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Before a Disaster Hits You

Get Prepared

Is your Important Information handy if a disaster strikes you or your loved ones?

"Nine out of ten homeowners don't know where the deed to their home is.  Or for that matter, WHERE other important or irreplaceable documents are stored," according to Janet L. Hall, Professional Organizer and owner of OverHall Consulting.

According to Ms. Hall many people think that disasters will never happen to them, and never think about where or how their important or irreplaceable documents are kept and stored.

At the very least Ms. Hall states that a written record of important policy, account and phone numbers should be recorded, as well as medical information, in one easy to locate book.

These documents should be stored in a fire proof or safety deposit box:

Birth records
Bond certificates
Cemetery plot deed
Citizenship papers
Death certificates
Divorce records
Home Insurance
Investment records: keep only statements that have a purchase
or sell on them and year end statement.
Life Insurance
Living trust: give a copy to your doctor, attorney, and executor.
Living will: give a copy to your doctor, attorney, and executor.
Marriage records
Military records
Mutual fund certificates
Powers of attorney
Retirement plans
Separation records
Social security cards: you don't need these in your wallet unless
you are looking for a job or buying a house.
Stock certificates
Titles to vehicles, boat, camper/trailer
Will: copy

Need help with your Home Paper Clutter or getting it organized? Check out Janet's Email Course, 35 Days to Sorting and Organizing ALL Your Home Papers at her web site

How to Prepare for a Disaster
by: Shirley Green, Professional Organizer

[Editor's Note: Shirley went through four hurricanes last year when she first  moved to Florida. While living in Colorado she has been very close to wildfires and probably some blizzards also. Check out Shirley's Pink Sheet Emergency Medical Kit and Personal Paper Tracking System (a FEMA representative told Shirley "if the folks I have already seen had had this kit [ Personal Paper Tracking System] AND completed it,  life would be much easier for them and FEMA right now". ] 

One should always prepare for an evacuation to make that actual event go as smooth as possible but continue those optimistic prayers for the best. This family evacuation plan should be developed LONG before the storm or disaster hits. In other words - DO IT NOW! Don't wait! Do it while everyone involved is under a relaxed manner, minds are thinking rationally, there is plenty of time to locate a "designated single-point-of-contact", and evacuation routes can be determined. The plan can be reviewed and revised in a calm and logical manner. In other words, the more organized you are now, the easier you and your loved ones will tolerate the emergency event.

OK, let's get started. I cannot address everything in this article so will address the most important. Like anything in life, let's start AT THE BEGINNING.

Everyone should have an emergency family plan. This plan can be utilized for any type emergency, (i.e.: earthquakes, floods, fires, tornadoes, blizzards).

What should be in a FAMILY PLAN?

  • Discuss with the entire family the various hazards that could affect your family. Be well aware of your home and vehicle's vulnerability to the storm.

  • Locate a "safe" room or THE safest area in your home for each hazard identified in the previous step. In many circumstances, the safest area(s) may NOT be in your home BUT within your community.
  • Determine escape routes from your home and places for loved ones to meet. Keep the mileage just "outside" the storms expected "initial target" spot, rather than hundreds of miles away.
  • Designate an out-of-state family or friend as a "single-point-of-contact" for family members to check in with.
  • Make plans for pets.
  • Post emergency telephone numbers by the phone, placing a copy in each person's wallet/purse. Make certain that children know how and when to call 9-1-1.
  • Check your insurance policies. Many homeowners insurance policies do not include flood damage. Be aware that many insurance companies have a "cut off" time for any changes to policies prior to a major storm season arriving.

Stock up on non-perishable emergency supplies
>> water
>> food
>> blankets
>> pillows
>> clothing
>> first aid kit
>> toiletries/hygiene items
>> flashlight/batteries
>> radio - battery operated
>> cash
>> keys
>> toys, books, games, special stuffed animal
>> important documents (place them in a waterproof container)
>> tools
>> full gas tank in all vehicles
>> pet care items
>> NOAA weather radio ... this is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information direct from a nearby National Weather Service office.
>> First Aid kit ... be certain to include prescription drugs
>> Be certain that you have written down the drug name, strength, dosage, prescribing Dr., pharmacy name/number. Place this information in a waterproof container (just in case something happens to the First Aid kit)

Let's say you had these items together and the disaster is growing nearer and nearer and the decision has to be made, do we stay in our home or do we leave? (if the situation is a "voluntary evacuation").

If the situation is at a "mandatory" evacuation status, PLEASE DO NOT play "macho" and say "we can stick it out". Emergency Preparedness folks study these disasters for a living and get paid BIG BUCKS for what they do, PLEASE DO NOT second guess them!

After the Disaster
OK, the disaster has passed and you are allowed back into your residential area. You are now astutely aware of what you wish you would have had recorded and stored for the disaster you have just experienced. Make some detailed notes while these thoughts are fresh in your mind. Place these notes in a secure area.

Once the situation has settled down a bit and life seems a "tad bit more normal" then start working on the notes you made earlier. In addition, if the below was NOT part of your notes, you need to incorporate them into your action plan.

By creating a family plan and setting up an area of your home to be stocked with non-perishable emergency-need items is an excellent way to organize and prepare for the non-pre-warn disaster.

In the area with the supplies: replace items (such as batteries) every 6 months. Rotate the non-perishable foods out and replace them with fresh items. Go over your family plan as there may be updates that need to be documented.

The out-of-state single point of contact is "a must" in any disaster. So many times a large portion of land line phone lines are knocked out and everyone is trying to use what is still working thus overloading the circuits, not to mention people who are trying to call into the area from who knows where in the world. Many times the land line phones that are still working are only working on an "outbound" call format. Then the cell phone situation, more than likely a lot of the cell-towers have been damaged, thus restricting call flow. Also, keep in
mind Emergency personal should be given TOP priority to those cell phone airwaves. Respect their needs, they ARE trying to help you and your loved ones!
Permission is granted to reproduce, copy or distribute P.R.O.N.T.O. or any article(s) by Shirley M. Green
Copyright 2005 by Shirley M. Green, P.R.O.N.T.O.
Personal Records Organizer, LLC
P.O. Box 745845
Arvada, CO. 80006-5845

FEMA: Hurricane Preparedness , Preparing for a Tornado, Avoiding Wildfire Damage: A Checklist for Homeowners (PDF document), Wildfire: Are You Prepared?  (PDF document), Before A Flood, Before a Landslide or Mudslide , Winter Weather Preparedness Tips, Disaster Planning Tips for Pets, Livestock and Wildlife


Check out Janet's Blog, Organize IT for more information on disaster material goods donations and sharing your home with disaster evacuees.

Business-Continuation Plan: Preparing for the Disaster and Disaster Recovery Planning and Disaster Recovery Planning Without Destroying Your Budget

 Is Your Business Ready? Institute for Business & Home Safety has 10 quick questions to ask yourself.

Sample Business Continunity Plan

FEMA: Protecting Your Business From Disasters Some great reports here!

Check out our information and links for After the Disaster

Janet L. Hall
P.O. Box 263
Port Republic, MD 20676
Email Janet
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