Hurricane Katrina, one of the most powerful hurricanes in our nations history, Hurricane Wilma and Hurricane Rita’s left behind catastrophic damage. Families were displaced, homes destroyed, and now comes the task of trying to put the puzzle together. This task remains difficult even today. For those who aren’t in the effected areas, you have no idea how hard the day-to-day struggles are. You long for life to return to normal, but everyday brings new challenges of the devastation caused by these disasters. And it’s not just hurricanes that can cause this damage. The mideast recently got hit with record number of tornados, over 100 in one day. The nation has experienced floods, mudslides, wildfires, and then the constant threat of a pending terrorist attack. Are you ready?
Diana Ennen, co-author of Home Office Recovery Plan: The Disaster Preparedness Guide for Your Home Business, was hit by 8 hurricanes since last August. Hurricane Wilma left catastrophic damage in her city of Margate and her home suffered tremendous damage. Without power for two weeks and facing the stress of trying to run a family and business, she advises, “Being prepared for a hurricane or any natural disaster takes away the stress and anxiety. When timing is critical, I want to focus on the safety of my family, not on taking an inventory of my business, or deciding where I need to go. I also need to know that my family members will know how to find me after the disaster.”
Dr. Paulo J. Reyes, a First Responder in California and author of the fiction thriller Sledgehammer has firsthand disaster recovery experience and participated in various disaster relief efforts in California including the Air Mexicana crash in 1986, the last major earthquake in L.A. in 1994, and the influenza epidemic 1997-1998. He advised, “Loss of lives can be greatly reduced if everyone has a complete plan of action prior to the event. Not only with the reduction of heart attacks and stress related illnesses, but people tend to get to safety quicker if they have already planned ahead and know what they are going to do.”
Here are some steps you can take to prepare:
Step One — If you do not already have flood and windstorm insurance, you should consider getting it. Keep in mind that windstorm insurance policies are not sold when a storm threatens, so you need to think far enough ahead. You can find out about the National Flood Insurance Program through your local insurance agent or emergency management office. Homeowners polices do not cover damage from the flooding that accompanies a hurricane. Find out everything you can about your coverage now. Ask questions. You need to know this information now, before it’s too late and you discover you aren’t covered when you thought you were.
Step Two – Identify a safe place for everyone to meet. This pre-determined place should be discussed with family members prior to an emergency. Depending on the type of emergency you are planning, you might want to consider establishing a second location in case the first is inaccessible. Tell out-of-state family members where this meeting place is.
Step Three – Have a safe place in the home that you can go. During Hurricane Wilma we found firsthand how critical this was. One room of our house was badly damaged and winds of 110 mps were blowing through. Under the extreme stress we faced at that time, our pre-planning allowed us to be safe and secure in a room with no windows and all the essentials we needed. With the kids screaming, I knew at the time that I had done everything I could to ensure the safety of my family. That advance planning is priceless.
Step Four – In addition to a safe place, each person should have a list of phone numbers for your immediate neighbors and family members not living with you. We suggest using 3X5 index cards and laminating them. If my family were to be displaced, I want relatives and friends to be able to contact them immediately.
Step Five — For businesses – You should have client contact phone numbers and email addresses in a safe place so that you can notify them immediately of the situation. Also, prepare a disaster recovery plan and have someone you trust keep a copy of it. This should include vital information including medical information, family and friend’s names, your complete contact information, where valuable information such as wills and trusts and legal documents are kept, serial numbers for equipment and names of equipment and household and business supplies, and a disaster escape route in the event you need to evacuate. Make sure you have back-up all data and keep off site. This would be beneficial even if you home suffered a theft. Get a generator if possible. If you are without power, that can greatly affect the livelihood of your business.
To prepare your home and business now is the time to write a Disaster Recovery Plan. Prepare now for the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve done everything you can to protect your home and business.