IINC: Planning for a Catastrophe Increases Survival Odds

September 7, 2005

As Californians rush to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, they are reminded of their own threat of wildfires, earthquakes, floods and other hazards. For many families, survival and recovery may depend on a carefully crafted household disaster plan.

California’s own troubled history of natural disasters has demonstrated how one disaster can trigger another. As with Katrina and its subsequent flooding, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake led to widespread fires that leveled the city. The combined disasters claimed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives.

Living under the constant threat of multiple natural hazards, Californians should take the time to prepare their families and finances.

Prepare your family

* Begin with a family evacuation plan. Map out a main evacuation route as well as a backup route should streets become impassable.
* Establish an out-of-town friend or family member as a contact that family members can communicate through if they are separated during an evacuation.
* Store three-to-four days of supplies — including non-perishable food and water, flashlights, a transistor radio and batteries. Also, a list of prescriptions and have medications handy for easy access if evacuated.
* For families with pets, include food and water for them, as well.

Prepare your finances

* Keep copies of your insurance policies in a safe place outside the home, such as a safe deposit box.
* Review your homeowners or renters insurance annually, paying close attention to any changes that may affect your policy and whether you need the added protection of flood or earthquake coverage.
* Create and maintain a home inventory and keep a copy of it in a safe place. Home inventories can be in written, photographic, video ore electronic form, and may even be stored in cyberspace using a personal Web site.

“A lesson Californians can learn from Hurricane Katrina is that emergency aid may take some time in getting to you after a disaster,” said Candysse Miller, executive director of the Insurance Information Network of California. “Families can and should work together to plan not only how to escape and survive a catastrophe, but also how to recover financially.”

IINC offers free home inventory software, as well as brochures on homeowners insurance and recovering from a disaster, on its Web site at www.iinc.org.

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