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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Metropolitan New York, Long Island, and the Mid-Hudson Region
BBB Tips on Disaster Preparedness

BBB urges all consumers to be prepared for a weather emergency or disaster.  Creating a disaster plan for what to do before, during and after an emergency may make a big difference to your safety and comfort.

BBB offers the following tips and resources to help consumers prepare.

Emergency Supply Kit

You may need to shelter in place (stay at home) during an emergency, such as a severe storm.  Keep enough supplies in your home to survive for at least three days.

•    One gallon of drinking water per person per day
•    Nonperishable, ready-to-eat canned foods and manual can opener
•    First-aid kit
•    Flashlight
•    Battery-operated AM/FM radio
•    Extra batteries
•    Whistle
•    Iodine tablets or one quart of unscented bleach (for disinfecting water ONLY If directed to do so by health officials) and eyedropper (for adding bleach to water)
•    Phone that does not rely on electricity

Evacuation “Go Bag”

Other emergencies may require evacuation from your home.  BBB suggests having a Go Bag ready for every household member in an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack.

Your Go Bags should include:
•    Copies of your important documents in a waterproof and portable container (insurance cards, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.)
•    Extra set of car and house keys
•    Copies of credit/ATM cards and $50-$100 in cash in small denominations.
•    Bottled water and nonperishable food such as energy or granola bars
•    Flashlight
•    Battery-operated AM/FM radio
•    Extra batteries
•    Medications
•    Doctors’ names and phone numbers
•    First aid kit
•    Contact and meeting place information for your household and a small local map
•    Child care, pet care, and other special items
•    Blankets and pillows

The BBB recommends using FEMA’s website at www.ready.gov/ to learn about the potential emergencies that could occur where you live and the appropriate ways to respond to them. When you know what to do, you can plan and prepare in advance to be ready. The FEMA website provides information about how to protect your household and begin recovery following the initial disaster.

Familiarize yourself with your local emergency alerts and warnings and how you will receive them. Knowing about the local emergency plans for shelter and evacuation, local emergency contacts, the locations frequented by members of your household and the specific needs of household members including animals will help you reduce the impact of disasters. It may also save lives and prevent injuries during a crisis.

Important Links for Information on Disaster Planning

Ready New York: Hurricanes and New York City
www.nyc.gov/html/oem/downloads/pdf/hurricane_brochure_english.pdf

NYC Office of Emergency Management
www.NYC.gov/oem

NY State Emergency Management Office
www.semo.state.ny.us

Federal Emergency Management Agency
www.fema.gov
www.floodsmart.com

Department of Homeland Security
www.ready.gov

American Red Cross in Greater New York
www.nyredcross.org

National Hurricane Center/Tropical Prediction Center
www.nhc.noaa.gov

National Weather Service
www.weather.gov

Notify NYC Register for emergency notifications by visiting
www.NYC.gov/notifynyc or calling 311.

Insurance Checklist for Disaster Preparation

Your BBB recommends that you take some basic preparedness steps to help plan for a natural disaster.  Having a plan can help ease stress and anxiety if your home is damaged by a storm.

Preparing for a Disaster:

• Create and maintain an inventory of your personal possessions. Use a camera to take pictures or video of both the interior and exterior of your home as well as your property, including items stored on your property such as vehicles or lawn/farm equipment.  Maintain receipts for all major items. This documentation should be saved in a safe place outside your home, such as in a safe deposit box at your bank or utilize an online cloud storage service to store files or data objects.

• Keep all of your insurance policies organized and in an easily accessible spot. Review your coverage each year to make sure it is adequate should you have storm damage to your home, vehicle or property. Discuss with your insurance agent what liabilities you might have, if any, should any of your personal items or trees cause damage to neighboring homes or properties during a storm.
 
• Be sure to note deadlines for filing claims.

• Make sure you carry your policy numbers and contact information for your insurance company with you at all times.

In addition, your BBB offers the following suggestions to help homeowners repairing or rebuilding their home from storm damage:

• Contact your insurance adjuster immediately. Not only does this get the ball rolling on the claims process, but you might be eligible for loss-of-use benefits which means you could be reimbursed for hotel costs, food, and other living expenses while your house is unlivable. Be sure to document all conversations with your insurance company or their adjuster and get any promises for reimbursements in writing. Be sure to maintain all receipts.

• Start seeking out current replacement costs for items you'll be including in your claim rather than depending solely on historical costs.

• Document the damage to your property and possessions thoroughly; take pictures or video, if possible. Go from room to room or document all debris piles and create a detailed account of your belongings and losses.

• Make any minor repairs that you can do safely to minimize further damage to your home. You could be found liable for damage that occurs after a storm has passed, so make temporary repairs such as boarding up broken windows, removing wet drywall and carpet to prevent mold, and putting up a tarp over a leaky roof. Beware of fly-by-night contractors who may try to offer these services for exorbitant fees. Be sure to get quotes in writing in advance or seek out volunteer groups in your area that may be offering assistance for free.

• If your home is unlivable, contact your utility company to turn off your water and gas or electric services.
 
• Do not make any permanent repairs until you get approval from your insurance company. Make sure you understand how your homeowner's insurance company will reimburse you for repair costs. Before spending money, call your insurance company first to make sure all necessary procedures are followed according to your policy.

• Beware of contractors who claim to be insurance claim specialists and may ask you to sign an agreement to allow them to contact your insurance company and seek approval of repairs for you. Many unscrupulous businesses have tricked consumers into signing a work estimate without reading the fine print, which commits you to automatically contract with their business if your insurance claim is approved.

• Check to make sure any contractors you are considering hiring are properly licensed and have up-to-date workers compensation and liability insurance.  In addition, check them out with your Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) and make sure they are approved by your insurance company before entering into an agreement. Ask to see proof of their licensing and current certificate of insurance.

Be aware that if you hire an uninsured and unlicensed contractor and a serious injury were to occur to the contractor, you, as the person who hired them, could potentially be liable for paying the workers compensation benefits. This could turn a simple $1,000 repair into a bill for tens of thousands more.

In addition, a neighboring property, a passerby or other property that is negligently damaged by an unlicensed contractor can become a liability to the person who hired the contractor.

• Do not hand over an insurance check to a contractor for repairs prior to work being started. A good rule of thumb is to never give more than 1/3 of the job price up front and make sure that your insurance company has approved all repairs before your final payment is given to the business.

Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses, visit bbb.org or call (212) 533-6200.