It doesn’t matter if you live on the Gulf Coast of Texas, near the banks of the Elbe in Dresden, or on the fault line in Nepal… natural disasters can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone.

We might not be able to stop fires, floods, or earthquakes from occurring but with a little bit of forethought we can plan and prepare to make our escape (and recovery) much easier.

The recent flooding, explosions, and wind damage caused by Hurricane Harvey have reminded us of the importance of disaster preparation. Older adults, in particular, will benefit greatly from these lessons shared by AARP.

Protect Your Paperwork

Have important papers filed in a portable file system so that you can grab it and go if you need to evacuate for any reason.

It’s also good to have a copy of all of your important documents filed in a separate location- on a CD or external hard drive stored in a safe deposit box or in a relative’s home. Emailing yourself copies of these documents is also an easy way to ensure you can access these papers from any location that has an internet connection.

Prepare to Prove It

Along with your official papers (identification; birth, marriage, divorce, and death certificates; insurance information; deeds to houses, cars, and boats; financial paperwork; wills; and prescription lists), it is good to also have recorded proof of your property, possessions, and policies.

Carefully read your homeowner’s or renter’s policy before disaster strikes. Know what you’re covered for and find out what kind of documentation is needed to prove what you own. Have pictures of your property and possessions stored with your insurance policies for convenience in the event of an emergency.

Beware of Scammers

Disasters bring out the best in some people (the heroes, the volunteers, the generous) and, unfortunately, the worst in others. These are the scammers.

There are two types of scams to beware of. First, if you are the victim of a natural disaster and you are in need of assistance, beware of any agency or organization that comes to you asking for money to do repairs on your home.

It is best to wait until you have spoken with your insurance company and have asked them for instructions on how to have your property damage properly assessed and for recommendations of reputable repair companies before you agree to let anyone provide any kind of repair services.

Second, if you want to donate financially to those in need, do not respond to solicitations received via email, text, or social media advertisements. Carefully research reputable organizations and make sure that you know exactly where your donations will go.

Ask for What You Need

If you should ever have to evacuate, whether you end up in a shelter or in the home of a loved one or in a hotel room many miles away, chances are you will not have everything that you need.

While you may not be in a hurry to replace many of your possessions, it is important that you reach out to disaster services to get the items that you need such as medications, chemo or renal therapies, and other medical supplies.

Food, shelter, and medical care are essentials that you should never be afraid to ask for during a disaster situation.

A simple phone call to a government or other official national disaster service can put your mind at ease and provide you with the crucial elements that you need to start putting the pieces back together after a catastrophe occurs.

Do you have a disaster plan? Have you ever lived through a natural disaster? What is your best tip for being prepared? Join in the conversation!

Let's Have a Conversation!