September is National Preparedness Month, and each year the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) focuses on ways in which individuals can better prepare so that if and when disaster strikes, they are prepared and reduce the potential for a homeowners insurance claim.
Taking steps to prepare for the possibility of an emergency is sound planning, and many disasters call for roughly the same steps — so, no matter where you live, the process outlined by FEMA should be applicable.
Each week of National Preparedness Month focuses on a different aspect of emergency planning. Topics are broken down for each week, which begins at home and then widens out to your community and beyond:
Week 1 — Make a plan for yourself, your family, and your friends, September 1–9.
Week 2 — Plan to help your neighbors and community, September 10–16.
Week 3 — Practice your plan, September 17–23.
Week 4 — Be a part of something larger, September 24–30.
During each of these weeks, FEMA has suggested activities to match the objectives. For instance, making a plan for yourself and family includes things like having an emergency plan, knowing your evacuation zone, and reviewing your insurance coverage. The following week, helping your neighbors includes understanding utility safety and taking “Until Help Arrives” training. Practicing your plan means having an emergency kit stocked and ready, and being a part of something larger means sharing emergency planning with businesses, community, and others.
Surveys continue to show that most Americans do not take the necessary steps to plan for emergencies. A 2015 survey by FEMA showed that only 39 percent of Americans have an emergency plan, and more than 60 percent have not practiced what to do in the case of a disaster.
Here are some simple steps that won’t take much time at all:
- Download weather apps to your smartphone .
- Sign up for local emergency notifications and text alerts.
- Devise a simple emergency plan with those in your household, including how you plan on notifying one another if you are not all in one place when a disaster happens.
The following steps take a bit more time:
- Review your homeowners insurance coverage or renters policy, and know what kind of damage is, and is not, covered.
- Locate important documents, like birth certificates, vehicle titles, passports, insurance papers, etc., and have them in one place so you can take them with you in an evacuation situation.
- Prepare an emergency kit.
- If you have pets, determine what your emergency evacuation plan for them will be. Many evacuation shelters do not allow pets for health reasons, so your plan needs to take into account things like knowing where pet-friendly hotels are located. Research this ahead of time, you won’t have time to do this in an evacuation situation.
The following steps take even more time, but as with the other points above, are important:
- Conduct a home inventory.
- Determine how you will do things like pay bills if an evacuation requires you to be away from your home for an extended period of time.
- If you or anyone in your immediate family has a medical condition, you’ll need to do some additional emergency planning — take that into consideration and determine how you might navigate things like evacuation shelters in an emergency.
- Many Americans do not have sufficient emergency savings. In a prolonged emergency, particularly one that affects a region, employers and businesses might be impacted. Make a plan for how you might handle expenses if you aren’t working — and, if you don’t have an emergency fund, start one. Even setting aside small amounts can provide a cushion in an emergency.
Disasters can strike at any time. Whether it’s a natural weather event like a hurricane or wildfire, or a chemical spill caused by an overturned truck, having a plan if you have to leave your home quickly is essential. Take time during National Preparedness Month to organize and plan — it will reduce some of the anxiety during an extremely stressful time.
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