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How to prepare for a catastrophe

Violent weather can quickly cause severe injuries and destruction of property. While weather can't be controlled, you can take precautions if turbulent weather rolls in.

Keeping your insurance ready

The Insurance Information Institute (III) offers the following tips about home insurance and disaster preparedness.

  • Review your home insurance policy. Check your policy on an annual basis. Make sure you have enough coverage to rebuild your home if it is completely destroyed. Check with local contractors to get an idea of rebuilding costs.
  • Conduct a home inventory: Have an up-to-date inventory of all of your personal property. It will help you purchase enough insurance to replace your possessions, speed the claims process and substantiate losses. III offers free home inventory software for creating and storing your inventory list.
  • Store your documents in a safe place: Keep copies of your insurance policy and your inventory list in a safe deposit box or with friends or relatives.

If you live in a geographic area prone to severe storms, it’s important to be prepared. Having emergency supplies on hand in your home is the first step. A disaster-preparedness kit is best stored in a container that's easily portable, such as a duffle bag or camping backpack. Placing items in waterproof plastic bags will help protect them. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has an "Are You Ready?" Guide and recommends keeping these emergency supplies on hand:

  • First-aid kit and essential medications.
  • Canned food and can opener.
  • At least three gallons of water per person (one gallon of water per person for at least three days; often more is needed).
  • Protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding or sleeping bags. For colder climates, make sure you have enough warm clothing.
  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
  • A small amount of cash.
  • Any special items, such as medications, required for infants, elderly or disabled family members.
  • Extra copies of all keys to your home and vehicles, as well as any keys for neighbors or other family members you may share responsibility for.
  • Written instructions for how to turn off gas and water if authorities advise you to do so. (Remember, you'll need a professional to turn them back on.)
  • Copies of important documents, including insurance policies, wills, titles and deeds to property, birth and marriage certificates, credit card and bank account information, and an inventory of household belongings.

Having your home insurance policy number and company name is wise, but even better is having your entire policy. You may need to refer to it to determine your coverage.

It is also wise to store copies of important documents somewhere other than your home, such as in a bank's safety deposit box or with out-of-town family or friends. If this proves impossible, store the documents in a fireproof box in your home.

Preparing your family

After assembling your disaster kit, the next step is to prepare your family. Every member of your family should know what to do in case of an emergency — whether at home, work or school. Discuss where your family would go during bad weather. Where would you go if a tornado warning has been issued? What about before an impending flood?

Having a solid plan in place will save you time, money and frustration.

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