The summer season is one of the best times of the year throughout the Gulf Coast. But as residents know, it’s also a time for potential severe weather. Storms can erupt in an instant, leading to wind damage, flooding or even tornadoes.
Preparing for disaster should be an ongoing process. And while the top priority in an emergency is protecting your family’s physical safety, don’t forget your financial safety as well.
Origin Bank has several suggestions for making sure you get back on your feet as soon as possible the next time catastrophe strikes.
Get comfortable with your home’s utilities. Know where the main electric panel is and how to turn off the main breaker. If a power line is down nearby, first call 911, and then your utility company. If you detect a natural gas leak, can you shut down the gas line? Depending on how bad the leak is, it might be best to simply get out of your home as quickly as possible. Let neighbors know about the leak and get your family upwind.
Read your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. Remember that damage from rising water is typically not covered in a standard homeowner’s policy. Do you have a separate policy for flood insurance? Do you need one? Now is the time to examine your coverage needs and make sure those needs are met.
If you’re a renter with insurance, check what’s covered. Many policies cover items that get stolen or damaged, as long as they’re kept in your home. Items kept in your car also might be covered in certain cases. And just like other policies, renter’s insurance can be bundled with other types of coverage for discounts.
Document your home’s contents and estimate the cost of replacing them. Homeowners commonly make the mistake of not having a record of the property and valuables inside their homes. That can slow down and complicate the claims-filing process. Use your cellphone to take a video or pictures of your jewelry, TVs, paintings, furniture, etc. Store the files in a safe place or a secure online account.
Keep important documents and possessions in a safe, accessible place. Social Security cards, birth certificates, insurance policies, deeds, car titles and account numbers should be kept in a fireproof safe with copies stored in a portable container that can be easily grabbed on your way out in an emergency. As long as the documents are legible, cellphone pics are a good idea, too.
Be prepared to survive for a few days on your own. Put together a grab-and-go kit in a gym or book bag kept at the foot of your bed or near the exit. Yours might include enough cash for a few days of meals and a hotel room, a spare set of eyeglasses, a cellphone charger and at least a few days’ worth of prescription medicines.
Invite your children to make their own kits with stuffed animals, a toy or coloring books, for example. Updating everyone’s kit once or twice a year turns into a family activity that teaches kids the reality of disasters and the value of staying prepared.
Staying prepared for an emergency, especially in the Gulf South, is not just a good idea. It has a direct effect on your ability to cope when disasters force you out of your home and threaten your financial well-being. Contact the Origin team for more ideas that keep you protected when catastrophe strikes.