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How to prepare your home for a natural disaster.

Our communities have been hit by floods and tornadoes in recent years, and you or someone you know may have been impacted. It’s unfortunate but true – a natural disaster can hit at any time, and they can change things in a matter of minutes. While you can’t prevent a natural disaster, you can secure some peace of mind by taking steps now to protect yourself, your loved ones and your important documents. Here’s what to do now to make sure you’re prepared.

Make a plan.
Review best practices for possible natural disasters with family members and create a plan of action for each one. Focus on the types of emergencies that are most likely to happen in your community. Refer to the Natural Disaster Risk map to identify what you may be at risk for in your area.

One of the most important parts of your plan should be to establish a meeting place if you get separated. For example, if family members are at school or work when a natural disaster occurs, decide on a meeting spot if you’re unable to return to your home, such as a friend’s house, community center or shelter area. Make sure that everyone in the family has a list of emergency contacts and that your mobile phones are pre-programmed with family, neighborhood, work and school contacts. That way, it will be easier to communicate and stay in touch.

Include these additional steps in your planning checklist:

✓ Review your town’s evacuation routes and shelter locations
✓ Remember to plan for pets
✓ Know how and when to shut off utilities in your home, like water, gas and electricity
✓ Create a home fire escape plan and have a practice fire drill twice a year
✓ Make sure home smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are working properly
✓ Decide where you’ll stay if you have to evacuate such as a hotel or with out-of-town relatives
✓ Review your insurance policies to make sure you have adequate coverage

Locate and safely store important documents.
While it’s hard to rebuild after the loss of a home or possessions, having access to crucial documents and files can make the process much smoother — and less stressful. It’s a good idea to inventory your home possessions with either a written list or photographs, and store the information in a fireproof safe, safe deposit box or other secure location. Include any receipts and warranty information. You’ll likely need this information if you have to file a claim for loss or damage.

Other important document-related tasks:

✓ Create a list of important contacts and account information, such as financial institutions, doctors and insurance companies. Keep one copy at home where it can be accessed quickly, and another copy in a secure location.
✓ Make digital copies of important documents like birth and marriage certificates, wills, deeds and passports and store them in the cloud. Store the actual documents in a secure location. At Commerce, we offer an encrypted document storage service as part of our ID Restoration Plus service.

Build an emergency supply kit.
Experts recommend building an emergency kit to last at least three days in the event that you don’t have access to electricity, water, a grocery store and other local services. At the very least, a basic emergency kit should include the following items:

✓ Nonperishable food and water
✓ First-aid kit
✓ Flashlight and extra batteries
✓ Medications
✓ Pet and infant supplies, if applicable
✓ Battery-operated radio

For more details, use this handy checklist to build your own basic emergency supply kit. You’ll also find tips for storing and maintaining your kit. Stay informed. Familiarize yourself with local natural disaster procedures and sign up for emergency alerts. Inquire about emergency plans at places where family members spend time outside of the home, such as school, work and extracurricular activities. Other helpful national resources include:

Ready.gov
American Red Cross
FEMA

Planning ahead, stocking up and knowing what to do are the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of an emergency. By taking these steps now, while the Wi-Fi is working and the stores are fully stocked, you’ll sleep easier at night knowing you’ve done what you can to prepare.

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