It’s impossible to predict exactly when a disaster may strike. Taking time to create a Family Disaster Plan ahead can help your loved ones prepare for the unexpected and ensure their safety at home or in the car.
“When disaster strikes, there’s often little time to react or prepare,” said Robby Buen, Senior Insurance Manager with AAA Oregon/Idaho. “Putting a family disaster plan in place ahead of time – and making sure everyone in the household is familiar with it – is the best way to prepare for an emergency situation.”
Create a Disaster Preparedness Plan
- Prepare Emergency Kits. Emergency kits for homes and vehicles should include:
- a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food for each person
- a flashlight
- hand-crank or battery-powered radio
- extra cash
- cell phone with extra battery and charger
- first-aid supplies
- critical medications
- basic personal hygiene products
- Car kits should also contain:
- local maps
- a basic toolkit
- Take First Aid Classes. Learning CPR and emergency first aid can save the life of a family member or friend.
- Find Alternative Routes for Your Evacuation or Commute. Consider how different types of natural disasters might affect your commute or ability to escape your home or neighborhood. Map out optional routes or identify other forms of transportation to get home, including bus, ferry and train schedules.
- Be School Smart. If you have young children, educate yourself about your school’s emergency procedures, and understand what authorization is required for your child to be released to someone other than you.
- Establish a Meeting Spot. Consider where family members might be during a disaster, how they will get to a safe place, and how you will communicate with each other. Then, agree upon on a predetermined meeting place in case you and your family members are unable to return home and communications systems are down.
- Make Contacts. Designate out-of-state contacts and program their phone numbers into all cell phones as “ICE” – the official “In Case of Emergency” designation for rescue workers. Attach luggage tags with your ICE numbers to young children’s backpacks.
- Plan for Pets. Make pets a part of your plan by creating a pet emergency kit including pet food, toys, and a leash. If you are unable to evacuate with your pet, a pet rescue sticker affixed to a front window can alert rescuers that your pet may be trapped inside. Identify pet-friendly accommodations since pets are not always allowed in emergency shelters. Consider microchipping pets so they can be easily identified if you’re separated.
- Assign Tasks. Create a chart of important emergency-related tasks like notifying family members, managing supplies, handling pets, monitoring emergency broadcasts, etc. – and assign each one to a household member.
- Take Cover. If there is no time to evacuate, you may need to shelter in place. In these situations, it’s critical to identify secure locations ahead of time. Depending upon the disaster, this could be a storm cellar or basement, a lower room without windows, or even under a large, strong table.
- Make an Inventory. Document your possessions on paper or with a video camera or smartphone. Note the replacement costs of your most valuable items, and talk to your insurance agent or insurance customer service to be sure you have the right coverage.
- Review Your Plan. Review your written family disaster plan every six months. Be sure to keep a printout in a file, and digital copies on each household member’s computer/smartphone. You can also store a location on a cloud service – but remember, you may not have internet access or cell phone service to reach online materials.
- Check Your Coverage. Find out if your insurance policy covers the types of disaster-related damages that could impact your neighborhood. Standard home insurance policies do not provide coverage for earthquake and flood.
Tips for After a Disaster
The aftermath of any disaster is incredibly stressful. While disaster recovery is a gradual process, these steps can help you get back on your feet faster and keep life going. Here’s what to do after a disaster.
- List yourself and your family as safe on the American Red Cross website. Log onto any social media accounts you have and let your friends and family know you’re okay.
- Contact your insurance agent as soon as possible.
- Go to FEMA’s website or call 800-621-3362 to apply for assistance.
- Keep receipts for items purchased when you’re not able to access your home. These include toiletries, clothing, food and temporary housing. These expenses may be eligible for reimbursement under your insurance policy.
- Assess your property thoroughly and document any damage with photographs and notes when you’re able to return.
- Be thoughtful about what you throw away. When it’s safe, keep damaged items until your insurance company representative has assessed the damage and made a claim report. If you can, have your home inventory ready to help with the claims process.
To find out more about auto and home insurance coverage, contact your AAA agent or call 1-866-222-7868 to review eligibility for discounts and any coverage you might need.