Prepare for a Natural Disaster

This week, residents up and down the East Coast (including myself) are worrying about whether we’ll be impacted by Hurricane Earl, which right now is a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds. Different meteorological models have the storm swerving all over the Atlantic Ocean, but all agree it will come close enough to the coast to kick up at least gale-force winds and drop some rain during the beginning of Labor Day weekend.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve imagined the worst-case scenarios whenever a tropical storm or hurricane started to head our way:

What if a tree falls on the house?

Should I stay away from the windows in case they shatter?

What do we do when the basement floods?

How do I protect my stuff?!

It took some research, but there are things you can do to prepare for a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado or earthquake, depending on your region of the country.

Homeowners/Renters Insurance. You need to protect your home and its contents in the case of damage from flooding, earthquakes and bad storms. I have visions of one of the three 100-foot-tall oak trees in our yard falling on our home, but I’m comforted by the fact that our homeowners insurance will cover it. On many policies, earthquake or flood insurance riders are additional, so check with your insurer to find out exactly what your policy covers.

And if you rent, make sure you have renters insurance. It only covers your personal possessions, since the landlord should have his own insurance on the building. But imagine how much it would cost to replace all of your stuff. It’s worth the $100-$350 a year in insurance for peace of mind.

Emergency Kit. Make sure you have enough nonperishable food and water to survive a few days after a natural disaster. Canned foods, at least a gallon of clean water per person in the household, and a can opener are key. Other necessary supplies are flashlights and fresh batteries, a first aid kit, battery-powered radio or TV, personal hygiene items, matches and candles (use with care), cash, and any medications you might need. You could use a portable cooking device such as a charcoal grill if you want to prepare heated foods — just remember the charcoal, a pot/pan and utensils.

Not everyone will have an emergency preparedness kit set up at all times, but if you know there’s a major weather event coming your way, it’s important to gather these items as soon as you can. If you live in an earthquake- or tornado-prone area, I’d suggest creating a kit that’s accessible at any time — use a plastic bin to contain everything. And periodically check the expiration date on the food and bottled water. Remove and replace old/expired items every few months.

Weather-Appropriate Clothes. If you have to flee a hurricane or are stuck in a home without heat after a blizzard, be sure you have a few changes of clothes. In colder weather events, have blankets, sleeping bags, extra sweaters, jackets, longjohns, woolen socks and snow boots with you in case you don’t have heat for a few days.

Pet Safety. Don’t forget about your furry friends. Have cat or dog carriers on hand in case you need to evacuate your home. Prepare a few days worth of food and clean water for your pet, along with any other accessories such as a leash or a favorite toy.

7 comments to Prepare for a Natural Disaster

  • We live in Houston, so we are pretty much prepared all the time now. Hurricane Ike showed us how ill prepared we were before…8 days with no electricity stinks. Propane grills are a godsend when all the meat in the freezer needs to be cooked ASAP. 🙂

    My favorite preparation thingy is the flashlight we have that can take AA, C, or even D batteries! Pretty cool!

  • It’s funny because we have emergency kits in both of our cars, but not at home. We live in the Northeast, so I guess we should really take care of that!

  • That’s a good point about having a fund specifically for natural disasters if you live in a disaster prone area.

  • I also live alone the Gulf Coast have been through several hurricanes recently. One point I can not over emphasis is know where all of your financial documents are. You should take a copy with you. Also have cash with you many places will not have electric or computers will be down and if you need something you can not pay with debit or credit card.

  • This has nothing to do with the monetary side of disasters, but I grew up on the Gulf Coast and have seen many a hurricane in my day. One bit of advice I was always told? Fill up the bathtub with water in case your water stops working. That way you can still flush the toilet by filling up a bucket and pouring it down the bowl.

    And I know Hurricane Earl is headed for the East Coast which isn’t as flood prone as the Gulf Coast, so the mandatory evacuations don’t come as often. But I will say this: if you do live in a flood prone/hurricane prone area where evacuation is a possibility every year BUILD IT INTO YOUR EMERGENCY FUND. Keep it separate if you have to. Too many people didn’t evacuate for Katrina because they didn’t have the funds. And after Gustav a lot of people who evacuated couldn’t pay rent the next month.

    Hurricanes can hit you financially even if they don’t do physical damage to your property. Remember that!!!

  • […] difference? Let me know.) Coincidentally, this week Nicole at Rainy Day Saver shared her tips on preparing for a natural disaster as Hurricane Earl swirls closer to the […]

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