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Is Your Home Disaster Ready? A Guide To Preparing for the Worst

Insurance Ranked - Updated November 21, 2022
Homeowners Insurance
Is Your Home Disaster Ready? A Guide To Preparing for the Worst

Is Your Home Disaster Ready? A Guide To Preparing for the Worst

Since 1980, the United States has experienced 258 weather and climate disasters exceeding $1 billion in damages. Moreover, scientific research shows severe weather events are likely to become more frequent or intense due to human-induced climate change.

As natural disasters continue to occur across the nation, it's important to make sure your home is ready. By taking some simple steps to prepare for storms, floods, and other emergencies, you can minimize damage to your home and keep your family and pets safe.

Know the Area You Live

The first step to preparing for a disaster is deciding where to live and knowing the area's risks. Different regions are susceptible to various types of disasters. For example, if you live in an area prone to hurricanes, you'll need to take different precautions than in an area prone to earthquakes.

There are several ways to find out what natural disasters are common in your area, such as:

  • Contact your local emergency management office or county clerk's office. They should be able to inform you about the types of disasters that have occurred in your area in the past and what you can do to prepare for them.
  • Check the National Weather Service's website. The site has various resources that can help you understand the types of weather events that occur in your area and how to prepare for them.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides online disaster information tools that can help you assess your risk for various types of disasters throughout the US.

It's crucial to utilize these resources to learn about the types of disasters most common in your area to best prepare your home.

Create an Evacuation Plan

The next step is to create an evacuation plan. Evacuation plans are critical because they provide a step-by-step guide for what to do in an emergency. A good evacuation plan should identify:

  • A safe place to go during an evacuation (e.g., a relative's house outside of the disaster area);
  • Transportation plans via cars or public vehicles;
  • Several evacuation routes.

Ensure everyone in your household is familiar with the evacuation plan and has a waterproof copy of written instructions for reference.

Insurance

Once you have a plan, the next step is to purchase insurance. Insurance is vital in a natural disaster because it can help you recover financially from damages to your home or belongings.

Many types of insurance can be helpful during a natural disaster, such as:

Homeowner's Insurance

Your home is one of the biggest investments you'll ever make, so you should protect it. The two most significant questions when it comes to homeowner's insurance are: how much coverage do you need and what damage does a home insurance cover?

Homeowners insurance typically covers damage from fires, storms, and theft as well as personal belongings such as electronics, clothing, and furniture. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, or tornadoes, be sure to ask your agent about purchasing additional coverage for these disasters.

Renter's Insurance

Renters insurance protects you against theft, water backup damage, certain natural catastrophes, and bodily injuries in a leased property. However, most landlords don’t provide this insurance, so as a tenant, purchase renters insurance to protect your belongings.

Pet Insurance

Families are not only worried about their safety during a natural disaster, but also the safety of their pets. If you need to evacuate your home, it's important to have a plan for your pet's safety. This is where pet insurance comes in.

Pet insurance can help cover medical expenses for your pet if they are injured during a disaster and need emergency care. Some pet insurance policies also cover:

  • Routine care such as vaccinations and wellness exams;
  • Alternative treatments such as acupuncture or hydrotherapy;
  • Medications such as heartworm prevention or flea and tick control;
  • Test and diagnostics such as X-rays, ultrasounds, and blood tests.

Pet insurance policies typically have a deductible, co-pay, and maximum benefit limit, so read the policy carefully before purchasing.

Life Insurance

Life insurance provides financial protection for your loved ones in the event of your death. If you are the primary breadwinner in your family, it is imperative to have life insurance in case of an untimely death. There are a few types of life insurance:

  • Term life insurance provides coverage for a set period, such as 10 or 30 years. The coverage ends once the term expires and you are no longer insured.
  • Permanent life insurance provides coverage for your entire life. This type of insurance typically has higher premiums than term life insurance, but it can also build cash value over time that you can borrow against or withdraw.
  • Universal life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that offers flexible premiums and the ability to adjust your death benefit.
  • Variable life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that offers investment options for your cash value.

While these are not the only types of insurance available, they are some of the most common and important to consider when preparing for a natural disaster.

Auto Insurance

Auto insurance is another essential type of insurance, especially if you live in an area prone to natural disasters. Auto insurance covers the cost of repairing or replacing your car if it's damaged in a covered event. Most auto insurance policies also cover:

  • The contents of your vehicle, such as your clothes, luggage, and electronics;
  • If you're injured in an accident, medical expenses for you and your passengers;
  • Uninsured or underinsured motorists if you're in an accident with a driver who doesn't have insurance or doesn't have enough insurance to cover the damages.

As with other types of insurance, read your auto insurance policy carefully to understand what is and is not covered.

Prepare a Bug-Out Bag

In addition to having the right insurance policies in place, it's also essential to have a bug-out bag ready. A bug-out bag is a portable kit containing everything you need to survive for 72 hours in an emergency.

Some of the things you should include in your bug-out bag are:

  • Food and water bottle and filtration: You should have at least one gallon of water per person per day, a water filter or purification system, and plenty of non-perishable food on hand.
  • First Aid Kit: A basic first aid kit should include bandages, gauze, tape, scissors, pain relievers, and antiseptic wipes.
  • Clothing, bedding, and personal items: You should have a change of clothes for each person, as well as extra socks, gloves, and hats. You should also include a blanket or sleeping bag for each person, any prescription medications, and toiletries.
  • Tools: A multi-tool, flashlight, and whistle are some essential tools to have on hand.
  • Documents: Important documents such as your driver's license, birth certificate, and insurance cards should be stored in a waterproof and fireproof container.
  • Cash: Cash is important to have on hand in case ATMs are down or credit card processors are not working.

Once you have everything you need packed, store your bug-out bag in an easily accessible place so you can grab it and go if you need to evacuate.

Prepare Your Home

It's also crucial to take steps to prepare your home for a natural disaster. Some of the things you can do to prepare your home are:

  • Secure loose items: Items such as potted plants, lawn furniture, gas tanks, and grills should be secured or brought inside, so they don't become projectiles in high winds.
  • Trim trees and shrubs: Overgrown trees and shrubs can damage your home in high winds, so be sure to trim them back.
  • Install flood barriers: If you live in an area prone to flooding, install barriers such as sandbags or floodgates to help protect your home.
  • Elevate appliances: Appliances such as your water heater and washer and dryer should be elevated to prevent them from being damaged by floodwaters.
  • Turn off utilities: If you're evacuating, be sure to turn off your utilities such as water, gas, and electricity before leaving.

Taking the time to prepare yourself, your family, and your home minimizes the damage and disruption caused by these events.

Get Everyone On The Same Page

Once you've taken the time to prepare yourself and your home for a natural disaster, it's important to make sure everyone in your household is on the same page.

Tips for preparing include:

  • Practice your evacuation plan: Make sure everyone in your household knows how to execute the evacuation plan. This includes knowing the meeting place, what route to take, and what to do if you get separated.
  • Keep pets in mind: Pets often get overlooked during natural disasters, so include them in your plan by making sure they’re microchipped just in case they get lost, updating their tags, including pet supplies in your emergency bag, and ensuring they have a safe place to stay.
  • Have a communication plan: In the event phone and internet service is down, it's crucial to plan how you will communicate with each other. This could include using a two-way radio.

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