The America's PrepareAthon! event is a part of FEMA's Ready Program, which asks individuals and organizations to take steps to be prepared for disasters. According to Ready.gov, “The campaign is designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters. The goal of the campaign is to get the public involved and ultimately to increase the level of basic preparedness across the nation.” More than 27 million Americans participated last year.
America's PrepareAthon! is an important program because of how frequently the US experiences natural disasters. Between 1900 and 2014, the U.S. experienced 38 earthquakes, 166 floods, and 568 storms. In 2014 alone, deadly weather caused over 5 billion dollars in property damage and claimed over 300 lives. Failing to prepare for extreme weather events caused the U.S. $1.15 trillion in economic losses between 1980 and 2010. It could cost another trillion dollars in the years to come if individuals aren't prepared.
Five Steps You Can Take to Financially Prepare according to Property Casualty Insurers:
- Review your insurance policy every year
- Talk with your insurance company or agent about your coverage
- Think of things you can do to lower the risk of damage to your property
- Make a yearly list of your personal belongings and their value
With the number of severe weather related disasters on the rise, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCIAA) is urging individuals, and communities to take action and prepare. For more tips on how to better prepare for the unexpected and information on how you can get involved, visit the America's PrepareAthon! page.
Floods are not covered by standard homeowner's insurance policies. If you live in a high risk area, you're required to buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. Here are some tips to prepare yourself if a you live in a high risk flood area:
- Elevate Critical Utilities: electrical panels, switches, sockets, wiring, appliances, and heating systems
- Consider elevating whole structure if flooding is a recurring problem in your area
- Clear debris from gutters
- Anchor any fuel tanks
- Move furniture and personal belongings and important documents somewhere safe from water
- Make sure you have flood insurance if you’re in a high risk area
- Consider getting flood insurance even if you’re not in a high risk area
- Evacuate when told
Most standard home insurance policies cover damage resulting from hurricanes (except for the “storm surge” of water they produce, which is typically considered flooding). Insurers lower their risk of providing hurricane coverage by using a deductible based on a percentage of the home's value. Meaning that if you have a more expensive home, you will have to pay a sizable amount out of pocket before the insurer pays your hurricane-related homeowners insurance claim. Protect yourself and your home with these hurricane preparedness tips:
- Know the hurricane risk in your area
- Reinforce your home for high wind
- Check your insurance policy and make sure that you're covered for hurricane damage
- Consider buying flood insurance, because a lot of areas experience flooding when a hurricane hits
- If it's not necessary to evacuate, make sure you have an area that can serve as shelter from the storm
- Evacuate your home as soon as the order goes out
Standard home insurance policies typically cover damage caused by wildfires. Generally, wildfires take place in dry, hot areas such as Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. But, 2015 was the hottest year on record and the worst year ever for wildfires in the US. With continued heat like this we might start seeing wildfires in areas unaccustomed to them, which is why you should be prepared.
- Make your landscaping less prone to fire
- Reduce the amount of material that burns easily from around your home
- Clear away debris or dry brush
- Use fire resistant materials for landscaping
- As mentioned above, check your homeowner's insurance policy often, and make sure you have enough coverage to replace your home if it were lost in a wildfire.
- Again, Evacuate! To keep yourself and your family safe from a wildfire, you should evacuate when you’re told to do so.
Unfortunately, standard home insurance doesn’t cover earthquakes. Companies also tend not to cover homes near fault lines due to high risk. If earthquake insurance is available, you’ll probably have to do a lot to qualify, including a property inspection for proper use of strapping guards, and proof that your home has been bolted to its foundation. However, the biggest drawback of earthquake insurance is that in areas with significant seismic risk, it often has a deductible equal to as much as 20% of your home's value.
Prepare your home before an earthquake to limit the amount of damage done to your home. Take precautions like:
- Securing items that may fall and cause injuries
- Securely store critical supplies and documents
- Plan post-disaster communication with family members
In 2012, the U.S. was struck by 936 tornadoes causing around $1.6 billion in damage. Fortunately, standard homeowner's insurance policies cover damage done to your home by tornadoes. Here are some tips that will help prepare you for a tornado, to the extent that’s possible.
- Make sure to have an emergency kit in your home
- Plan out your post-disaster family communication
- Pay attention to severe weather alerts like tornado warnings
- Look for warning signals in weather changes, like a green sky or very dark clouds
- Make sure you know where in your home you can hide or take shelter- bathtubs, basements, hallways, closets, under stairs
Winter storms are most common in the Northeast and Midwest. However, winter storms can happen anywhere, even in southern locales that aren’t used to winter storms, like Atlanta, so it’s important to be prepared. Standard homeowner's insurance covers damage caused by winter storms, but it is also a good idea to prepare before the storm hits. Here are some tips to make sure you’re prepared for a winter storm:
- Gather supplies to make an emergency kit
- Make plans for the family- communication plan, evacuation plan, etc.
- Consider getting a generator
- Stay up-to-date on weather conditions and alerts
If you weren’t able to participate in America's PrepareAthon this past weekend, that’s okay because you can still participate. Discuss with your evacuation plan with your family, make sure you have an emergency kit ready and check your insurance policies to make sure you have enough coverage.