Lessons from Hurricane Florence: Prepare for the Inevitable and Help Others When it Happens

In the days after hurricane Florence it was discovered that only about 10% of residents of the coastal towns hit hardest by the storm had flood insurance. This means that most homeowners will have to rebuild their homes with their own funds or with FEMA aid typically less than $5,000.[i]

Flood insurance is not covered under a typical homeowner’s policy. It must be bought in addition, a lesson too many homeowners learn the hard way. In the Roanoke valley and surrounding areas such as Lynchburg, we have found out this past year that we are not immune to disasters such as severely damaging flash-floods and windstorms. In lieu of all these realities, it’s important to know how to prepare for a disaster both financially and practically. Here are some things to keep in mind for the future.

1. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. In the days preceding the hurricane you could not find a generator, a case of water, or a bag of sand at most of the retail stores in our area. It’s a wise decision to already own a generator and be well-prepared for a future disaster. It’s not a matter of if an emergency will happen, but when.

2. You may want to consider flood insurance. Even if you’re not required to get flood insurance by living in a high-risk area, you may want to consider it. Another back-door way to getting partial protection is to get back-up sewer and drain coverage. In the event of your house flooding with drain backup as the cause, you will be covered. This can be added to your homeowner’s policy at a minimal cost. You can learn more about flood insurance at floodsmart.gov

3. Become familiar with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which is an agency of the government and can help you with flood insurance, storm updates, tax relief for affected areas, safety tips, shelter locations, and more. fema.gov

4. Help others through the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross is an international non-profit organization of blood-drive and disaster volunteers who are there to help in almost any way that they can. If you’re a victim of a disaster, contact them via the app, calling them at 1-866-438-4636 or online at redcross.org. If you’re fortunate enough to not be affected by the disaster yourself, then consider a donation of your time and/or money.

5. Establish and maintain an emergency fund of 3-6 months of living expenses. It’s been reported that the majority of Americans don’t have more than $1,000 in discretionary savings. This is a big problem and the reason that so many people go into debt and cannot get back out of it whenever an emergency arises. Putting money away into your savings each month can help you build up an emergency fund and protect you the next time an emergency occurs.

All we can do is plan for the worst and hope for the best. What are some other tips that you’ve found helpful in preparing for an emergency?

[i] https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/09/17/only-percent-have-flood-insurance-hard-hit-carolina-coast/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b37f23df82cf