September is National Preparedness Month, part of an effort by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to raise public awareness and inspire disaster readiness. Most communities could be impacted by some type of natural disaster, whether it's a wildfire, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or flood. Tornados, in particular, can sometimes hit close to home. Western Kentucky experienced a violent tornado in 2021, and areas around Dayton, OH, experienced their own string of tornados during a storm outbreak that impacted many U.S. cities in 2019. More recently in 2022, a EF2 tornado touched down in Goshen, OH.
If you and your family ever find yourself in an emergency situation, there are some steps you can take to keep loved ones and important documentation safe.
Secure personal information
Gather important documents that may be difficult or impossible to replace, including:
- Insurance policies, banking and financial account information, and account numbers
- Identification such as driver's licenses, passports, birth and marriage certificates, and Social Security and Medicare cards
- Contracts, wills, deeds, and recent tax returns
- An inventory of your household possessions
Store any paper copies of these items in a safe deposit box at your bank or credit union. Or invest in a lockable, fire- and water-proof chest for your home. In case you are not home when a disaster strikes, consider storing electronic copies of critical documents on a thumb drive or encrypted in the cloud.
Assemble a disaster kit with basic necessities for your home
Include nonperishable food, bottled water, first-aid supplies, flashlights, an emergency radio, extra batteries, a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, and a whistle to signal for help.
Have a list of items to take with you
If you must leave your residence to escape a disaster, you don’t want to scramble to find what you need last minute. Doing so may cause you to forget something important – or even delay your departure. That’s why it’s important to devise a list of what you need to take with you. Start with your home disaster kit and critical documents. Remember to take prescription medications; clothing and bedding for each household member; computer hard drives, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and chargers; eyeglasses; photos; and special food or other items for children, disabled or elderly family members, and pets.
Plan a destination
If you need to evacuate, do you know where you’d go? Will you stay with friends or family in another town, or head to a hotel or a community shelter? Map out a route to your destination as well as an alternate route if roads are blocked or impassable. Identify a safe place to meet if family members become separated. Choose a family member who lives elsewhere to serve as an alternate point of contact. Check the settings on your mobile phones to make sure emergency alerts and warnings are enabled. Practice packing up and leaving your home in 10 minutes or less.
Be sure you have appropriate insurance
The coverage you need depends on the kinds of disasters most likely to affect your home and community. Damage from some natural disasters, such as wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes, is generally covered under your homeowners policy, up to policy limits. However, damage from floods and earthquakes typically requires separate policies. Contact your insurance agent to discuss appropriate coverage.
General Electric Credit Union (GECU) is here for your family in both good and bad times. Along with the above steps, it’s important to protect your personal information. Bad actors use disasters to their advantage to steal identifying information and solicit money illegally. This can be through methods like charity scams or with fake promises of state or federal aid. Use these steps to vet charities before donating, and never pay someone claiming to offer disaster assistance. If you ever suspect fraud, contact GECU right away so we can take charge of the situation. For more information from FEMA, see ready.gov/be-informed and ready.gov/plan.