood insurance is a must.
These insurance components are designed to offer some degree of protection from the financial impact of an unexpected disaster or loss.
The Emergency Kit
Consider making an emergency kit. This kit should consist of a variety of items that are inexpensive and easy to find. They could perhaps save your life or the lives of those you love. The items should be kept current, be stored in airtight plastic bags, and be kept together in an easy to carry container such as a plastic bin, a duffel bag, or a shoulder bag. In addition to the standard items you and your family might need, also take into account those unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for infants, seniors, or pets.
The basic kit might contain:
- Water – for drinking and sanitation. As much bottled water as your kit container can accommodate plus additional water stored elsewhere as in your home or vehicle(s), a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day for as many days as your storage space can accommodate.
- Food - non-perishable food. Again, as much as your kit container can accommodate plus additional food stored elsewhere in your home or vehicle(s), a minimum of at least a three-day supply per person. And don’t forget food for the pets!
- Radio – a battery-powered or hand-crank radio Ideally with a dedicated weather frequency, plus plenty of fresh extra batteries.
- Flashlight – battery-powered light source Several preferred, LEDs are best for longer battery life, plus spare batteries.
- First aid kit – a basic first aid kit at a minimum. An advanced first aid kit is preferred plus knowledge of basic first aid techniques.
- Knife(s). One or more good quality knives are a must.
- Plastic Sheeting and Duct Tape.Multiple uses in survival situations, for a shelter or easy repairs
- Basic Tool Kit. Adjustable wrench, pliers, screwdrivers, hammer, etc.
- Cell Phones With chargers, backup batteries.
- Hand Operated Manual Can Opener.
- Whistle - to signal for help
A more advanced kit might contain:
- Essential Documents. Copies of insurance policies, driver’s licenses, credit cards, bank account information.
- Non-prescription Medications Pain relievers, aspirin, Benadryl, gastrointestinal remedies, vitamins, etc.
- Prescription Medications. As needed by any family members or pets – rotate contents to keep them fresh
- Glasses & Contact Lenses. Prescription glasses, extra contact lenses, contact lens solution, sunglasses, and safety glasses if available.
- Any Required Infant Items. Formula and bottles, Diapers and Wipes
- Any Required Pet Items. Pet food, treats, water, and any needed pet medications.
- Sleeping Bags. One sleeping bag or a blanket for each person and for each pet.
- Extra Clothing. Minimum of at least one complete change of clothing plus socks and extra shoes per person.
- Chlorine Bleach. It can be used for general disinfection and water purification.
- Matches and Butane Lighters. For starting fires.
- Fire Extinguisher For putting out fires.
Digital Items. Consider those things that you can preserve in a digital format, either through off-site storage or through digital duplication.
Items such as photos and documents can easily be scanned and saved to one or more highly portable external hard drives.
After compiling your kit and any of the other suggested supplies, make sure to keep the contents up to date and current.
- Re-evaluate all contents at least yearly to update all according to any changing needs.
- Rotate contents such as batteries and medications to ensure freshness when needed.
- Keep all non-perishable food items in a cool, dry place safe from high heat and freezing.
Emergency Kit Location
There’s no way to know where you will be when an emergency strikes, so consider keeping a basic kit at home, in all of your vehicles, and at work.
- Home Kit Perhaps the most essential of your kits, always keep it up to date and in a location known to and accessible by all family members.
- Vehicle Kit Useful If disaster strikes when you are away from home, and also provides a head start whenever you need to flee.
- Work Kit To be able to shelter in place if caught by a disaster while at work, or to take with you when evacuating a work location.
Natural disasters can happen just about any time and any place. Such events can quickly displace and separate families without sufficient warning to prepare. Your safety and that of your family and even your pets are up to you alone. Being prepared for whenever and whatever threatens your home and your family is important. You should work to develop a comprehensive and well thought out plan. There can be little doubt that a trusted family-owned local insurance agency like Bosworth & Associates in Tyler, TX, can be an invaluable partner in assessing all of your particular insurance needs as well as assisting in your disaster planning.