Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How to Plan Ahead

Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.” That is this year’s theme for National Preparedness Month.

Held annually every September since 2004, National Preparedness Month provides an opportunity to remind everyone to prepare themselves and their families in case of an emergency or natural disaster.

Disasters can be anything from having a fire in your kitchen to a flash flood sweeping away your belongings. In both of these situations your family needs a plan of action to prevent anyone from being hurt and from being caught off guard financially.

National Preparedness Month is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency within the Department of Homeland Security, and it’s part of a governmental effort to increase the overall number of individuals, families, and communities that engage in preparedness actions at home, work, business, school and places of worship.

Better Business Bureau is proud to partner with FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security (Ready.gov) to offer tips on how to fully prepare for a disaster.

Make and Practice Your Plan: Disasters don’t plan ahead, but you can. Start by making an emergency plan with everyone in the home. Discuss how you will receive emergency alerts and warnings, what your shelter plan is, your evacuation route, and the household communication plan. It’s best to practice your escape plan with your family, including animals, at least twice a year.

Learn Life Saving Skills: Learning basic home maintenance skills can protect your home and your family. Learn how to turn off utilities like natural gas and electricity, and how to test and replace smoke alarms. It’s recommended to test smoke alarms every month, and to replace them every 10 years.

Check Your Insurance Coverage: Insurance is your first line of defense, which is why you should check your insurance coverage, and review your policy to ensure that what you have in place is enough for you and your family. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy should a disaster happen.

Save for an Emergency: Disasters can be very stressful, but having access to personal, financial, medical and other records is crucial to a quick recovery. It’s important to be financially prepared for any type of disaster. Consider saving money and storing it in an emergency savings account, as well as leaving a small amount of cash at home in a safe place.

Watch Out for “Storm chasers”: No matter how much you prepare, you might have some damage to deal with after a natural disaster. “Storm chasers” are contractors who seek to take advantage of disasters and get consumers to make quick and potentially uninformed decisions. Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver.

Click here for BBB’s tips on how to protect yourself from storm chasers.