Disaster Preparedness, By Jeanne Salvatore

September is National Preparedness Month. And Hurricane Florence should be a reminder that disasters happen – no matter where you live. Of course, if you are currently in harm’s way from Florence’s winds, rain or flooding, listen to your local officials and follow their advice. If you need a safe place to go, FEMA recommends texting SHELTER and your zip code to 4FEMA to locate and emergency shelter near you. Download the FEMA APP for weather alerts (get it on Google Plan or the Apple App Store) and visit ready.gov/hurricanes for tips on how to prepare.

While devastating disasters like Hurricane Florence get all the headlines, if a fire, flood or windstorm makes your house unsafe to live in, you personally will suffer from a catastrophe. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take now to make sure that you and your loved ones survive a disaster.

First, you need to make sure that you are financially protected by having the right amount and type of insurance.  You want to make sure that you have enough insurance to rebuild your home and replace all of your personal possessions. Make sure you understand what disasters are covered and which are not.  For instance, most home and renters insurance policies do not cover flooding.  So, you will need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy. This is available from the National Flood Insurance Program and a few private insurance companies. As we are seeing with Hurricane Florence, flooding can be a huge problem. There is generally a 30-day waiting period for this coverage to go into effect, so don’t delay. Also, ask about your deductible. This is the amount of money you will need to pay before your claim kicks in. And, don’t forget to ask about additional living expenses.  This provides money for additional costs incurred if you can’t live in your home due to an insured disaster.

Write down all of your questions and get in touch with your insurance agent or company representative. And, quite frankly, if you don’t feel that your questions are being answered properly, go find another insurance company. Insurance is a highly competitive business.  And, there are many excellent insurance companies who would love to have your business.

Lastly, take reasonable steps to make your home disaster-proof. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has detailed tips to protect your home. It is also important to know where to go and what to take if the local authorities are evacuating your area. If you have pets, elderly relatives or anyone with special needs – advanced planning is crucial as you will need to identify a number of places that that can accommodate your specific needs.  Go to ready.gov for more information.

Jeanne M. Salvatore is a nationally-known expert in insurance coverage and disaster preparedness. For nearly three decades she led the communications arm of the Insurance Information Institute and served the insurance industry as its chief spokesperson. Ms. Salvatore is president of JMS Consulting, which specializes in strategic communications as well as life and executive coaching. She is also a frequent lecturer and is an adjunct professor. Ms. Salvatore lives in New York City and can be reached via Twitter or at jms@jeannemsalvatore.com.

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