In the midst of hurricane season, the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas 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.
Some of the basic protective actions are similar for multiple disasters. For example, safety is necessary when experiencing all hazards. Depending on the specific emergency, this could include plans for sheltering or evacuating. Developing a family communication plan or making an emergency supply kit are the same for most emergencies and natural disasters.
The BBB also recommends you take some of the basic preparedness steps to help you plan for a natural disaster, which can help ease the stress and anxiety caused if your home is damaged by storms:
Know what you have. 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 equipment.
Keep important information safe. Maintain receipts for all major items. All important information and 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.
Make sure you're insured. 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. Make sure you carry your policy numbers and contact information for your insurance company with you at all times. Be sure to note deadlines for filing claims.
Have the essentials ready. Create a basic emergency kit using information recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA; fema.gov) in case of a disaster. Know where to turn. FEMA, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have many resources available to help families prepare for what to do before, during and after disasters happen.
Familiarize yourself with the signs of events that come without warning. Know the local advance 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 also may save lives and prevent injuries during a crisis.
Start with trust. Natural disasters such as tornados, hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, crises also bring out persons who choose to take advantage of the victims. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision. For information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews on local businesses, visit BBBHouston.org.