Comprehensive Guide to Prepare for Disasters and Emergencies

Tips for safeguarding yourself from the devastating effects of natural disasters, severe weather events, and emergency situations.

Ways to Reduce Property Damage

  • Trim back trees that are too close to your house or in the vicinity of power lines.
  • Clear out your gutters and downspouts of debris.
  • Inspect the underside of your roof for signs of leaks and address them immediately.
  • Remove all obstructions from your walkways and driveways.
  • Ensure your chimney is in good working order and clean.
  • Insulate all water pipes to prevent freezing.
  • Have a battery backup for your electric smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Check the heating system and ensure all vents are receiving adequate heat.
  • Keep the dryer vent unobstructed to avoid a fire hazard.
  • Consider installing storm shutters or pre-cut covers for all windows.

Preparing for Disasters

Review your insurance policies to determine if they provide adequate coverage, including flood insurance. If unsure, consult your insurance agent or company. To get a rough idea of rebuilding costs, reach out to local contractors.

Understand your policy coverage, such as whether it allows you to hire someone for emergency repairs, whether you will be reimbursed for repairs you make yourself, or if it covers expenses to bring homes up to the current building code.

Document your personal property with photographs, model numbers, serial numbers, and purchase information. Store copies of these and your insurance policies in a safe location away from home. Use the Home Inventory Checklist from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) as a guide. Consider taking a video or photographic inventory of each room in your house and storing this visual record outside of your home.

Familiarize yourself with your community’s emergency plan and create an emergency supplies kit. Include a disposable camera and a notebook with pens to document losses. Make sure to add the phone numbers of your insurance agent, insurance company’s local claims office, and home office to your list of emergency contacts.

How to Deal with Disaster and Insurance Claims

Make sure everyone in your household is safe and accounted for before attempting to address any property damage.

Notify your insurance company as soon as possible to begin the claims process. Be sure to provide as much detail as possible about the damage.

In the meantime, take necessary steps to prevent further damage to your property. 

Cover any holes in the roof or windows, remove water from the house, and make sure your address is visible from the street.

Keep important papers and items not covered by insurance in a safe and secure location.

Take photographs of the damage before you begin any repairs, and keep all receipts and documentation of your expenses.

Record all conversations with your insurance company, including the date, time, and names of people involved.

Safety Precautions After a Flood

  • Familiarize yourself with your homeowners and/or flood insurance policy and keep it with you if you evacuate.
  • Wait for news reports on the safety of your community’s water supply before drinking any tap water.
  • Avoid floodwaters, as they can be contaminated with sewage, chemicals, or electricity.
  • Be aware of weakened roads and buildings after a flood.
  • Report downed power lines to the power company and stay away from them.
  • Only return home when authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Use caution when entering buildings, especially foundations, as there may be hidden damage.
  • Service any damaged septic tanks or sewage systems as soon as possible to prevent health hazards.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that came into contact with floodwater, as mud can contain harmful substances.
  • Contact a professional water damage restoration company.