Several months on from Hurricane Michael, we’re still tallying the costs. One statistic cited by Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation estimates insurance claims due to storm damage well north of five billion dollars; that, mind you, is just the claims for those with insurance, and says nothing about the billions more in damage suffered by the uninsured. Maryland is not immune from hurricanes, but even rainfall can be catastrophic, as residents of Ellicott City can too readily attest. The question is, are you ready for a natural disaster? And how can you be better prepared? It’s easier, and less expensive, than you may think.
Preparing for Disaster
Let’s start with what you can do before disaster strikes. The best preparation is a matter of some contention; ready.gov suggests a range of disaster supplies and enough food and water to last for three days (also available as a PDF). At the other end of the spectrum, Wired flatly states that this is woefully inadequate, and suggests planning for a minimum of fourteen days. Preparation plans can be equally scattershot, with some folks stocking up on non-perishable items and hoping for the best, and others purchasing pre-stocked bug-out bags and hoping for the best. That, too, can be expensive — above the means of those in impoverished areas most likely to be hit the hardest by natural disasters.
With so much contradictory information out there, how do you separate the signal from the noise? Start by realizing that any preparation is better than none. From there, plan for a degree of flexibility. Some disasters call for sheltering in place, while others call on homeowners and their families to evacuate. At a bare minimum, you should account for the following:
- Water and food
- A can opener
- A radio that gets NOAA weather alerts, AM, and FM
- A flashlight
- Supplies for cleanup and personal hygiene
- Hand tools
- Batteries and a portable charger for phones and electronics
- Games and other activities to while away the time
The amount of water in many disaster kits is unlikely to be adequate; stock up on extra (account for one gallon per day, per person). The food in these kits is likewise a decidedly mixed bag; it’ll provide calories and basic nutrition, but not much else. It’s best to stock up on things that require little prep but that you’ll enjoy (or at least not dread) eating.
Preparing for the Aftermath
Having prepared for the worst, you’re still not quite done. As harrowing as a disaster can be, the time that follows is often even harder. There’s extensive cleanup involved, the possible loss of our belongings and even our homes, and the staggering cost of repairs and replacement. As with your disaster preparedness kit, your preparation for the aftermath should begin well in advance, starting with your insurance.
Most Americans don’t have much by way of savings, to a degree where even a minor home repair can mean economic hardship. Homeowner’s insurance is a must to protect your investment, with appropriate additional policies and riders added as needed (this is especially true of flood insurance). If you don’t own, you should still carry renter’s insurance. And you should also take into account other things that need to be protected in the event that the worst happens, whether you’re insuring your boat or taking out a business owner’s policy.
Starting Your Disaster Prep
The consequences of disasters, whether they stem from nature, human error, or malign intent, are impossible to predict. So, too, can be the disasters themselves. For every hurricane we see from miles off with days’ worth of warning, there’s a blackout caused by errant squirrels. With so little control over the possibilities, the best we can do is to make the most of what we can control: our level of emergency preparedness.
If you haven’t started your disaster prep yet, right now is the perfect time to start. Open another tab on your browser and get to work. Your preparations need not break the bank — adequate preparation can be done over a short period of time for not much money. Visit the websites linked above for help with your emergency kit, and consult with Smallwood Insurance Agencies to make sure your insurance policies protect you from what’s next.