This September is National Preparedness Month. Held annually since 2004, National Preparedness Month offers an opportunity to remind ourselves, our neighbors, and family members what it means to be prepared before disaster strikes. In the wake of devastating fires across the state, this message of the month rings especially important. 

National Preparedness Month is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The goal of National Preparedness Month is to make everyone in the United States prepared for any type of disaster. In Montana, disaster often comes in the form of unpredictable forest fires at summer’s end. In this year full of uncertainty, it’s especially important to get your disaster plan in place. 

Better Business Bureau, with tips from FEMA (check out Ready.gov for more), offer you these tips on how to fully prepare for a disaster:

Plan for Your Household 

Disasters don’t plan ahead, but you can. Start by making an emergency plan with everyone in the home.

Put together an emergency plan by discussing important topics with members of your household. First, discuss how you will receive emergency alerts and warnings. Next, nail down your shelter plan, your evacuation route, and the household communication plan.

It’s best to practice your escape plan with your family or roommates. Don’t forget to include a plan for your animals. Practice this plan at least twice a year so you are fully prepared when disaster strikes.

Fill out an emergency plan, and share with everyone in your family, or household.

 

Get Your Documents in a Row 

Once a disaster strikes, the last thing you want to do is stress out because you can’t locate all of your personal information. Having access to personal, financial, medical, insurance and other records is crucial for starting the recovery process.

By making a financial emergency preparedness plan, you won’t have to wait until after a disaster strikes to start 

locating these items.

Gather all of your financial and critical personal, household, and medical information. Start putting money away into an emergency savings account and keep a small amount of cash on you just in case the ATM’s and credit cards stop working during a disaster.

Review your existing homeowners or renter’s insurance policy for the amount, and extent of coverage, to ensure you have the required amount of coverage for hazard situations. According to FEMA, more than half of all homeowners in the United States do not carry adequate homeowners’ insurance to replace their home and its contents should a catastrophic loss occur.

If you still aren’t sure where to begin, download the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit through FEMA.gov, and start today.

 

Learn Life Saving Skills

Learning basic home maintenance skills can protect your home and your family.

Learn how to turn off utilities like natural gas and electricity, and how to test and replace smoke alarms. It’s recommended to test smoke alarms every month, and to replace them every 10 years.

You should also know the ways to keep your home safe from cooking, heating, and electrical fires. Need some help? Check out ready.gov for tips on preventing these fires. 

 

Save for an Emergency

Did you know according to the Federal Reserve, over 40% of Americans don’t have $400 in savings? As 2020 has taught many of us, it’s important to be financially prepared for any type of disaster.

Start saving for a rainy, catastrophic day by opening an emergency savings account. As we mentioned earlier, leaving a small amount of cash at home in a safe place is also smart. 

It’s important to consider obtaining property, health, and life insurance. Review your existing policies for the amount and extent of coverage to ensure that what you have in place is enough for you and your family.

No matter how much you prepare, you may have some damage to deal with after a natural disaster. “Storm chasers” are contractors who seek to take advantage of disasters and get consumers to make quick and potentially uninformed decisions. For tips on protecting yourself from storm chasers and more disaster preparedness, visit bbb.org

Hannah Stiff is the State Director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific.