Emergency preparedness is not just the concern of people on the west coast who have earthquakes, those who live in “Tornado Alley” or GulfCoast residents who experience hurricanes. Most communities may be affected by several types of catastrophes during a lifetime. Therefore, knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count.
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, natural disasters and terrorism. However, there are important differences among potential emergencies that should influence the decisions you make and the actions you take.
Your BBB 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:
• 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.
• Create a basic emergency kit with the following essentials recommended by the Florida Division of Emergancy Management in case of a disaster.
The BBB recommends using FEMA’s website at http://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 the signs of events that come without warning and 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 may also save lives and prevent injuries during a crisis.
Natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, crisis also brings out persons who choose to take advantage of the victims.
Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses, visit www.bbb.org.
The contact information for resource groups in this publication is provided as a public service, but does not indicate endorsement by the Better Business Bureau, nor does it indicate that any particular nonprofit organization has met the BBB Wise Giving Standards for Charity Accountability unless otherwise specified. Charity reports for the Clearwater and West Florida Region may be viewed online at www.bbb.org/west-florida. BBB Wise Giving Alliance reports on nationally soliciting charities may be viewed at www.bbb.org/charity or www.give.org.
Likewise, information in this publication is not intended as legal advice or financial advice. Please consult a reputable attorney, credentialed financial adviser, or qualified counselor for professional help with such matters.