September is Disaster Preparedness Month. The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the anticipation of Hurricane Irma are sobering reminders of the importance of being prepared. Here in the Midwest, hurricanes are not part of our reality, but we are at risk for other types of disasters, many of which strike suddenly with little or no warning.
In a disaster, safety is first priority. We need to be prepared to quickly evacuate from a fire or seek shelter in a tornado, for example, and have a way to stay warm if a winter storm causes an extended power outage. Ready.gov is a central site for information on how to be as fully prepared as possible; they have many useful publications related to specific needs, as well.
There is a second aspect of preparedness that also deserves our attention: we need to be prepared for recovery. This includes:
- Having insurance coverage that meets our needs, and reviewing it every couple of years to make sure it is keeping up with changes in our situation;
- Creating and updating a household inventory (typically via photos or video) to assist in filing insurance claims;
- Keeping irreplaceable documents (birth certificates, military records, property titles, and more) in a safe deposit box;
- Having copies of key documents and information stored away from our home – perhaps with a friend or family member in another community, or in secure cloud storage. This includes insurance policies (or at least policy numbers and contact information), financial account information, most recent tax return, along with key medical information (including vaccination records) and contact information for both professional and personal contacts. Pet vaccination records matter too.
The list above is NOT all-inclusive, but it’s a good starting point. I am reminded that it has been a few years since I took household inventory photos — I’m going to update that this weekend. What are you going to do?
Want more info? University of Minnesota Extension houses an award-winning disaster recovery toolkit (available for free download) and some related resources.