Every year, we seem to experience damaging storms like last year’s Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria.
And hurricanes aren’t the only natural disasters we have to worry about. This time of year also brings wildfires, tornados and other potentially disastrous weather conditions.
When a hurricane, wildfire or other natural disaster hits, many people aren’t prepared: Dealing with damage to your home or being forced to evacuate for days, weeks or longer can be expensive and stressful.
Don’t assume it won’t happen to you; most of us will be affected at some point. According to the World Health Organization, natural disasters affect about 160 million people each year. Make sure you’re prepared for a potential disaster by taking the following steps before there’s a threat in your area.
- Make sure you have the right insurance. Consider the likelihood of natural disasters in your area, and purchase the necessary insurance to make sure you’re protected. For instance, look at this interactive map to see the flooding history in your area. Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover flooding, but flood insurance is available as a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from some private insurers. Damage from hurricane winds is generally covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance, but because much of the damage of a hurricane can be caused by flooding in its aftermath, people living in hurricane-prone areas may need to purchase flood insurance.
Damage from wildfires is generally covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance. However, if you live in a wildfire-prone area, you may also live near the San Andreas fault, where you can expect to experience an earthquake during your lifetime. And homeowners insurance policies don’t usually cover earthquakes. You may purchase a separate policy or an add-on policy for earthquake insurance.
- Make sure you have enough insurance. In addition to having the right kind of insurance, you also need to purchase the right amount. For instance, if your home is worth $300,000 but you only cover it for $200,000, the insurer will only pay $200,000 in the event of a total loss.
- Keep copies of insurance policies safe and accessible. Most likely, you can access your insurance policies and other important information electronically, but it’s wise to print copies of the policies and keep them in a fireproof safe or a lock box. That way you can easily grab them when needed to call your insurance company and file a claim.
- Have cash on hand. Even if you have great insurance, it takes time to file a claim and get paid after a natural disaster. So it’s wise to have some cash available in case you have to evacuate. Work towards saving $1,000 or whatever amount you think you’d need to pay for a hotel, meals and other necessities for a few days in the event of an emergency. Having money in the bank is certainly helpful, but keep some cash in your in-home safe as well, just in case.