Emergency Preparedness
Emergency Preparedness

Natural Disasters: How to Prepare for the Unthinkable

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While Raleigh is not exactly super close to the beach (we used to have a tiny apartment right across the street from the Chesapeake Bay when we were first married), it’s pretty easy to hop in our car and have a weekend getaway to the beach. The downside is that when it’s hurricane season, we have to be on the lookout because those storms can wreak havoc even as inland as here. 

 A few years ago with Hurricane Matthew, we lost power including to our sump pumps.  We actually had some friends over that week so those extra pairs of hands were especially needed when our basement flooded. Along with the rain, we also have to keep an eye out for wind. Those strong tropical storm level gusts can bring down trees in our area. This can be a big concern since Raleigh is the ‘City of Oaks’.  Those trees can not only block roads, but we’ve had power outages. The last few storms have affected many with that massive headache. 

Last year, when Florence was moving up the Atlantic Ocean, one possible projected path had it hitting Raleigh directly.  With two little ones, we seriously considered evacuating. It turned though, so we stayed put.  

Just recently, Dorian came by, but thankfully our area was minimally affected. Still, these are reminders for us of how important it is to be prepared for emergencies.  

How to Prepare for an Emergency  

As parents, we want to take care of our family and that includes getting things ready should an emergency come up. Getting prepared now means that should you lose power, are waiting for help to arrive, or need to evacuate the area, you have what you need to ride things out for a bit.  

I know how challenging it can be to set things up, so I want to share some critical tips on how you can give yourself a leg up with an easy emergency prep guide! 

Essential Emergency Kit Checklist 

There’s no way you can prepare for every possible event, but there are some key things you need to have. One of those is an emergency kit.

While you’ll need to tailor it for your specific needs (like diapers if you have babies), here are the essentials to include in your kit: 

  • Water: Believe it or not, you’ll need one gallon a day per person for at least three days. If you’re a family of four, that means having twelve gallons ready.  
  • Food: Try to have a three day supply on hand. You’ll also want to include any pet supplies for your furry family members. Eating utensils, matches, and can openers are also great to have.  
  • Flashlights and batteries: Keep a pack of spare batteries handy and ready to go. We also double-check that our phone chargers are topped off.  
  • Radio: Pick up a battery or crank-powered one along with some spare batteries. 
  • First-aid kit: Many kits in-store or online come up with all the essentials you need at a low price. You should also grab a whistle to signal for help. If you use medication, please keep it in a waterproof container.  
  • Blankets: Stay warm by grabbing a few blankets for your kit.  
  • Warm clothes and shoes: Pack a change of clothes and get some sturdy shoes on.  
  • Toiletries: Stash away toothbrushes, soap, towels, diapers, garbage bags, and toilet paper. 
  • Contacts: If your phone loses power, make sure you have a contact list handy.  
  • Money: Tucking away a bit of cash and a credit card can be handy, especially if you need to evacuate and get a hotel room.  

It may seem like a lot, but you can get everything you need to set up. Just take it bit by bit, starting with the absolute essentials and work your way down. If you haven’t already, spend this weekend or next with assembling your kit.  

You can grab supplies individually from the stores or go for a pre-made kit that has everything ready in a bag so you can snatch it if needed.  

Keep Your Emergency Kit Ready 

Once your kit and supplies are good to go, keep them that way by properly storing your items. You don’t want to undo the hard work you’ve put in. If you have canned food, have it in a dry, cool place. Use containers for your boxed food. Check yearly to make sure none of your supplies have expired.  

We have a dedicated space in the basement for our bags and supplies. If we need to grab and go, it’s all in one place, on a few shelves near the staircase. Make it easily accessible –  when things get hectic and should you need to quickly leave, having everything in its place is one less thing to stress over.  

Speaking of having to grab and go, please stay on top of your car maintenance and make sure your gas tank isn’t low. I’d hate for you to be slowed down with your evacuation plan because you have to wait in line for gasoline.   

Have an Emergency Plan 

Preparing your kits is definitely a smart move, but it shouldn’t be your only one. Since some emergencies may happen when you are not together, you should have a plan to get in contact and meet up with each other.  

Another thing to go over, do you have a plan for your pets in case you need to leave the area? Having those supplies packed and ready saves you time.  

You also need to talk and practice through a few more common scenarios that may happen in your area. Review the plan with your kids and go through it a few times. This can help them not be as stressed should something come up since they have already prepared.  

Besides your family, consider your neighbors. Maybe some of them will need extra help to evacuate. Depending on your city and state, there may also be a registry they can get on now so they can get the support that they need.  

Financial Steps to Take In an Emergency

Even if your budget is rock solid, sometimes life has another plan and you have to adapt to a new money reality. Whether it’s assessing where you are financially, navigating home insurance coverage, or figuring out which bills to pay first, we wanted to provide a financial resources to turn to when the unthinkable happens.

When Disaster Hits: Assess Where You Are Financially

You may have already thought about what you would take with you and who would be responsible for getting the pets and valuables to safety. But what about your finances? Even if you knew where you stood financially before, it doesn’t hurt to double check as some unexpected expenses could have popped up with your new situation. Once you are safe and have access to a phone or the internet, check in on these things:

  • Get a handle on current monthly income and expenses – are there any bills or services (i.e. gym membership or streaming subscriptions) you can pause until things settle down?
  • Notify your mortgage company or landlord of the disaster and provide them with your contact information if it has changed.
  • If you won’t be able to manage finances during the immediate aftermath, call creditors and explain that you were involved in a natural disaster. Inquire if you can modify your payments until you’re back on your feet financially.
  • Contact your insurance companies – identify any costs associated with damage or repairs from the event.

Understand Insurance Coverage For Your Home

In the aftermath of a storm, know that there are resources available to help you cover the costs of damage. Start by carefully assessing your situation. Filing a claim can feel daunting, but reliable insurers can help make the process of getting back to everyday life is easier.

When you’re ready to take the next steps on finding the coverage that’s right for you, consider these steps:

  • Refrain from signing anything from an insurer indicating a final interaction or payment, because disaster damages can surface over a period of weeks or months.
  • If you’re temporarily relocated, provide change of address information to the post office so you won’t miss any important mail.
  • Save all receipts for expenses incurred due to the disaster. This is important for insurance, taxes, and assistance programs.

Renter’s insurance, doesn’t cover the structure of your place (the landlord’s policy should take care of that) — but it does cover all your contents and protects you from liability if someone hurts themselves in your apartment and decides to sue.

Decide Which Bills To Pay First

When you’re trying to prioritize which bills are most important, it’s helpful to know the differences between your debt. Ask yourself these questions (and read on for more info if you’re weighing your options).

  • Which bills impact the family’s health and security? Usually, mortgage or rent, utilities, food, transportation, and health insurance are most important.
  • What’s at risk if bills aren’t paid? Are you at risk of your car or home being repossessed? Know which debt is secured by possessions and prioritize these expenses.
  • How high an interest rate am I paying? If you’re paying off big credit card bills with high interest rates, it’s time to lock the credit cards away until your bills are back under control. Pay as much as you can beyond the minimum each month.

Your Take on Emergency Prep 

No one enjoys thinking about bad things happening, but it is a necessity. 

I hope you never have to use this information, but being ready can give you some peace of mind. I shared a bit of how we’ve prepared for emergencies, I’d love to get your take on it.  

How have you prepped at your home? What supplies did you include on your kit? Have you ever had to use it for an emergency?