7 More Tips to Prepare for a Natural Disaster

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The U.S. government declared a record number of natural disasters last year – and some people probably ignored them.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency declared 99 major disasters in 2011 – the highest number since it began doing so in 1953. And based on responses to a new survey, insurance company Allstate believes 27 percent of Americans would “ignore evacuation orders and wait until absolutely necessary before leaving their home or seeking shelter in the event of an imminent natural disaster.”

Other findings…

  • 21 percent of Americans have had their home damaged by a natural disaster but…
  • 46 percent have no evacuation plan
  • 62 percent don’t have an emergency kit
  • 56 percent don’t have a home inventory

News flash: Whatever that mayhem guy and Mother Nature decide to do to your home is going to happen regardless of whether you’re in it or not. (Although you should prepare your cell phone for an emergency in case disaster strikes you.) The less you prepare, the more at risk you, your family, and your assets are.

Last month we offered 12 Tips to Disaster-Proof Your Home and Finances, but here are some more…

1. Hit the ATM

If the power’s out, you might have a hard time accessing your money. ATMs won’t work, and you won’t be able to swipe a credit card at the store. So stash some cash.

2. Buy a backup phone

Go to the cell phone store and buy the cheapest possible phone that will hold your SIM card. Charge it and keep it in a waterproof container. This way, you have a fully-charged backup and a replacement if your primary phone gets wet, damaged, or lost.

3. Add your insurance company as a contact

After a disaster, the first calls are to friends and family.The next one might be to your insurance company – and in a first-come, first-served freak-out, the fastest dialers win.

4. Digitize docs

You should waterproof hard-to-replace documents – things with raised seals, original signatures, special ink, or inimitable features (like car titles, passport, the deed to your house).

But you probably don’t have enough waterproofed space to protect all your records. Even if you did, it wouldn’t be a very portable solution, and you would still need to somehow mark the most important docs for a grab-and-run.

So get in the habit of scanning and backing up your documents using free services like Amazon Cloud DriveApple’s iCloudDropboxGoogle Drive, or Microsoft SkyDrive.

5. Prep your appliances

If you have to evacuate, put refrigerators and freezers on the coldest settings to protect your food as long as possible. Turn off and unplug unneeded small appliances and electronics – and your air conditioner.

6. Keep pen and paper

Aside from signing checks, we don’t do much writing these days. But in a disaster, you may need to copy down important information or make notes without a computer or phone handy.

7. Plan for pets

Don’t abandon your pets when you evacuate. Your emergency kit should also include a leash, food and meds for your pet, and your vet records. Keep a photo of your pets handy in case you get separated – someone might recognize them. You could also make a separate “pet survival” kit by keeping all these items in a pet carrier.

Plan shelter for your pet too – investigate pet-friendly motels, since many emergency shelters don’t allow them.

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