Are you and your family prepared to deal with a natural disaster?
While you may have insurance, an escape plan, and savings, there may be a few things you haven't thought of yet.
If it seems like there have been a lot of natural disasters lately, it's because there actually have been.
And it's not just Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Wildfires and floods have rocked California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, while tornadoes have ravaged the Midwest. According to Munich Reinsurance America, thunderstorms and tornadoes in just the first half of the year accounted for $18.5 billion in losses.
So what can you and your family do to prepare for a natural disaster?
Below, we outline three simple steps that will help you to stay safe and minimize harm in the face of an unforeseen catastrophe. While this is by no means an exhaustive checklist, taking these basic steps in addition to whatever else you've already done to prepare can help you weather the storm, both literally and figuratively.
1. Gather and secure important documents.
One of the most frequently missed elements of disaster preparation is the protection of important records like automobile titles, birth certificates, and social security cards. While the physical safety of you and your family will be your first consideration in the moment, ensuring these documents are safe and accessible will make returning to everyday life far easier once the disaster is over.
Ideally, you should have two copies of each of these important documents—one in an easily accessible water- and fireproof container in your home and the other in a safe remote location. Backing up your documents digitally in the cloud is a great idea, too.
2. Know where to meet.
Depending on the nature of the disaster, phone and internet communication may not be possible. For this reason, it's crucial that you designate a meeting place in advance.
The obvious first choice is your own home, but in the case that your home is destroyed or becomes inaccessible, you'll need to have a backup meeting place. Check to see what locations your city or town has designated as emergency shelters, and find the one that makes the most sense for your family. Make sure that everyone knows where to go and how to get there, including babysitters and other caregivers if you have small children.
3. Have supplies ready.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that you build a supply kit and have it at the ready in case of an unexpected disaster.
The agency recommends, most importantly, that your supply kit contain enough food and water for three days (for however many people will be relying on it) as well as a first aid kit.
As far as electronics go, FEMA suggests you include a flashlight, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, and extra batteries for all three.
Additional suggestions include maps of the surrounding area, a manual can opener for food, and moist towelettes for personal sanitation.
For a full list of suggested supplies, as well as other disaster preparedness tips, visit FEMA's website: www.ready.gov.