By Kellene Bishop
This article isn’t about surviving the impossible. Obviously, if an earthquake comes along and swallows your entire family and home while you’re sleeping, no amount of tangible preparedness will do you much good under those circumstances (although being able to tell your Creator that you at least heeded His warning while you were alive is bound to earn you some brownie points where it counts). Rather this article is about being better prepared for that time when you DO survive the impossible because sometimes surviving can feel like a punishment when you’re left with absolutely nothing. So, what can you do TODAY to ensure your well-being and safety later?
When a tornado comes and demolishes your years of accumulated essentials, it can no doubt make one feel that their efforts of preparedness are futile and not worth the time. I can only begin to fathom what such a scenario must feel like to a person who’s just lost every tangible item they’ve ever owned in less than 5 minutes of an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, or tsunami. But believe it or not there are some strategies that you can still implement which can mitigate your losses and restore your life to a self-reliant state once again.
First of all, I would suggest that you not skimp on property insurance regardless of whether you’re renting or own your home. I say this with a full comprehension of all of the ways that insurance companies wrangle their way out of paying for your losses; but if it’s something that can restore order back in your life, then I suggest you take unusual measures to ensure that it will provide you with what you need in the event of a serious loss. Yes, insurance is a gamble unfortunately. And for the most part it’s an adversarial relationship from the get go. Though insurance can be identified as a gamble, to me its value is real and as such it’s no more of a gamble to me than spending money on extra essentials today. But if you take some defensive measures in the beginning, you’ll have an easier time getting what you need and deserve in a time of great trial.
Does your insurance cover a natural disaster?
For starters, be very clear on what your policy will and will not cover. Your concern needs to be on REPLACING that which you value. If an insurance policy doesn’t seem to cover all that you need, there’s a magic little thing known as riders. You can get a rider for almost anything. For example, suppose that your policy covers the replacement of household items up to $10,000, you can actually get a rider will cover specific items which you can designate such as a year’s supply of food, or the loss of your firearms and ammunition. You want to be sure that the essentials that are important to you now are covered in the event that they are destroyed in the future via theft or Mother Nature.
Next, take detailed photographs and video recordings of the belongings which you want replaced and/or covered. Store these photographs in a safe deposit box or at a neighbors or relatives home that would not likely be impacted by the same localized natural disaster.
Next,--and this isn’t likely to make any insurance sales folks too happy with me—but in the event that you do need to make a claim and the insurance company is giving you some hassles, one of the other things that I would suggest doing is recording your telephone conversations with your insurance broker or video tape them if they are meeting with you in your home. (Check with your state laws on the permissibility of this, but most laws state that so long as one of the participants knows that they are being recorded—which is YOU—then recording phone conversations are permissible.) The purpose of recording either the meetings or the phone conversations is so that you have a representative of the company on record as to what your policy covers. I don’t believe that you’ll necessarily need to do this in a clandestine manner. You can simply inform that broker the purpose for making the recording—in order to avoid any confusion in the future. If the broker isn’t ok with making statements on film or audio recording, I’d be a bit suspect as to the veracity of their promises and claims. I also require that the broker show me where my policy states that certain items of concern to me are covered. Worst case scenario you have an audio or video recording that’s not permissible in court, but it sure will be permissible on YouTube and that may actually be a leveraging tool for you if you run into any problems getting your claim processed timely and accurately.
Now on to the next aspect of protecting yourself in the event of a serious natural disaster.
You know the saying don’t put all your eggs in one basket? Well, I go a little bit further and say don’t put all your baskets in the same place. Even if you don’t have a second location in which you can store vital documents, key essentials, etc. you should at the very least make sure that they are scattered all over your home. That way if a portion of your home is ruined, only a portion of your essential supplies will be compromised in the event of flooding or an earthquake. For example, as I’ve shared previously, I’ve got a lot of #10 cans of food and other provisions stored all over the house—behind furniture, books, under beds, in closets and cupboards. Likewise, in the interest of self-defense, we have our tools of self-defense stored safely and accessibly all throughout the home as well. When you take this approach in your preparedness efforts, it’s also a good idea to have a written record of where you put some of these items. Have you ever lost something that you put in a special place so that it wouldn’t get lost and then couldn’t remember where that special place was? Yup, for exactly that reason having a map or general inventory list is a good idea. I also suggest you run the occasional drill with your family members or yourself in accessing these items quickly. Any time you can connect a physical action to a mental one it’s much more likely to be remembered. It doesn’t have to be this big, time consuming ordeal either. You’ll be surprised how much kids (and even yourself) will remember with just a few minutes of rehearsal.
Next, as your storing your particular items throughout, constantly assess how they would fare under natural disaster circumstances. For example, I get a lot of my olive oil on sale in small bottles. I then wrap the small bottles up in newspaper (since I have so much from the coupons) and then place them in a four gallon square bucket with the lid firmly on so that if there’s an earthquake or flooding, the contents of the bucket are not likely to get wet or broken. I also take such natural disasters into consideration when I’m putting items on my shelves. Glass items never go on the upper shelves in the event that they may fall. The shattered glass will only compound an already difficult situation. Instead, I put lighter items such as cereal boxes, or nuts, etc. on the higher shelves so that if they fall, they are not likely to break and cause other problems. Canned goods I put midway on the shelves and glass items, if not stored in buckets, I put on the bottom shelves. My husband has also secured the shelves to the backs of the walls and ceilings to provide an added measure of security. We also do some strategic planning in the event we are ever consigned to a particular room on our house. For example, let’s say we prepared for a looming tornado by going down into the basement in a particular room. If our way out of that room was blocked or unsafe after the disaster hit, would we have enough items in the room including tools to get us by until we could get out of there?
Lastly, but very important, don’t give up on getting your neighbors and community better prepared. The strength of having an entire community get on board with the need for self-reliance is invaluable. Look at the scenario during Hurricane Katrina. It took five days just to get water to the Super Dome. If the surrounding neighbors had been prepared just for their own family for a year, then the entire community would have been self-reliant, safe, and wouldn’t have had to subject themselves to the horrible crimes which came after the fact. Crimes occur because of desperation. Thus in a prepared community there is no fertile ground for crime to take root, even after a natural disaster. When the Teton Dam broke in Idaho neither the Red Cross or FEMA showed up for weeks and weeks. But no one starved to death because the prevailing religion of that area was LDS (aka Mormons) and as such there were plenty of homes and families which could benefit others who weren’t as fortunate. Remember, "We The People" are the first responders to any disaster. And if we set a good example for those around us in our own preparedness efforts AND share well-thought out, educated information with our neighbors, then we’re not just helping them endure tough times, we could also be saving our own lives in the future.
Let me just share one other aspect of this neighborhood preparedness idea. Look at the aftermath of Japan as another example. You had individuals who truly experienced a life and death scenario as they endured first the earthquake and then the tsunami. Hundreds were in need of medical care and nourishment essentials. But the folks who weren’t badly impacted by either disaster, other than to have their light and water turned off for a few days, likewise taxed the emergency and charity services by being unprepared themselves. I cringed as I saw a scene play out on the television screen in the after math of the disaster of Japan. Here was a woman and her child who made it out alive with nothing but the clothes on their back, standing in line for water, rice, and some minor medical care. In that same line was a family of 6 (multiple generations) that were set back by nothing significant other than their own willful lack of planning. Their home and family was still intact. They were simply wanting for essentials. 18 bottles to your unprepared family could be 18 bottles of water for the truly displaced and discouraged. I realize that this may be a harsh way of saying this, but do you really want to be the reason why that mother and her baby are limited to the mere 4 bottles of water to live on either out in the open or in a cramped community building just because you weren’t willing to take responsibility for your own needs? An entire community that is prepared is a community that saves lives and is an asset amidst the aftermath of a disaster as opposed to a liability. So, don’t give up in sharing this wisdom with others. It’s a life or two you could be saving—and perhaps even your own.
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