Are you prepared for the next disaster? Four things you should do now!

Are you prepared for the next disaster? Four things you should do now!

Natural disasters are something that not many people think about until it is too late. Since September is Disaster Preparedness Month, we thought it a great time to share tips we have learned over the years from serving clients all across the country. 

Almost everyone will be affected by a natural disaster in their lives. Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, flooding, earthquakes, landslides and ice storms all cause major issues in at least one community somewhere in our country each year. Some disasters, like hurricanes, may come with advanced warning giving time to prepare. Others, like a tornado, might happen so fast you can’t do anything except find the nearest shelter and start praying! 

A personal experience

In December 2006, while living in Manhattan, KS, we were hit by a winter storm which covered everything in a couple inches of ice. This caused widespread damage to the power lines which resulted in an outage for many thousands of people for several weeks

We lived out in the country, so we were some of the last homes to have power restored. The temperature in our home got down to 45 degrees before the electricity came back on almost a week later. In the meantime, our stove, water heater, and furnace could run on propane. This at least allowed us to cook on the stovetop and have hot water. However, the furnace blower required electricity, so we could not get heat until I found a generator. You can imagine the supply of generators in Manhattan had been exhausted very quickly! I was finally able to get one by driving to Topeka (a 60 mile drive in bad weather is not fun!) after 6 days without power. 

As fate would have it… our power was restored about an hour after I finally got the generator hooked up and running, at the end of nearly one week without power.

Preparing for what you cannot prevent

We learned our lesson of how important it is to prepare before you are in the middle of a natural disaster. It may seem overwhelming at first to make sure you have everything you need, but there are several great resources that can help break it down for you into a manageable list you can gather and check off at your own pace. It can be as simple as adding one extra item to your weekly shopping list, or setting up a weekly savings fund for a larger purchase like a generator. 

You also want to make sure you are preparing for the natural disasters that your area is usually affected with. We can’t always predict, but we can prepare! For example, if you live near the coast, you will want to be prepared for hurricanes (think power outages, high winds, and flooding). If you live in an area that experiences tornadoes, then plan accordingly. This isn’t fool-proof as weather is unpredictable and sometimes you can experience something you wouldn’t normally get (think 2021 Texas Snowmageddon.)

Dealing with documents

Have your important documents stored electronically. In a March 1990 tornado, documents from homes in Hesston, KS were found northeast of Manhattan, KS – over 110 miles away. Scan all important documents to cloud storage or a secure hard drive. Where is your computer backed up?, iCloud, or Google Drive are good resources. Important documents such as birth certificates, should be stored in a fireproof safe that can be grabbed quickly in the event of an evacuation.

Generating electricity

A generator can make a natural disaster a much smoother experience. If you have the means to purchase one there are several things you need to consider. What type of generator is best for you?

  • Gas only: you need to have a supply of gas on hand but is the cheapest
  • Solar: needs to have sun to function – will be more expensive
  • A combination of gasoline/natural gas or LP gas is a good alternative  – more expensive
  • It is most efficient to connect your generator into the home electrical panel using a transfer switch. You can then select what to power in the house. This should be done by a professional.
    • BEWARE: Never energize your home with the generator without shutting off the main power switch!
    • Energy will leave the house out into the power grid and could electrocute someone!
  • You can also just use the generator to power individual items using power cords.

Building your plan

You will have a much better outcome if you plan ahead of time and practice the plan! Have an emergency kit in place that is customized for your family. Do you have a medically sensitive family member? Make sure you have extra supplies or a plan in place to get them somewhere if necessary. If you live by yourself make sure you can access everything you need without help. Know how to open your garage door when the power is out. It may seem silly but if you park your car in the garage you could easily be trapped if you don’t know how to operate the door manually. Get in the habit of refueling your car when it gets to half tank, so that you have gas in an emergency if evacuation is necessary. Keep a functional flashlight near your bed (have extra batteries on hand) so you aren’t walking blindly through your home to find your emergency kit. Knowing some basic survival tips can be a life saver (literally!) Most importantly, listen to and heed the weather warnings!

There are several things you need to consider when preparing for a natural disaster, but making sure you have the 4 basic needs covered will help ease the stress and uncertainty of something that is hard to prepare for. 

  1. Water: One of the most important, and easiest things you can have on hand is water. You want to have enough water on hand for several days for each family member (and pets) to drink. You also need water for flushing toilets, washing hands, and cooking. Many times during and after a winter storm, you will be under a “boil water order” due to the water facilities losing power, so prepare to either boil water or use bottles/jugs until it is safe. A basic water filtration system, like LifeStraw, is also a good idea if you like to spend time outdoors or traveling.
  1. Food: If you have a gas or propane stove you should be able to use it to cook a few basic meals. If your stove is electric you might want to pick up a camping stove to warm food and boil water. Shelf-stable food should be prioritized when you are preparing for a natural disaster. Canned goods last a long time and it is easy to pick up a couple extra things during your weekly grocery store trip. There are also kits you can buy with both short-term and long-term food supplies that last for several years. My Patriot Supply is one of many options you can find. 

If your power is out for several days you will most likely lose all the freezer and refrigerator food due to spoiling so try to eat as much of that as you can. If you are experiencing a freeze you can also put food in coolers and leave it outside to help keep it from going bad.

  1. Shelter: If you live in an area that experiences frequent tornadoes (we are looking at you, Kansas) you want to make sure you have a shelter in place that is secure and stocked. If you don’t have a shelter, pick a designated room in your house (a basement or bathroom works well) and make a plan to get there!

If you experience ice storms you need to prepare for freezing temperatures. Many people make the mistake of using outdoor grills or fire-pits inside their home when they are desperate to be warm. This can be a deadly error due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Sleeping bags, lots of warm blankets, and hand warmers can be a life saver (literally) if you don’t have a wood-burning fireplace.

  1. Communication: When you are without electricity you can be desperate to know when power will come back on and whether it is safe to go out. Your cell phone battery is only going to last so long, so having a back up battery to charge it is an easy way to stay in contact with others and stay updated on the weather. A hand-crank radio is also a great way to stay updated on the local news and it doesn’t require electricity and these radios will also charge a cell-phone.

Natural disasters are unpredictable but you don’t have to be caught completely unprepared. With a little planning you can save yourself a lot of worry! Have a plan, and practice the plan! 

If you would like to make sure your finances are ready to weather a storm, Contact Us today for a consultation.

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