It doesn’t seem to matter what part of the country you are in, everyone is facing potentially life-changing disasters recently — fires, floods, extreme winds, hail, you name it.
By its very definition, most disasters strike with little to no warning and cause majorly destructive damage to homes and businesses alike. To help protect your family and business as much as possible, following are a list of seven steps you should be taking now to minimize impact when, not if disaster strikes.
1. Know your risks: It’s important to be aware about potential hazards in your area. Does your home sit in a flood zone? Are earthquakes common? Do nearby canyons frequently burn with brush fires? A good first step is to educate yourself about local conditions. Review your county’s office of emergency services web site, look online for disaster preparedness information from the police or fire department; many local resources will have downloadble materials about your specific area.
- Be sure to sign up for any local text or phone alerts in your area relating to evacuation orders
- National web sites such as Ready.gov and RedCross.org have additional risk assessment tools and alert apps for your mobile devices
2. Make an evacuation plan:Whether you have to leave your home or business because of an immediate hazard (such as a fire) or your property becomes damaged in a disaster and is no longer usable (think earthquake or flood), a plan is essential for a smooth departure:
- Who needs to be evacuated from the property? Make a list of all residents/employees that can be reviewed to ensure everyone is out.
- Does anyone need special transport? Make sure you have necessary equipment handy (wheelchair, etc.).
- What about animals and pets? Have crates and harnesses ready to go.
- Which way will you leave? Make sure you have current maps and evacuation routes (paper, not online in case cell and data service is down).
- Create a phone tree/out of area communication plan: Designate someone out of your area everyone can contact to ‘check in’ — Sometimes during a disaster local phone numbers are overwhelmed and it is helpful to have someone out of the area everyone can contact as a central point with their status. Make sure this person has a copy of your employee/family list to check off when they hear from someone.
3. Create a “go kit”:If you do have to evacuate your home or business, make sure you have supplies with you to keep you safe if you are unable to return. Use a large backpack or duffle bag (something easy to transport) and fill it with:
- First Aid Kit
- Water Purification Straws or Tablets
- Emergency Blankets (thin thermal mylar ones work well)
- Rope/Cords/Plastic Tarps
- Flashlights and Glow Sticks
- High-Protein Snacks (nuts, jerky)
- Also be sure to fill some tubs with bottles of water that can be taken easily (if evacuating in vehicle) or used by anyone sheltering in place at your home or office
4. Determine “take” essential items: If you have time, what things would you remove from your facility or house? Review what things would be essential such as computers/hard drives, document folders, photos and memorabilia. Create a ‘take’ list and place it near the main exits where anyone can review it and if time safely permits, they can load essential items into a vehicle.
5. Designate a reunion spot: Will all your employees meet at a safe spot outside of town (a second location?) Will family all go to a neighbor’s house or friend in another town? Make sure you discuss in advance where everyone will go in a variety of situations.
6. Review your coverage: Be sure to set some time to discuss your existing property coverage with your insurance broker and up necessary amounts. Your broker can also make you aware of any special riders or policies you may need to protect your assets (earthquake and flood insurance, for example).
7. Document your assets: Take video and photos of key items covered under an insurance policy; a thorough inventory will help you during any potential claim process — Upload these records to a cloud storage or keep a copy in another off-site location for protection.