Are You Prepared for a Disaster? Simple Steps to Build a Disaster Plan

2020 has yielded extraordinarily severe wildfire and hurricane seasons and a host of other natural disasters, reminding us, once again, of the importance of being prepared for whatever comes next. The following is a simple guide to help you and your loved ones prepare for natural disasters. 

First, identify the common disasters that can occur where you live. Next, consider your hazards (one example is living in an earthquake region). Then, consider at-risk assets, including homes, autos, fine arts, collections and wine/spirits.

Once you have identified these risks, create a plan. The key to recovering from disaster is resilience and recovery -- becoming disaster-resilient. Also, your disaster plan is only as good as those you’ve communicated it to! Please consider:

  • What if your family is separated at the time of a disaster? (Have an agreed upon plan before disaster strikes.)
  • What is your evacuation route vs. your in-home shelter plan?
  • What if your agreed meeting place is inaccessible? (You need a secondary meeting place.)
  • What if cell towers or the power grid goes down, making it difficult to reach your local and out-of-state contacts? (Ensure you have multiple ways of reaching your contacts.)
  • Your communication plan is critical. Outline who will handle the family communications in a disaster and establish a family phone tree and distribution lists.

Next, collect supplies before disaster strikes. Keep one “go-bag” at your home and another in your car. and can recommend supplies.

Then, fortify your home and valuables. Consider vulnerabilities and what could possibly go wrong. If you’re planning a home renovation or smaller home enhancements, consider fortifying your home with one or more of these options:

  • A fireproof safe that is bolted to the ground on the lowest floor in your home.
  • A whole-house back-up generator.
  • Structural enhancements when building or remodeling in hurricane-prone areas, such as concrete-filled forms made from polystyrene and recycled plastic for walls and floors, ultra-strong connectors on your roof, and high-security doors and windows.
  • In areas where tornadoes are common: storm shelters with a bathroom, as well as accommodations for sleeping and preparing food. These can also be used during hurricanes.
  • In wildfire areas: fireproof roofing materials and repairs to any roof cracks. It’s also a good idea to contact a licensed contractor to retrofit all vents with flame- and ember-resistive vents.

In addition, having preestablished relationships with key vendors and contractors may help to ensure priority in an emergency. Where necessary, include a collection manager, fine art packers/shippers with temperature-controlled trucks to temporarily relocate artwork, climate-controlled fine art warehouses, art conservators and wine evacuation vendors.

Finally, consider how to help neighbors who are vulnerable or may not have family or loved ones to assist them. A resilient mindset is the key to recovery for you and your community. Ben Franklin was believed to have said that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Hopefully, you and your loved ones will never need your disaster plan. Yet, it is better to have a plan that never gets activated.

Suzanne Moyers, CPCU, AIC, is Risk-Consulting Catastrophe Manager, Chubb Personal Risk Services.

The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.