If you live on the plains, like I do, you are used to bad weather. Oklahomans keep an eye to the sky, and we flip the radio or television to a local station if the horizon begins to darken. If you live near the coasts, you might have more time to plan, but the widespread devastation of a hurricane frightens me more than the potential of a twister. I think we get used to our own, local weather emergencies!
Mud slides, earthquakes, wild fires, blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes—no matter where you live, Mother Nature always seems to have the potential to upend your life. At those times, it’s usually too late to take any proactive actions that could help. So now, when the skies are blue, take a little time to create a financial disaster plan.
- Read your homeowner’s policy. What possessions are included, and what fall outside of coverage? You may need to add riders or purchase additional protection.
- Remember that weather-related flooding is not covered by traditional policies. Instead, you purchase flood insurance through FEMA, and even if it is not required on your property, it might be appropriate. On the other hand, flooding from man-made disasters, like pipes breaking, should be covered in a standard policy. Talk to your agent.
- Earth movement is also not typically covered in a typical homeowner’s policy. This phenomenon generally takes the forms of mud slides or earthquakes, and the events probably require a rider to your existing insurance or, potentially, separate coverage. Earthquakes appearing to occur as the result of oil and gas drilling activity can be a complex risk, and if you are experiencing these in your area, address it specifically with your agent.
- How much is your policy’s deductible? Sometimes, people purchase insurance with high deductibles to lower the premiums. Can you easily pay the amount? If not, you might consider lowering your out-of-pocket cost in exchange for a higher annual payment.
- Your life is valuable, both financially, but more importantly, to those who love you! Purchase a weather radio. If you have vision or hearing issues, many have adaptive features, like strobe lights, that can be purchased as accessories.
- Well in advance, make copies of all your important legal papers, including your insurance policies, and store them in a bag you can quickly grab.
- Don’t forget your purse, backpack/briefcase, and cell phone with its charger. Have a go-bag with water bottles, bagged snacks, clean clothes, and batteries or portable power packs. If you have a pet, keep the carrier accessible with a bowl and some food stored inside. You might also consider making copies of important photographs.
- Extra gasoline might be useful if you need to evacuate, but be careful to store it safely. Generators are also handy, but every storm brings stories of people who die as a result of poor ventilation.
- Other critical items to pack are any prescription or over-the-counter medications you need daily. Prepare a few days’ worth, and then use and replace them periodically to keep them fresh.
- If you have a shelter, remember to register its location in your city. If your community doesn’t offer that service, then tell out-of-town family and friends where it is located.
Your insurance agent and financial planner should be your guides as you create a financial disaster plan. Your family and friends can help finish the preparations. A few actions today could make your life less stressful the next time the skies get dark.