Protect your Place and your Peace of Mind

By: Stacy Neir

As you look for a new home, plan your move or settle in to your new house, you may want to think about emergency planning. The increased number of severe weather incidents is heating up our TV sets, bringing home the aftermath of a major (or minor) disaster. Rather than living in fear or ignoring the possibility, you can take a few simple steps to prepare yourself and your family, while mitigating the potential for damage to your home.

The first step is to assess your risk - what types of disasters could you potentially face? If you are looking to relocate, you may want to choose a home that is not in a flood plain, on a fault line or in a wildfire prone area. Is your current dwelling at risk of an earthquake, hurricane or ice storm? Understanding your area will help you decide what kind of action makes sense.

There are a number of things you can do to protect your property. For very little cost you can install smoke detectors (remember to test them regularly), which are a necessity in every home. If you live in a wildfire prone area, clear brush from around your home and ask your local fire department to assess the dwelling. If you live in an earthquake zone, secure heavy items, like bookshelves and hot water heaters, in the home. This will protect your family from injury and prevent further damage. If you're at risk for hurricanes invest in storm windows or cut to fit plywood.

Create a plan for your home that includes an escape route and an out of town contact number should your family be separated. Practice it will all members of the household. Know how to turn off the utilities.

Prepare an evacuation or "grab and go" kit. This should include copies of all your important papers including financial and family records, medical information, copies of prescriptions, some cash or traveler's checks, a list of emergency contacts, bank information and insurance policies. Also include food and water, first aid supplies, tools, emergency supplies, clothing and bedding.

Make a household inventory -keeping a written description of your belongings will help you when it's time to make an insurance claim. If you have access to a camera or a video camera make a visual record of your home's contents - it will make your claim that much stronger. Note how much items cost, record serial numbers, and don't forget to include your vehicles and the contents of your garage. Remember that having insurance is also important - without it you may find yourself facing the loss of your possessions with no means to replace them.

For more ideas on how to prepare and protect your home and family visit the many emergency preparedness sites on the web, because being prepared brings peace of mind.

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