No matter your feelings regarding the validity of climate change, it’s clear that the frequency of weather-related natural disasters is increasing. According to Phys.org, natural disasters are also evolving in intensity, wherein a single event creates a cascade of smaller events, effectively resulting in a full-fledged “disaster.” Thus, it’s more important than ever to prepare for any eventuality, whether you live in an area that’s prone to tropical storms, tornados, forest fires, or another type of natural disaster.
The unfortunate reality of these natural disasters, however, is the fact that preparation may only go so far, especially when it comes to cascading events. A prime example of a cascading disaster is the flooding of New Orleans and surrounding areas following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Whether they fled the city or not, local residents expected to see property damage from high winds and other direct effects of Katrina itself. No one could have predicted that numerous levees would fail, leaving much of the city underwater for weeks.
Disaster Relief and Planning Ahead
The failed levees of New Orleans are widely considered to be the worst engineering disaster in U.S. history, resulting in tens of billions of dollars of property damage alone. And for many survivors of the disaster, it took years before life was essentially back to normal and before homeowners received insurance settlements they could use to rebuild.
Their experiences should serve as a valuable lesson for future generations. Families who live in disaster zones have to be more cognizant of the risks that come with homeownership in these zones and have adequate contingency plans in place.
A well-rounded disaster plan involves much more than simply stockpiling non-perishable food, water, and survival supplies, however — you also need to plan for the event of personal injury and/or major property damage. In most cases, the best option during a natural disaster is to get your family out of the danger zone. You may end up staying in a cheap motel or on a family member’s couch, but it’s better than the alternative: remaining in the path of a deadly storm, flood, or forest fire.
Dealing with the Aftermath
But just because your family is out of harm’s way, injuries can still happen, and it may be difficult to procure medical care in areas affected by a natural disaster. So if you find yourself injured after a natural disaster, it’s important that you work to holistically heal. And “holistic” healing is less hokey than it sounds: The methodology simply advocates for natural pain management remedies following an injury, rather than simply turning to pharmaceuticals for pain relief. This becomes more important when access to those pharmaceuticals may be cut off because of the disaster.
Of course, prior to a natural disaster, it’s important to prepare a first aid kit that includes an adequate amount of over-the-counter pain medicine. But keep in mind that if you end up having to adhere to a mandatory evacuation in the wave of a pending natural disaster, much of your planning becomes null and void. And in an evacuation situation, it’s also possible that you eschew certain obligations as you focus on the basic survival needs of you and your family. For instance, if you’re holed up in temporary lodgings in the wake of a natural disaster, you may end up forgetting to pay your monthly utility bills.
Unfortunately, the local utility company may have little compassion for your situation, unless you reach out to them. By explaining your situation and working out a payment plan, you can avoid excess fees. What’s more, your utility bill is less likely to be turned over to a collection agency if you demonstrate good faith towards making payments. As part of your preparedness plan, therefore, write down important phone numbers, including utility companies, in a notebook that’s kept in your emergency evacuation kit.
Regarding Insurance and Government Assistance
You’ll also want to have the phone number of your insurance agent written down in your emergency evacuation notebook. A natural disaster could extensively damage your home, vehicle, or both, so you may end up having lengthy conversations with your insurance agent(s).
Even if your insurance doesn’t cover all the damage caused by a natural disaster, you still have options. You may choose to take out a loan to finance emergency auto repairs or home reconstruction, but don’t forget to also look for alternative forms of assistance. The U.S. government offers Disaster Relief Assistance grants, emergency help for utility bills, food costs after a disaster, and more. You may even qualify for mortgage assistance following a disaster, especially if the property damage was so severe that you need to rebuild.
When applying for government assistance as well as dealing with insurance companies, it’s important to know the ins and outs of your coverage. For example, you should understand the difference between home insurance and a home warranty. Home warranty plans typically only cover repair or replacement costs associated with everyday wear and tear. Conversely, homeowner’s insurance coverage is more extensive, paying for damage and loss that’s caused by outside forces, including natural disasters.
Even the most prepared among us may end up experiencing the effects of a natural disaster firsthand. The good news is that you likely won’t have to pay for disaster-related damage out of your own pocket, even if you have inadequate insurance coverage. There are numerous types of potential disasters, and if you live in an area that’s at high risk for natural disasters, make sure you have an evacuation plan in place. And make sure you know who to turn to after the fact, from friends and family to the federal government.