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The three steps needed for successful preparedness

Posted On Thu, September 5, 2013

September may be known as the start of football season, the end of summer and the return of students to classes, but it's also recognized as National Preparedness Month. As such, many organizations are taking advantage of the awareness period by informing families about how they can ready themselves to handle catastrophes, should they transpire.

Richard Reed, senior vice president of disaster cycle services for the American Red Cross, noted that the first thing parents should do is map out a plan of action.

"Having a plan outlining what household members will do in an emergency is the best thing they can do to be prepared for an emergency or large-scale disaster," said Reed. "Things can happen very quickly, giving people only minutes to react. Planning ahead can help keep everyone safe."

Emergency plans require a group effort
But in order for a plan to be successful, everyone in the family has to contribute, Reed noted. Not only that, but each member of the family should be clear about what their role is in the event of a situation that calls for an enhanced degree of awareness.

"Often people are not at home when a disaster occurs and they may not be able to get back into their neighborhood," said Reed. "Plans should include decisions about where everyone will go if ordered to evacuate and what route they will take to get there."

Because conditions vary depending on the situation, there should be multiple outlets in which to reach a gathering station, Reed noted. For example, if one road is closed, families should have a "plan B" so that they can still get to a central location for everyone to meet at, if separated at the time of an evacuation order.

Put together a kit
In addition to an emergency plan, families should also be sure to establish an emergency kit. According to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, these kits should be well stocked with essential items built to last, ideally, seven days - but at the very least, 72 hours. Crucial items to have in an emergency kit include water, non-perishable sources of food, a weather radio, flashlight and replacement batteries in different sizes, as well as first-aid items like bandages, gauze and ointment.

Something else to have in an emergency kit are important documents. This may include a home insurance policy, contact information for friends and family - both extended and immediate - in addition to birth certificates and passports.

Make a home inventory
Another point of issue that families should be sure to address during National Preparedness Month is a home inventory. Similar to how provider supply policyholders with insurance quotes, a home inventory gives insurers an idea of how much certain belongings and valuables are, in the event that a claim needs to be made. But they're also advantageous for policyholders as well, as they provide them with information on when something was purchased, at what location and what the price was at the time it was bought. The best way of going about developing a home inventory, according to PCI, is going from room to room and taking a picture of valuable possessions. Either on the back of the picture or on an accompanying piece of paper, the item should be detailed. For example, if the belonging is electronic, details should include the make, model and serial number.

Because the average consumer buys a variety of things in a given year, it's important to update these inventories every once in awhile, PCI, recommended.

Christopher Hackett, director of personal lines for PCI, said that if families have made an inventory, developed an emergency kit and completed an emergency plan, they're already ahead of the game.

"In the event of a disaster, these three simple steps may protect you from harm as well as help you speed up the recovery process," said Hackett.

Feedback or questions? Email the editor here.

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