September is National Preparedness Month, and your BBB is sharing resources to help you ensure you're prepared should natural disasters hit our area.
Make a Disaster Plan. An excellent resource for disaster planning is the Ready.gov website, which includes tips and suggestions to be prepared for the impact of stormy weather. Building a plan in advance is key to your family's safety (pets too) during destructive weather. Consider the following:
— How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
— What is my shelter plan?
— What is my evacuation route?
— What is my family/household communication plan? (FEMA offers a template your family can use to build your plan at ready.gov/plan)
— Do I have an ample emergency supply kit?
Make a Financial Readiness Plan: FEMA offers excellent tips on building a financial readiness plan, which can also be accessed at ready.gov. Highlights include:
— Do a household inventory. Inventory possessions and document them through photos or a video. This could help if you file insurance claims.
— Take advantage of technology. Technology tools include online bill-pay, virtual safe deposit boxes, and USB flash drives.
— Buy a lockable, fireproof file box. Put important documents in it and keep it in a secure, accessible location so you can grab it and go.
— Rent a safe deposit box. Consider storing critical documents offsite. For easy access, consider keeping originals in your fireproof box and copies in your safe deposit box.
— Make sure accounts are updated. Review now to confirm that your bank account and other account information is current. Organize your finances and maintain copies of key account information in your fireproof box.
Stormproof Your Home. Now is the time to review your home for areas that need repair or can be strengthened. Here are some areas to consider:
— Are there any signs of leaks from your roof or loose shingles? Do you need to shore up your roof?
— Does your home have a basement that may need a sump pump or needs to be waterproofed?
— Do you have any trees too close to the house that need to be removed?
— Are there other areas that need to be repaired and could worsen during a storm?
— Do you need to buy a home warranty?
By being proactive in these areas, you can minimize damage if strong storms roll through. BBB provides lists of BBB Accredited Businesses you can turn to for these home projects at bbb.org.
Check Your Insurance. Check your current insurance policy to be sure your home has adequate coverage for storm damage, and for coverage to reimburse you for temporary shelter, clothing, furniture, or other items that could be affected by extreme weather.
Build or Replenish an Emergency Supply Kit. At ready.gov/kit, you'll find checklists and a printable shopping list to help you build an emergency supply kit. Once you create or replenish your emergency supply kit, here are some additional things to consider:
— Keep canned food in a cool, dry place.
— Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers.
— Replace expired items as needed.
— Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family's needs change.
Since you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare and store supplies for home, work, and in your cars.
Check Out Online Retailers and Watch for Price Gouging
Bogus and deceptive online retail sites have recently made it to the top of BBB's list of scams. While you're stocking up for emergencies, or any time that you're considering purchasing from an unfamiliar retailer, check them out first with BBB at bbb.org or by calling 423-266-6144.
Unfortunately, storm damage can bring price gouging, which refers to when a seller spikes the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair. Buying in advance can help you keep costs down and avoid delays in getting supplies.
Overall, being prepared will help you keep your family, pets and your home safer. "Start with Trust" by turning to your BBB to find trustworthy companies as part of your plan. Visit BBB.org or call your BBB at 423-266-6144.
Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga