This National Safety Month, your Better Business Bureau serving Chicago & Northern Illinois urges you to be prepared for a weather-related emergency or disaster. Last year, there were 59 tornado reports in Illinois, up from 48 the previous year according to the State Climatologist Office for Illinois. Creating a disaster plan for what to do before, during and after an emergency may make a big difference to your safety and comfort.
Allow us to help you prepare:
Create an Emergency Supply Kit
In the event you are stuck in your home during a weather-related emergency, such as a severe storm, you’ll want to have enough supplies in your home to survive for at least three days. Consider stocking up on drinking water, nonperishable foods, a first aid kit, flashlight, batteries, battery operated radio, a fully charged portable phone charger and enough medication to last at least three days.
Store an Evacuation “Go Bag”
Other emergencies may require evacuation from your home. BBB suggests having a “Go Bag” ready for each member of your household in an easy-to-carry container such as a backpack.
Your bags should include many of the items in your emergency supply kit including any important documents such as identification and insurance cards in a waterproof, portable container, an extra set of car and house keys, cash in small bills, important contact names and numbers, blankets and pillows.
BBB recommends using www.ready.gov, the Department of Homeland Security’s disaster preparedness website, 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 Department of Homeland Security website provides information about how to protect your household and begin recovery following a 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 pets will help you reduce the impact of disasters. It may also save lives and prevent injuries during a crisis.
Insurance Checklist for Disaster Preparation
For insurance purposes, you may want to 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 and contact your insurance adjuster immediately following a severe storm. 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.
Following a disaster, seek 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.
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.
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/ask.