Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Preparing for a Long-Term Disaster

Fortunately, so far, it looks like Hurricane Dorian is mostly going to miss the US as a major hurricane (it's currently been downgraded to a tropical storm).  Unfortunately, the hurricane hammered the Bahamas.  As this hurricane has shown, many disasters that people encounter won't be simple, quickly resolved situations but rather long-term disasters that will require comprehensive resources--and lots of time--for recovery.  Note that these sorts of long-term disasters can be anything from Katrina-esque hurricanes to major extended medical issues to a house fire that destroys your entire home, etc.  Here's how to prepare:

  • Have insurance.  Home, life, health, auto, long-term care, etc.  By being insured, you will have the financial backing to restore your home/health/vehicle/family after a disaster has wiped you out.  As a side note, make sure you know exactly what your insurance covers.  You generally need special riders for things like floods, earthquakes, etc.
  • Have an emergency fund.  The bigger, the better.  The people who have the least resources--financial, social, material--are the ones who have the most difficulty recovering from a long-term disaster.  Not only do they have no car to escape, once the disaster passes, they may end up homeless and at the mercy of the government and various service organizations for something as basic as food and water.
  • Have an evacuation plan.  First, you need a way to escape the disaster (via car or air is usually the best option), and then you need a place to live until recovery is completed.  Can you stay in a hotel for shorter-term events?  Do you have a bug-out location or bug-out RV to shelter you for the longer term if needed?  Do you have family or friends you can stay with for longer term events?  Do you have the means, including money and good credit, to lease an apartment or house if you will be out of your home for months on end?
  • Be debt free.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the fewer and smaller bills you have, the easier it will be to stay--or get back on--your feet after a disaster.
  • Know what resources are available to you.  Know how to file an insurance claim after a disaster (and have all of your ducks in a row including a complete home inventory, etc).  Know how to access FEMA and other government resources to help you recover from a disaster.
  • Have material goods on hand.  Some of the biggest needs after a disaster are the basics--water, food, gas, etc.--and for many people who haven't planned ahead, accessing these items can be near impossible until government help arrives.  Note that you want triple-redundant plans for these items such as storing bottled water in your home where it would be accessible after a disaster but if that water is washed away with your home in a hurricane, you want to have a water filtration system in your BOB, cases of bottled water in your bug-out vehicle, and even the means to create a wain-water collection system.  Ditto food preps, shelter preps, medical preps, etc.
  • Be in good physical shape.  Again with the sounding like a broken record thing: the best way to be prepared for whatever may happen is to be in good physical shape.  I've seen plenty of disaster situations where people are left with literally just the clothes on their backs and have nothing more but their physical abilities and knowledge to help the survive until the disaster situation is resolved.
  • Be able to relocate.  In some cases--Hurricane Katrina, for example--relocating to an entirely new place is the option some people decided to choose.  Can you pick up your life and move it, and all of your remaining possessions, to an new location?  How would you plan ahead for this?

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