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Preparations for hurricanes can pay off in other events
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Preparing for the 2013 hurricane season is wise, even if no major storm strikes the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Susan Cosgrove, an area family resource management agent in Newton County with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the steps taken to prepare for a hurricane will help whenever an unexpected disaster strikes.
“Organization and documentation are the keys to recovery after a storm, fire or theft,” Cosgrove said. “When something is stolen or destroyed, it’s too late to have it insured or to record the identification number.”
Review insurance policies regularly to understand what is or is not covered. Be aware that most homeowners’ insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Keep a written and photographic record of all major household items and valuables. Create files that include serial numbers and sales receipts of appliances and electronics.
Some items need to be stored in to-go boxes for evacuations, and some items can be kept in other safe locations, such as fireproof boxes or safe deposit boxes. Reasons for evacuations extend beyond hurricanes and may include radioactive or chemical accidents.
“Most original documents should be stored at your financial institution in a safe deposit box,” she said. “Then all you need to do is keep up with the key. Copies of those documents could be kept with you in case you are delayed in retrieving them from the safer location.”
Cosgrove said to-go boxes should include copies of emergency phone numbers, cash and rolls of quarters, keys to safe deposit boxes, copies of both sides of credit and debit cards, and copies of important paperwork, such as insurance policies and numbers, children’s immunization records, health care directives and prescriptions for medications and eyeglasses. A thumb drive with important documents, photos and other items is easy to include in the box.
“Anticipate the needs of all the individuals included in the family’s evacuation. Depending on the disaster, stores and banks may be impacted, limiting the public’s access to additional money and items needed for an evacuation,” she said.
See a complete list of to-go box contents.
Ryan Akers, assistant Extension professor of community preparation and disaster management, said preparing for disasters should occur long before a storm is on the radar. All preparedness plans should include food, water, batteries, flashlights, a manual can opener, a first-aid kit, and a battery-powered or hand-crank radio (including a NOAA weather radio).
“Experts recommend at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food and water per person, estimating about one gallon of water per person per day,” he said. “Hand sanitizer, such as moist towelettes, and garbage bags are important. In many cases, tools such as a wrench or pliers are needed to turn off utilities. If children are part of the family, plan for their needs, including hygiene items and games.”
After preparing for a family’s needs in a disaster, Akers encouraged individuals to help their neighbors, placing a special focus on individuals with special needs, young children and senior adults, as well as small and large animals.
“Each group has additional issues to consider when preparing for adverse conditions,” he said.
For lists of emergency supplies, Akers recommended websites such as http://www.ready.gov or http://www.redcross.org.
Mariah Smith of the MSU Extension Center for Technology Outreach said backup measures are important for computers, even on quiet sunny days.
“Computers have a way of crashing when you least expect it and at the most inconvenient times,” she said. “They are also very susceptible to theft, which is always unexpected.”
Smith said one of the quickest, simplest methods to protect important documents or photos is to email files to yourself as soon as they become irreplaceable.
“Some people use external hard drives or storage devices like thumb drives or compact discs to save duplicate copies of photos or work,” she said. “If there is time to evacuate personal belongings during an emergency, take backup devices, laptops or desktop computers. Take digital cameras as well as chargers for cameras and phones.”
Computer equipment, including monitors, keyboards and mice, are easier to replace and can be left for last. Enclose items left behind in a heavy-duty plastic bag off the floor and up high if flooding is a possibility.
“Normally, it is the floodwaters following a hurricane that cause most damage to electronics,” she said. “Remove all paper from printers, and unplug everything from power before evacuating.”
For more information on protecting electronic data, read Extension publication Before the Storm: Protecting Your Data from Water Damage.