Money Monday: Preparing for a Natural Disaster

Erika Gonzales Unlock Staff writer

Floods are just one of many potential weather risks we face.

Key takeaways

  • September is National Emergency Preparedness Month.

  • It’s important to research and assess your level of risk.

  • Make sure you have a safe place to store important documents and have proper insurance coverage should a bad storm strike your area.

If you think your home is completely safe from a natural disaster, you might want to think again. Thanks to climate change, weather-related disasters are on the rise, as evidenced by the 20 natural disasters that struck the U.S. last year, the second-highest number on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Those disasters – ranging from winter storms to wildfires to tropical cyclones – caused $145 billion in damage.

The damage done: the disaster scoreboard

NOAA reports that 2021 was the seventh consecutive year in which the U.S. was impacted by 10 or more separate, billion-dollar disasters.

Dodging weather-related disasters based on geography or season is no longer an option. Consider the 2021 winter storm that left 4.5 million homes in Texas without power or the brush fire that destroyed more than 1,000 homes in a Denver suburb in December 2021. Unbelieveable flooding in August 2022 left one-third of the land mass in Pakistan covered in water - roughly the size of the state of Wyoming!

September is National Emergency Preparedness Month, which is a good time to remind homeowners about the importance of preparing for natural disasters and other emergencies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends the following strategies to protect your home and family from extreme weather events.

What you can do

  • Research Your Risks. Determine how vulnerable your property is and what types of disasters are most likely to impact your community. A good first step is to visit your local government’s emergency management site to see what type of weather-related emergency alerts have been issued in the past. Many cities also have downloadable emergency preparedness guides that offer instructions on how to prepare for the most common hazards affecting the area. Signing up for your community’s warning system is another way to gauge the risks, as is talking to friends and neighbors about what they’ve previously experienced.

 Map of weather disaster risk by region

What’s your Risk?

Check out this great interactive map which shows your risk of 10 types of severe weather.

  • Mitigate the Risks. Once you know what you might be facing, take action to potentially prevent damage and safeguard your home. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, you should keep your roof, gutters and decks clear of leaves, needles, branches and other debris that could act as a fuel source. It’s also wise to use fire-resistant materials when making renovations. For those at risk of hurricanes, consider installing storm shutters and heavy-duty bolts to secure doors. Ensure that windows are sealed and trim any trees within 10 feet of your home. FEMA offers an in-depth guide for emergency preparedness that features tips for protecting your property against specific disasters and what to pack in an emergency kit.

  • Confirm your insurance coverage. It’s crucial to understand what your policy covers if a natural disaster occurs. For example, most standard homeowner policies don’t cover damage caused by flooding, which means homeowners worried about the risk need to purchase a separate policy. Because flooding is so pervasive, having coverage is worth considering. Nearly 25% of all flood claims come from homeowners outside high-risk flood zones. Most standard policies also exclude coverage for earthquakes. So, that may be another policy to buy if earthquakes are a concern where you live. Check on whether your policy will cover temporary relocation costs and how much your insurer will provide to rebuild your home if necessary.

  • Document your valuables. Having a detailed inventory will make it easier to file a claim if you suffer damages or loss in a natural disaster. Take photos of your belongings and label with descriptions, including model numbers, estimated value and year purchased. Whether you store your list on paper, a flash drive or in a cloud storage system, make sure it’s accessible outside your home. A home inventory app may also be a good option for tracking your belongings.

A disaster can strike anywhere at any time. Being prepared will help you better weather whatever storm comes your way.

The blog articles published by Unlock Technologies are available for informational purposes only and not considered legal or financial advice on any subject matter. The blogs should not be used as a substitute for legal or financial advice from a licensed attorney or finance professional. Links in our blogs to third-party websites are provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement of any products, services, or opinions of the corporation, organization, or individual. Unlock Technologies bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links.

Erika Gonzalez

Unlock Technologies staff writer