Hurricane Florence Preparation: What No One Tells You in a Disaster

In an extreme weather event like this or others, do you and your loved ones have all your key personal documents?

I can hear him now — my “Greatest Generation” World War II soldier dad — as part of his 50-year stellar career in insurance, culminating in the CEO position of a northern New Jersey independent insurance adjusters firm.

His company served the entire New York and New Jersey metropolitan area.

“They don’t know it now, but they’re going to need documentation to be covered by any carrier,” he would say. “People know how to call out, ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ when it comes to a medical emergency. But what about an historic hurricane like Hurricane Florence, due to hit the eastern coast on Thursday? With everything at risk or gone, an honest insurance adjuster can save the day if proper steps have been taken by the insured. Sadly, if it’s not been done — it’s too late.”

People need cash on them, of course, as they leave their homes and travel for safety. They also need photos of their homes (before and after, if possible). But as applied to Hurricane Flo and anything else that follows it, here’s my dad’s oft-quoted questionnaire that saved many people from headache — and heartache.

1.) Do you have a copy of your home/rental insurance policy? Most people receive a short summary from their carrier, my dad knew — but the entire policy is crucial for people when their insurance adjuster comes to call.

If you don’t have it, get it now and familiarize yourself with as much as you can understand. For example, you may have provisions that cover expenses for evacuation measures, as well as emergency expenses needed, such as pricey medications for a family member that need to be filled asap.

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2.) Are you keeping receipts of all expenditures in connection with the hurricane? Most folks are so wrapped up in the emotional fall-out or immediate actions that they forget about this. And guesswork later won’t count with some big carriers.

Related: Hurricane Irma: What Everyone Must Know

For example, you need to keep receipts for such items as emergency-related food, water, medication, fuel, supplementary power sources (from generators to batteries), protective clothing, and the more-than-the-usual first aid items found in a kit, depending on the size of your family and your needs.

3.) Do you have a hard-copy journal for recording day-to-day entries, whether evacuating or staying at home? My dad used to say, “Think of your insurance company like the IRS — they aren’t very different.” Documentation, with the date and time (of day or night), is essential, along with receipts (to staple to every journal page if you can).

For example, you may have a child with asthma, as I do. You’ll have purchased all medications, including an Epi-Pen pack. But what if the stress of the hurricane brings about unintended results? The asthma is brought under control — but the child is still under duress from the event itself, unable to sleep, eat, or communicate his needs effectively. You need to document the physical and emotional heartache from A to Z — and that includes yours as the parent.

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4.) Do you have all vital documents at the ready? My dad would insist his insured had instant access to bank records — today that would include checking, savings, credit and debit card statements, tax records, wills and estate documents, as well as any portfolios. These all should be accessible if you encounter a financial worst-case scenario.

If these are not all organized now, purchase file folders, label them by category, and insert the proper hard copies inside as soon as you can. (This is not the time to back up records onto any tech device that may not work during or after a hurricane hits.)

5.) Do you have access to email addresses and phone numbers among your circles? Years ago family and friends generally resided nearby, but today our circles are spread far and wide. Nonetheless, some may be vital for you.

Related: 18 Stunning Numbers That Showed Harvey’s Devastation

Contact and/or call your family and friends now to alert them of your circumstances, if you haven’t aready. Also, communicate while you can whatever news reports are accessible from their end vs. yours. Even years ago, my dad was amazed at how differently skewed “the news” would be, depending on the area affected.

Most Americans are such good-hearted people — so don’t hesitate to make whatever contacts you and your family might need in a pinch. In the words of my dear old dad, Just as important as being safe is being smart…”

The author, a retired attorney, is a published poet and columnist in Arizona; she is also a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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