Disaster Preparation: Do This Now
by A. Scott White, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®
President, Scott White Advisors
A friend in Colorado told me her family received pre-evacuation orders recently. Their home was in the path of a large wildfire, and they were instructed to pack the car and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. She told me that she grabbed the essentials and items she could think of, but she was uncertain what she and her family might need and frankly, her fear made it hard to think straight. As the fire moved through the area, my friend’s home was spared, but many around it weren’t.
Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis—these are a few examples of disasters that have required evacuations.
In some of these situations, we may have very little time to prepare to leave. In my friend’s wildfire example, some families left their homes with only the clothes they were wearing—and their pets. Here in Florida, hurricanes are typically anticipated and we may have a day or two to prepare. Regardless of the disaster situation, being prepared increases our chances of survival.
According to the American Red Cross, being prepared means being equipped with the proper supplies you may need in the event of an emergency or disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, says having an emergency kit, or Hurricane Kit here in Florida, is an important step to prepare and protect your household for unforeseen events. An emergency kit is essential for short term survival, providing vital items for you, your family or household, including domestic pets.
If you and your family don’t have an Evacuation Kit, also called a Go Kit, Hurricane Kit, Go Bag, or Survival Bag, now is the time to make one. To assist our clients, friends, and anyone who may find it helpful, we reviewed the best Evacuation Kits and created a Go! Kit for your use. It appears on the next page of this newsletter so that you can tear this page out and keep it. For your convenience, we have also posted it on our website at scottwhiteadvisors.com/emergency-evacuation-kit/ so you can share it with your family and friends. Our Go! Kit will help you and your family prepare for the unexpected.
The Importance of Replacement Cost Insurance
If your home is damaged or destroyed, you may expect your home insurance policy to help you rebuild—and to replace your personal belongings. But all coverage isn’t created equal, and how much you receive to rebuild depends a lot on what type of coverage you have.
According to a study by Ascent, nearly 60% of U.S. homes are underinsured by at least 18%.1 That means that 60% of homeowners may be in trouble if their home is destroyed. At the very least, they will have to pay the difference between how much their property is insured for and how much it costs to rebuild.
Replacement cost insurance coverage pays you to repair or replace your home and your belongings if some covered peril, such as fire, damages them. As long as replacement costs stay within your policy limits, you don’t have to pay anything out of pocket. Replacement cost coverage will pay the amount of money required to rebuild your home using similar materials, even if construction costs have risen since you took out the policy.
It’s important to accurately assess your home’s replacement cost so that you are insured to 100% of the value. Your home’s market value could be much higher than its replacement cost since its market value accounts for factors such as location, while replacement cost is based only on the cost to rebuild the structure. Your house’s replacement cost may be higher than market value if the house is old and has outdated features that aren’t up to current building codes. If the house is destroyed, it will have to be rebuilt in a way that makes it compliant with current building codes.
If you don’t have replacement cost coverage, you may find that when you file a claim, construction costs have risen so much because of inflation that your insurance payout isn’t enough to rebuild your home. I always recommend that my clients purchase replacement cost coverage—and that they review their coverage annually to make sure it is adequate. If you have questions about this important aspect of insurance planning, please contact me.
Create Your GO! Kit
Preparing a GO! Kit now so you are ready to GO at a moment’s notice is a critical component to emergency readiness. Use the below checklist to help you prepare your own GO! Kit.
Determine if your GO! Kit is:
- Digital (with digital images of all documentation)
- Physical (with original or hard copies of all documentation)
- Hybrid (a combination of digital and hard copies)
Share the digital/physical location and access with all family members in the house as well as trusted loved ones not living in your home. Keep this checklist by your door to prepare your items based on the time you have before you need to leave.
Access and Documentation
Contact and account access information
o Insurance agent(s): home, life, and medical insurance policies
o Bank: checking and savings account info/login + password
o Financial advisor: all investment and retirement account numbers
o Family, friends, or other key people you may need to reach in an emergency
o Trusted home repair contractors
Copies of documents for you and your family members
o Driver’s license(s)
o Social Security card(s)
o Marriage license/Divorce papers
o Birth certificate(s)
o Power of attorney
o Property deeds
o Vehicle registrations
o List of medications per family member
o Pharmacy contact information
o Doctor/Veterinarian contact information
GO! Kit Items Based on Time to Evacuate
3-5 Minutes before evacuation
o Your Access and Documentation GO! Kit
o Wallet or purse
o Keys: car, house, RV, PO Box, etc
o Cell phone and chargers
o Medical devices – Cane, CPAP, oxygen, glasses, etc.
o Laptop/tablet and charger
o Shoes and jacket
o Pet leash/carrier and pet food
15 Minutes before evacuation
o Family photos
o Extra clothing
o Sleeping bags
o First aid kit
30 Minutes before evacuation
o Cooler with snacks
o Battery- or crank-powered radio and extra batteries
1 Hour or more before evacuation
o Air mattress
o Camp stove
o Fire extinguisher
o Extra clothing
o Sleeping bags