Millions without power following devastating severe storms in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states made the heat wave this summer's double whammy.
If that's not depressing enough, wildfires in the western U.S. have destroyed hundreds of homes as they scorch valleys and hills and everything else in their path.
Let's not forget the very heavy rains and flooding along the Gulf Coast and northern Florida. And to top it all off, it's still early in this year's hurricane season, and we've already seen what tornadoes can do across so many populated areas on the country.
I'm not even going to take a guess at what else could happen. And that brings me back to the ongoing issue of the importance of preparedness.
The value of an accurate home inventory cannot be ignored. Natural disasters destroy homes, apartments and personal possessions, but the loss can be compounded when thieves come out to prey on the disaster victims.
Check out the Insurance Information Institute's free home inventory computer program along with a smartphone app available at http://www.knowyourstuff.org. This is a very easy way to catalogue your belongings with photos and detail of each item in your home or rental unit. The information is stored on the Internet so it is far safer than keeping a hard copy in your home.
Next, develop your personal disaster plan in case of severe weather, a fire or other incident that requires you and your family to seek shelter or evacuate your residence. Such a plan must also be rehearsed, especially if children or the elderly are involved.
If a tornado or other severe storm threatens your home, where will everyone go for safe shelter? If flooding is imminent, where will you and your family go, and how will you get there? If an evacuation is ordered ahead of pending catastrophe, have you considered alternate routes if you know the major highways will be at a virtual standstill?
Do you have a "Go Kit" ready if you must evacuate or even shelter in place? That means a supply of food, prescription medicines and over-the-counter items of importance, as well as other emergency supplies such as flashlights or other portable light sources, a battery or hand-crank radio or TV unit, a first-aid kit that is tailored for your family's needs such as items for small children, those with health conditions and the elderly. A supply of water enough for each family member for at least three days is also important if all utilities are lost.
You can find very helpful information on your state's Emergency Management Agency website. View this website: http://www.fema.gov/about/regions/regioniv/ that lists each state's websites in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Another must-have in your home or apartment is a National Weather Service alert radio. Keep in mind that outdoor sirens are not available in many areas, and commercial radio or television is of no help if the family is asleep or the power goes out. The battery back-up on weather alert radios is truly a life-saving item when no radios or TV are on in the home, day or night.
There is one more thing that should be an important consideration. If you know severe weather is possible in your area, make sure your family vehicles are gassed up since service stations are often off-line when the power goes out.
David Colmans is the executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service. Contact him at 770-565-3806 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.