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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

BBB Tip of the Week: Disaster preparedness

By Tyler Russell BBB Northwest and Pacific

Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific urges consumers and businesses to be prepared for a weather emergency or disaster. Creating a disaster plan for what to do before, during and after an emergency may make a big difference to your safety and comfort.

Emergency preparedness is not just the concern of people in certain areas. All communities may be affected by several types of catastrophes during a lifetime.

Some of the basic protective actions are similar for multiple disasters. For example, safety is necessary when experiencing all hazards. Depending on the specific emergency, this could include plans for sheltering or evacuating. Developing a family communication plan or making an emergency supply kit are the same for most emergencies and natural disasters. There are important differences among potential emergencies that should influence the decisions you make and the actions you take.

BBB recommends you take some of the basic preparedness steps to help you plan for a natural disaster, which can help ease the stress and anxiety caused if your home is damaged by storms:

Know what you have. Create and maintain an inventory of your personal possessions. Use a camera to take pictures or video of the interior and exterior of your home as well as your property, including items stored on your property such as vehicles or lawn/farm equipment.

Keep important information safe. Maintain receipts for all major items. All important information and documentation should be saved in a safe place outside your home, such as in a safe deposit box at your bank, or utilize an online cloud storage service to store files or data objects.

Make sure you’re insured! Keep all your insurance policies organized and in an easily accessible spot. Review your coverage each year to make sure it is adequate should you have storm damage to your home, vehicle or property.

Discuss with your insurance agent what liabilities you might have, if any, should any of your personal items or trees cause damage to neighboring homes or properties during a storm.

Be sure to note deadlines for filing claims.

Make sure you always carry your policy numbers and contact information for your insurance company with you.

Have the essentials ready. Create a basic emergency kit using this essentials checklist recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in case of a disaster.

BBB recommends using online information such as FEMA’s website to learn about the potential emergencies that could occur where you live and appropriate ways to respond to them. When you know what to do, you can plan and prepare in advance to be ready. The FEMA website provides information about how to protect your household and begin recovery following the initial disaster.

Familiarize yourself with the signs of events that come without warning. Know the local advance alerts and warnings and how you will receive them. Knowing about the local emergency plans for shelter and evacuation, local emergency contacts, the locations frequented by members of your household and the specific needs of household members, including animals, will help you reduce the impact of disasters. It may also save lives and prevent injuries during a crisis.

Natural disasters can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, crisis also brings out persons who choose to take advantage of the victims.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision. Start with trust. Do your research, whether it’s a business at , or to find more information on charities by visiting