It is National Preparedness Month and the Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HCOHSEM) reminds residents that natural disasters are unpredictable. People at all income levels have experienced the challenges of rebuilding their lives after a disaster or other emergency. In these stressful circumstances, having access to personal, financial, insurance, medical and other records is crucial for starting the process of recovery quickly and efficiently.
It is important to prepare in advance by gathering and safeguarding critical documents including:
- Photo IDs
- Birth certificates
- Social security cards
- Insurance policies
- Medical and immunization records
- Pet ID tags and shot records
Consider saving money in an emergency savings account that can be used during a crisis. Keep a small amount of cash at home in a safe place and have small bills on hand because ATM’s and credit cards may not work during a disaster when you need to purchase necessary supplies, fuel or food.
Additionally, a disaster can disrupt mail service for days or weeks, so if you depend on Social Security or other regular benefits, switch to electronic payments to secure your financial stability and eliminate the risk of stolen checks.
Having insurance for your home or business property is the best way to ensure you will have the necessary financial resources to help you repair, rebuild or replace whatever is damaged. Review existing policies for the amount and extent of coverage to ensure that you are covered for all possible hazards.
Homeowners insurance does not typically cover flooding, so you may need to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. Flood insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period after the purchase date before coverage takes effect. Get additional information at Floodsmart.gov.
If you sustain property damage from a natural disaster, contact your insurance agent as soon as possible. In the meantime, take photos and/or videos of the damage. Also, have a list of the items that were lost, stolen or damaged. Having that list, including photographs and receipts, will ease the process and get your claim settled faster.