I grew up in the Mid-West. I’m use to tornadoes. Rather, I’m supposed to be. I grew up watching storms and seeing the lightening strike as it came across the field. It was beautiful. So, a month ago when my husband called to tell me that a bad storm was coming our way, I had no fear. I stood in the window frame and watched the tall, skinny trees sway back and forth. I was amazed at how they bent, as I wasn’t use to these kind of trees. Then I saw the hail and in awe, I watched it strike our roof. I wasn’t afraid because if there was a torndado, then the siren would go off. Right? Well later when I found out that 5 tornadoes had struck Bradley County, TN, I found out that Tennessee doesn’t have tornado sirens. Ooops! Should have been hidden in the bathroom.
I had no idea of the devastation that had occurred until I drove with my husband to check on some members of our church. We witnessed houses flattened, power lines down, trees on cars, and businesses destroyed. I was stunned. People lost possessions, homes, and even family. They looked worried. I wondered what they would be worried most about. Were they worried about their belongings strewn for 3 city blocks or the brand new car that had the tree laying on top of it? No. They were just grateful to be alive.
The clean up will continue for months yet to come.There have been people that have traveled far to help out. Florida, Utah, and North Carolina are just a few of the many states where volunteers came from. Each weekend groups of men would obtain information about areas that needed trees removed with chain saws and bobcats. Then out they’d go to do what they could with such a daunting task before them.
So, back to the torando victims. FEMA has 1,160 people registered as victims in just Bradley County alone. Sudden devastation has occurred in their lives. What are they worried about? How will they recover? What do they wish they had done to prepare? Can you prepare for such a devastating loss?
So many questions to be answered. After consulting with Dianna Stanich, a local Red Cross volunteer representive, and Rick Nelson, an insurance agent, I have come up with a list of things you can do to prepare yourself should a natural disaster occur, such as the recent tornado devastation in Joplin, MO.
- Buy Car Insurance- Comprehensive insurance is one of the least expensive coverages available. You can carry a lower deductible and still be covered in case of a large tree, flood, or car accident. Be aware of being upside down on the loan. To be upside down on a loan means that you owe more than the car is worth. So, if you owe, $10,000 and the car was worth $7,000, then the insurance company only pays you $7,000. New cars depreciate when you drive them off of the lot.
- Obtain Home Insurance- Home insurance policies cover tornadoes, but have you thought about the contents of your fridge or freezer? Meat is very expensive. A good insurance policy will cover up to $500 of the contents in a fridge and freezer due to a power outage, according to Rick Nelson with Allstate Insurance in Cleveland, TN. Also be sure your policy covers fences, outbuildings, contents, and the full cost it takes to rebuild your home. It only costs a few dollars to raise coverage to cover those fences and outbuildings. He also recommends to video tape belongings and keep a copy of it away from your home in case of fire and tornado. It’s hard to remember what you lost when you are dealing with the loss. It provides evidence that you can give to your insurance company of items that you own. Keep your insurance agent’s number in your cell phone or his card in your wallet. A good agent will show up at your house and be a good negotiater between you and the adjuster. Pictures, receipts, videos will help substantiate your loss. Don’t throw anything away until after the adjuster comes to your place or before taking pictures. Documentation is key. Any expense used to temporarily fix a problem will be reimbursed by an insurance company. It prevents rain or flood water from further damaging the property.
- Establish an emergency fund- It’s amazing how fast you can blow through 6 months of reserves. You’ll be so grateful that you had it though. This fund will be used for deductibles, lost time from work, or other added expenses. I’ve written a previous article about having an emergency fund.
- Get Out of Debt- Debt is a huge burden that prevents individuals from having freedom. People that owned homes that were destroyed still have mortgages. They can’t sell because the area is uninhabitable, but they still owe money to the lender. For more information about that see this full article.
- Build Food Storage- It does no good to have a pantry full of red beans, if you don’t know how to cook them nor will your family eat them. Store food that your family will eat. There are Web sites such as Foodstoragemadeeasy that provide wonderful recipes and tips on using your food storage. Protect it from water damage and insects.
- Put together 72 Hour Kits- Put one in a closet by the door, another in your car, and one for each member of your family. You may never know when it will come in handy. Signal flares, matches in a plastic bag, battery-powered light, can opener that is not electric, toilet paper, and cash are a few things to keep handy.
- Store personal documents- Legal documents such as will, insurance policies, contracts, passports, marriage certificage, birth certificate, and other financial documents in a secure, fireproof place. Make copies and keep in another location other than your home.
- Items to have on hand: LED flashlights, batteries for flashlights, generator, gas for the generator, bottled water, wet naps, and extension cords for generator. Recently a woman died because she had a generator inside her home. NEVER have a generator in the home as it puts off a poisenous gas called carbon monoxide. Cell phones can be handy, but sometimes communication can be jammed and after no power for a few days you’ll have no ability to use your cell. Look into becoming Ham Radio certified to be able to communicate with others about damage and weather. Another alternative to hear about weather are emergency radios. The can be obtained from a local electronics store. They only go off if there are weather problems in your area. We purchased one after the storm. The first time it went off during the middle of the day scared me to death. However, I was grateful to know what was going on despite not having the TV or radio on.
No matter the situation, being prepared relieves your mind and gives you a sense of peace. I hope that you don’t have to go through a natural disaster, but if you do, be prepared. Let me know what you think of the photos.