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Dealing with Disaster: Are you Ready?

(ARA) – Disaster can happen quickly and without warning. Would you and your family be ready in the event of an earthquake, fire, flood, hurricane or tornado?

“Planning makes a big difference in coping with disaster,” says Charles Valinotti, senior vice president of insurer QBE. “The better prepared you are, the better you can cope in the aftermath of an emergency.”

Fire and medical are the two most common emergencies, Valinotti says, so it’s important to teach children to call 9-1-1 or if you don’t live in a 9-1-1 service area, to post emergency numbers by your home phone. Cellphones should contain up-to-date contact numbers so emergency personnel can get hold of family members if you’re unable to.

Here are other tips to help prepare you to deal with disaster:

* Put together an emergency plan. Meet with your family to discuss the various emergencies that could happen and what should be done in each case. Valinotti suggests developing an emergency communication plan if family members are separated during floods, storms or other disasters. If you have to evacuate your home, plan several escape routes in case roads are blocked or closed. Practice your plan and update it each year.

* Hold your own annual inspection. Each year, take a close look at your home to identify potential hazards that could cause injury or damage in a disaster or weather-related emergency. “Anything that can fall, break, move or cause a fire is a hazard,” Valinotti says. He recommends securing your water heater and tall or heavy furniture, moving heavy items to lower shelves, and installing locks on cabinet doors.

* Be prepared year-round. Valinotti recommends keeping a disaster supplies kit – containing at least a one-week supply of food and bottled water – in your home at all times, replacing it every six months. This kit should stay in a designated place for easy access in case you need to be confined to your home for an extended period. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept. Battery-operated radios, candles and flashlights should also be on hand if there’s a power outage. He recommends keeping an emergency supply kit in vehicles, as well, stocked with food, water, first aid supplies, flares and jumper cables. In addition, he says, “It’s a good idea to keep vehicles well maintained and full of gas in case a quick evacuation is needed.”  

* Regularly review your insurance. Review your insurance policies and make sure you’re covered for replacement value – not just market value – if your house is destroyed. It’s worth checking out flood insurance, even if your home is located in an area that’s low risk for flooding. Find out more at www.floodsmart.gov. And if disaster strikes, know how to get in touch with your insurance agent. “Many agents are using social media like Twitter and Facebook to connect with their customers,” Valinotti says. “Text messaging is a great tool in a crisis, so it’s important that your agent has your cellphone number.”

Make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected. Planning and practice can go a long way in protecting you and your family in a disaster.