Whether it's a house fire, earthquake, orterrorist attack, at any time, a disastercould strike quickly and without warning.With a little advance planning andcommon sense, much can be done to protect yourselfand your loved ones in the wake of a disaster. Afterweathering last summer's fires in California, I foundout how a practical disaster survival plan can help.
Plan so that each family member can contact thesame person in an emergency. Choose an out-of-statecontact who can receive and communicate informationto separated family members. Be sure that eachfamily member has the telephone number of the centralcontact and the resources to call them. Withyoung children, be sure that the school and caregiverknow to call the central contact if you can't bereached. Plan a rendezvous point where your familywill meet both within and outside of your immediatearea, and practice getting there.
Find out what kinds of disasters are most likely tooccur in your area and where to obtain disaster information.Inquire about emergency plans. If none exist,consider creating one. Talk to your neighbors. Decidewho will check on elderly or disabled neighbors. Findout if anyone has specialized equipment like a powergenerator or expertise that might help in a crisis. Havinga fellow doctor by your side may prove very helpful.
Staying or Evacuating
The first important decision is whether to stay putor evacuate. You should plan for both possibilities.Use common sense and available information todetermine if there is immediate danger. There may besituations when it's best to stay where you are and createa barrier between yourself and potentially contaminatedair outside. In these situations, take the followingsteps:
There may be conditions under which you decide,or are ordered, to evacuate. If you have a car, keep ahalf tank of gas in it at all times; if you don't have acar, plan how you will leave. Find out alternate routesand other means of transportation out of your area.Take the following steps when evacuating:
Far from Home
Take necessary precautions if you're in a movingvehicle when disaster strikes. If there are factors thatmake it difficult to control the vehicle, pull over, stop thecar, and set the parking brake. Follow these useful tips:
Listen to instructions and stay calm.
Survival Kit Assembly
Consider putting together two types of kitsâ€”one foryour home or office with everything needed if you areconfined in either place, and a portable, lightweight,smaller one that you can take in the event of an evacuation.In addition to survival necessities such as food,water, first aid supplies, etc, your disaster survival kitshould include a waterproof, portable container. For thecontainer, keep the following in mind:
List insurance carriers and policy numbers.
Surviving a disaster is the first order of business,but make sure you can retain your lifestyle after thestorm. If disaster strikes, an inventory of your householdpossessions that lists and details everything youown could help prove the value of what you owned ifthose possessions are damaged or destroyed. In additionto providing documentation for tax deductionsyou claim for losses, you will also likely receive afaster, fairer payment from your insurance company.
Make a complete inventory of personal possessions,including the model, serial numbers, original purchasedates, and price, along with copies of receipts, cancelledchecks, and appraisals for valuable items.
If creating a written inventory of your worldlypossessions seems like too much work, consider anannotated photo or video inventory of your home andpersonal possessions. In addition to saving you time,pictures often describe possessions better than words. Don't leave your only copy at home,where it might be destroyed.
The best way to protect yourself and your lovedones is to have a plan in place that addresses your particularcircumstances and location. Once you've establishedyour disaster plan, have periodic rehearsals toensure that everyone in your family knows what to doin an emergency. Teach your children what to do if theyare alone when disaster strikes. Contact the USDepartment of Homeland Security and the AmericanRed Cross for more complete and up-to-date disasterplanning information. Above all, stay calm, be patient,and think before you act.
For more information
Martin Kuritz is a retired estate planner, who, formore than 30 years, has helped clients effectivelycommunicate their economic and personal wishesto their heirs. His 1993 best-selling book, TheBeneficiary Book: A Family Information Organizer,has sold more than 1 million copies. He is alsothe coauthor of 2 other books, My Busine$$ Bookand Take Good Care of My Baby. For information about these books,call 800-222-9125 or visit www. active-insights.com.