How Much Disaster Prep Should I Do In A “Safe” Zone?

By Damon Poeter

Quite a few people don’t even begin to think about the strength of their roof or their emergency evacuation plan until there’s a tropical storm bearing down on their area.

You’re definitely not one of those types.

If anything, you might be accused of worrying a bit too much about what might go wrong if a calamitous event strikes. Perhaps you keep an earthquake emergency kit, despite living in the middle of Iowa, where plates shifting underground are highly unlikely. Maybe you live hundreds of miles from the coast, but frequently visit the National Hurricane Center website during hurricane season.

Maybe your family constantly hears “Better safe than sorry” and “Be prepared” whenever you’re around. That’s a good thing, says Matthew Angel, a USAA advice director and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner.

Planning Ahead Is the Smart Move

“Lots of people don’t think about prepping for a disaster until after the disaster strikes,” he says. “They don’t think about their homeowners coverage until after the storm is on its way, and by then it’s too late to beef up the policy. They don’t think about installing a security system in their home until after a break-in.

“So if you’re already thinking about protecting your home and family before they’re in jeopardy, you’re on the right track.”

Angel notes that recent weather events have demonstrated that nature’s ferocity can be unleashed in areas where it wasn’t expected or with unexpected intensity. While Houston, due to its location, has seen its share of hurricanes and floods through the years, few anticipated a storm like Harvey, which dumped trillions of gallons of rain in a matter of days, inundating homes in areas thought to be at low risk for flooding.

“You should widen your thought about what could happen where you live,” he says.

Protecting Your Family Is Job One

You don’t have to live in Tornado Alley or along a major geological fault line to have a plan for surviving and riding out a disaster. It’s prudent to have an emergency plan and an emergency kit in place no matter where you live, because even if you’re at low risk for a hurricane or earthquake, events like house fires and power outages can happen anywhere.

Here are some basic things you can do to protect yourself and your family in an emergency:

  • Have an evacuation plan for getting out of your home quickly and run periodic drills.
  • Establish a meeting place for your family members if your home becomes inaccessible.
  • Keep several gallons of potable water and a stock of canned goods in your home.
  • Keep and maintain emergency tools and supplies like flashlights, fire extinguishers and a first-aid kit.

You can also protect your home by keeping up with basic maintenance tasks like trimming trees, repairing the roof, cleaning gutters and maintaining proper insulation for windows and doors.

Know Your Risk Profile and Adjust

Regardless of where you live, regularly reassess your overall risk profile with an insurance expert, Angel says. The purpose of such discussions isn’t to push products but rather to review your overall insurance needs and how they may have changed.

“It’s a good idea to call an insurance expert once a year to review your overall insurance picture,” he says. “What new risks have you taken on, what might have changed in your outlook? You may be considering flood insurance where you weren’t before. If you’ve added a trampoline or a pool to your backyard, your liability might have gone up, and it might be time to discuss an umbrella policy.”

Looking for more tips on maintaining and protecting your home throughout the year? Consult USAA’s month-by-month guide to safeguarding your house.

Matthew Angel serves as an advice director at USAA, focusing on the personal finance tenets of short-term saving and home advice. Matthew holds professional credentials including a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, AAMS® and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Matthew’s history at USAA includes seven years serving members as a financial planner and leading teams of financial professionals to help members achieve financial security. Outside of work, Matthew enjoys hunting and riding motorcycles, and is a proud husband and father to four kids.

 

 


Safety guidelines are not intended to be all inclusive, but are provided for your consideration. Please use your own judgment to determine what safety features/procedures should be used in each unique situation.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in the United States, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete the CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

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