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Judy Moore is a home inventory and property protection expert and the creator of the Taking StockTM Home Inventory System. Here are Judy's tips on how to protect your property and family in an unexpected situation.
Conduct a home inventory.
It's extremely important to make sure you have adequate homeowner's insurance coverage especially if you live in areas where there is a higher risk of hurricane, tornados like the Midwest or earthquakes such as here in California. Every homeowner should start this process by making an inventory of each room in your home and contacting your insurance agent to be sure you have adequate insurance coverage. [Note: This doesn't just apply to homeowners. It's also important to have renter's insurance if you live in an apartment.] Make an inventory spreadsheet that lists the room where the item is located, item description, make, model serial number, date purchased and cost. It's extremely important to do this with high-value items such as televisions, computers, stereo equipment and cameras. Be sure to photograph kitchen items such as dishes, silverware, and small appliances and list them in your inventory. All fine jewelry should be included in your inventory with photos, a detailed description and the cost of each piece noted. Store your home inventory along with copies of receipts in a safe place outside your home, such as a safety deposit box at your local bank. Get homeowner's insurance because it will rebuild the home if the damage falls under the scope of the policy. The amount of coverage on the policy determines how much the insurance company will pay toward rebuilding the house, so you want to make sure that amount is accurate. The insurance company should calculate the amount of necessary coverage for you. By insuring the structure of your home, you are protecting yourself financially when the damage occurs.
Create a disaster plan.
Your family should put together a disaster plan. You want to have at least TWO escape routes from every room in your home. You also want to have at least TWO secure locations where members of your household will reunite in the event of a disaster: one in your neighborhood and another outside your neighborhood. Make sure you pick someone who lives out-of-state that your household members can call if everyone is separated during a disaster and be sure everyone has that number in their phones. Get a battery operated or hand-crank radio, cell phone chargers, flashlight and batteries, blanket, emergency contact information, copies of essential papers, and a first aid kit. Also, keep some extra cash on hand, as machines for electronic transactions may be unusable.
Disconnect all electronic equipment.
First thing is to turn off or disconnect any electronic equipment that was being used when the power went out, as a sudden power surge can damage the property and may physically hurt you. We're so energy conscious that we want to always make sure we have light, but when weather gets bad we tend to lose electricity. After an outage, you should If you still have a traditional landline, keep a non-cordless phone in your house and a car phone charger for charging your cell phone. Have flashlights with fresh batteries and a battery powered lantern. Don't use candles, as they pose a fire risk. Keep a battery powered or hand-crank radio on hand. Have ice on hand to keep food colder longer either in the fridge or in a cooler during extended power outages. If you have a generator, be sure it is located away from the house during use to avoid deadly carbon monoxide fumes seeping into the house. Have carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and outside bedroom areas. If a carbon monoxide alarm goes off, get everyone out of the house immediately and call emergency services.
Use a buddy system.
When it's hot, is obviously always best to stay indoors. However, if you have to spend time outside, try and always be with someone... Use a buddy system and never be left alone. Drink plenty of water, even if you're not thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine, sugar or alcohol because it dehydrates you. Never ever leave kids or pets unattended in a vehicle. Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day. Try to keep your animals inside as much as possible, but if they are outdoors, make sure they have plenty of water and a shady area and are checked on often. Be aware that people in urban areas may be at greater risk from a prolonged heat wave than those in rural areas due to the effect of concrete and asphalt holding heat longer.
Locate pet boarding facilities.
Bring pets inside at the first warning sign of a disaster. Then plan in advance where your pet will stay in an emergency. Locate pet boarding facilities or hotels and motels that take pets ahead of time. Do not leave pets behind if you must evacuate. Have a rescue alert sticker displayed at your home that alerts rescue workers that there are pets inside your home. Prepare an emergency kit for your pet containing several-days-worth of food, water, pet bowls, litter box supplies, leashes, pet medicines and medical records. Make sure pet vaccinations are current and pets are wearing ID tags. Consider a microchip for your pet for added security. Have a separate carrier on hand for each animal. Have a current picture of your pet in case they get lost.