Before and After a Natural Disaster: Protecting Your House

Whether it’s a major hurricane that destroys entire homes or a low-grade quake that causes a minor foundation crack, nearly everyone will encounter the power of Mother Nature – and the costs associated with it – at some point. According to a recent online study conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of post-disaster financial recovery program Project Porchlight, nearly three-fourths (71%) of Americans experience a financial burden when affected by a natural disaster. Forty-two percent incurred out-of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance, while 48% tapped savings or retirement funds and 36% used credit cards or personal loans to finance their recovery. No matter where you live or what your risk level is for being affected by a natural disaster, it’s critical to be prepared on all fronts. Taking precautionary steps to aid your future recovery and knowing what to do in the aftermath of a disaster will increase the odds of rebuilding both your physical home and sense of personal well-being more quickly. Here are a few suggestions to get you started on the path to preparedness:
Crucial Contacts While the radio and local media often provide information regarding available assistance during and after a disaster, it’s a great idea to have that data at your fingertips beforehand. Save the numbers of emergency assistance agencies such as the American Red Cross in your cell phone contacts. Get and store the numbers of your immediate neighbors so you can keep tabs on each other during an emergency. Many pets become afraid during the commotion of a hurricane or earthquake and escape the house, so having your local animal control number handy can be a lifesaver if you have to track them down.
Create a Kit A solid survival kit is one of the most valuable things to have at the ready when calamity strikes. Gather household basics such as gallons of water (one per person per day, for at least three days), non-perishable foods for both people and pets, flashlights, first aid kit and a battery powered radio with extra batteries. Include any prescription medications, as well as other health-related needs. Store items in airtight plastic bags and put the entire supply kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.
Document Your Property When you’re forced to evacuate during a disaster, there’s little or no time to gather together important documents and proof of ownership of valuable items. So, well before there’s any indication of an emergency, take time to gather together important papers such as birth certificates, passports, insurance policies and your latest mortgage statement to ensure you have contact info for your mortgage servicer. Take photos or a video of every room in your house, focusing on walls, cabinets and large appliances.
Realize Your Risk Most of us understand the need for homeowners insurance. However, many people are underinformed when it comes to choosing the type of coverage that will protect them when a flood or other natural disaster happens. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) started the #YourRiskIsReal campaign as part of an ongoing effort to educate consumers about flood risks and the need to consider purchasing flood insurance. Their website ( offers a short, interactive What the Flood! quiz that presents complex insurance concepts in easy-to-understand terms. Answers to questions such as “If a hurricane floods your car, do you file a claim with auto or home insurance?” can help reveal misconceptions you may have about what kind of protection you need, and how to use it to its fullest advantage.
Make the Call Your mortgage servicer should be one of the first calls you make after a disaster. If you live and work in an area impacted by a storm, flood or other natural catastrophe, you could be eligible for assistance with your mortgage loan, such as late charge waivers and suspension of negative credit reporting. If your home is moving toward foreclosure, a moratorium could be placed on the proceedings to allow time to reevaluate. But if your home loan is in good standing, an agreement to temporarily pause mortgage payments (forbearance period) might be granted. Your servicer has your best interest in mind, and is there to work with you to ensure that you’re able to regroup as quickly as possible.
Put a proactive plan in place today and reap the rewards of reassurance!
AUGUST 1: National Mountain Climbing Day
AUGUST 4: U.S. Coast Guard Day
AUGUST 9: Book Lovers Day
AUGUST 15: National Relaxation Day
AUGUST 20: National Radio Day
AUGUST 26: National Dog Day
AUGUST 31: National Eat Outside Day

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