Are You Ready? Leading P&C Carriers’ Tips for National Preparedness Month
Natural disasters disrupt thousands of lives every year. In the last five years, 90 catastrophic events in the US resulted in $617.3 billion in losses.
In recognition of National Preparedness Month this September, Hi Marley collected tips from our carrier customers to help you prepare for unexpected disasters and emergencies.
Tip #1: Prepare Your Home
While weather can be unpredictable, meteorologists track potential storms days or weeks leading up to the event, giving you plenty of time to plan and prepare your home to minimize damage.
“Homeowners should clear gutters before storms to avoid unnecessary water damage,” advises Virginia Farm Bureau. “Trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe from high winds.”
“Do regular walk-arounds and inspect your property for issues,” says American Family Insurance. “All unattached structures like shed or gazebos should be bolted securely to their foundation. And, free-standing patio furniture and umbrellas should be secured or pulled inside when a storm hits.”
Covering windows and doors with plywood is another good way to protect your home in severe weather. Auto-Owners recommends purchasing plywood, nails and straps ahead of time, “prices for these items can go up, and materials can be scarce with a storm on the way. Stocking up on some of these now may save you time and money later.”
Tip #2: Document Your Possessions
A disaster can destroy your home and your belongings. Store family valuables and important papers like medical records, birth and marriage certificates, deeds and more in waterproof containers year-round to ensure they stay secure and protected.
“If you need to file a claim, you’ll need a detailed list of your possessions, so be sure to have an inventory checklist,” says Westfield Insurance. “Take pictures of each room to photograph the contents within. Include the make, model, serial number of items, and photos of receipts if available. Conduct a video walkthrough, announce items as you see them.” Pekin Insurance recommends keeping a copy of your home inventory list and giving a second copy to your insurance provider.
Tip #3: Stay Informed
It’s crucial to stay informed by monitoring storm activity and signing up for local alerts.
“Watch your local weather forecast regularly, especially during the severe weather season, to be aware of any potential significant storm system on the horizon,” says Germania Insurance, adding to check NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center’s Day 1 Convective Outlook. “This map gives an up-to-date forecast of potential severe weather, such as damaging winds, hail, and tornadoes.”
Check your local government website to learn about emergency alert resources available if you lose power. Or, Pekin Insurance says, “Talk to your wireless carrier about Wireless Emergency Alerts. With these alerts active on your phone, you’ll get a notification when a serious storm is in the area.”
Tip #4: Develop an Emergency Plan
Evacuation orders and unexpected disasters can be hectic. Quincy Mutual Group recommends having an emergency checklist and assigning a task to each member of your family, “for example, one member collects the pets, one member ensures doors and windows are secure, and another gathers all emergency supplies.”
If you need to evacuate, have a safety plan to determine where you and your family will go. “Plan ahead of time and coordinate with family and friends who live out of town,” says Union Mutual. “Motels and hotels outside of the area may not have availability during the storm, so staying with friends or family is often best.”
If you have pets, “consider evacuating early, before an order, so you are not forced to leave your pet at home,” says MAPFRE Insurance, who recommends identifying pet-friendly lodging along your evacuation route. “Most emergency shelters do not accept pets. Maintain a list of boarding facilities, animal shelters, veterinarians or others who will accept your pet in an emergency.” West Bend Mutual Insurance Company also notes the importance of ensuring pets’ collars and tags are updated so they can be identified. “This is one of the best ways to make sure you’re reunited with your pets if they’re lost for a short time after a disaster.”
Tip #5: Pack an Emergency Kit With Essentials
Having an emergency kit readily available can reduce stress and ensure you and your family have necessities if an evacuation is necessary. “An emergency kit isn’t only helpful in the event of a tropical storm or a hurricane, but can also be used in power outages, snowstorms, tornadoes, and any other emergency situations throughout the year,” says Quincy Mutual Group.
Your emergency kit should include items such as:
- Hygiene products
- Device charging cables
- Blankets and pillows
- A first-aid kit
- Waterproof boots/rain gear
- Toilet paper
- Non-perishable food and water for at least three days
“Make sure your food has a long shelf life and requires little to no cooking, water or refrigeration,” suggests Merchants Insurance Group. “In advance of a disaster, make ice cubes, freeze gel packs and containers with water to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers. Store these items in the freezer to be used later.”
“Children and infants will be the most difficult to care for in the event of a disaster, which is why it is important to maintain a disaster supply kit with the necessary items to make sure they can be cared for,” says West Bend Mutual Insurance Company. “These items include baby bottles, diapers, formula, extra blankets and games and toys.”
Don’t forget the pet essentials as well! MAPFRE Insurance recommends an extra leash, crate, three to seven days of pet food and water, plastic bags for waste, a pet bed to reduce stress and medications stored in a waterproof container.
Store a hard copy of contact information for people or organizations you may need during a hurricane. “We are accustomed to having phone numbers saved in our cellphones, but when the power is out, you may find yourself needing to know important phone numbers without your saved contacts,” says Auto-Owners. “It’s [also] a good idea to have a copy of your homeowners’ insurance policy available. If you have online access to your policy, make sure you remember your login credentials.”
Tip #6: Review Your Insurance Policy
Ensure your property and belongings are protected. Speak with your insurance agent and request an insurance review to find out what your policy covers and determine what you should add.
In addition to flood coverage, Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation recommends increasing certain limits on your policy. Including mold coverage to repair damage to your home or property caused by fungi, wet or dry rot, or bacteria, and coverage for damage caused by water backup through a sewer or drain or if your sump pump fails.
If your property suffers damage, file a claim as soon as possible.
Being prepared for severe weather and natural disasters will mitigate loss and keep you and your loved ones safe. As FEMA’s Ready Campaign writes, “The life you’ve built is worth protecting. Prepare for disasters to create a lasting legacy for you and your family.”