Life Science

Disaster Preparedness: A friendly reminder from the Claims Guy's desk

The ongoing and devastating fire disaster in Northern California hit home for my family over the weekend.

While−as of the time of this writing−our home and family are safe, we found ourselves more unprepared that I’d like to admit this past weekend for this disaster.  So, from my family’s experience, I thought it might be helpful for our clients to offer some experiences, thoughts and reminders in the event of an emergency.  And, since many of us are living in Northern California, an earthquake-prone region that experiences years of drought being (always) prepared is key.

A couple of things to get you thinking about (before) the next disaster:

  • Don’t underestimate your elderly neighbors (or any neighbor, actually)!   It indeed “takes a village” in an emergency. In our case, we were worried about our next door neighbor who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, but a check on her reminded us how helpful we can all be to each other at a time of need.  While we could help with things like driving her to safety (if needed), we were reminded that she still has a land line with a princess rotary-dial phone.  She soon became the most popular resident on the block as many lined up to call friends and concerned relatives (as far away as France)!  You see−after 15 hours of no power, and no internet or cell phone service in our homes, the land line with a phone not requiring an electrical outlet suddenly re-elevated the rotary dial phone to new heights of popularity over our expensive high-tech gadgets!

  • And while we’re on the subject of high-tech gadgets…  We all appreciate the instant ability to look up businesses, and phone numbers on our hand-held devices.  That ability relies on power.  So, if you don’t want to spend time charging your phone while your car idles in your driveway, check out some power packs that are available on the market to keep handy (and charged) in the event of an emergency (also good for long trips).  Also, most of us use or phones as our phone books, but here again, our neighbor’s old fashioned printed phone book came in very handy when (in our case) we needed to find an alternative veterinarian to care for our very sick cat (our regular vet was closed due to a lack of power).  So, think twice before recycling the newest edition of your local, free, printed phone book!

  • Listen to your mom!  I was not always the best at this (sorry mom!), but in at least once case I listened. Unfortunately, not when mom had offered me one of here extra princess rotary phones). In any event, mom gave me a compact, battery-powered radio and told me to keep it handy always (along with fresh batteries).  This came in very handy this past weekend, and when we had to leave town, we lent it to my mother’s friend who was in need.  Small radios are as inexpensive as they are invaluable in emergency situations.  Get on−or two and keep them handy.

  • Make a list and check it twice!  What would you and your family do if you were told by the sheriff that you had to evacuate your home in the middle of the night and that you had just a half hour to prepare?   How about 15 minutes?  While we have been lucky and spared evacuation so far, I started thinking about what to line up near the door to take, or put in the car just in case.  I found myself thinking and debating far longer than I’d be able to in the event of an evacuation.  Do I take my mother’s childhood  panda bear? The spoon my father used in Korea in the army?  The hand-made quilt my grandmother made for my parent’s wedding? Our favorite painting?  Make a list, prioritize it (starting with medications, blankets, spare clothes, food and water for yourself and your family (including your pets), and go from there.  Keep a copy in multiple places in your home, but be ready to leave at a moment’s notice without anything if needed.

  • Know how to operate your garage door (to open it, close it and secure it) in the event of a power outage. This will enable you to quickly access your vehicle if you need it, and re-lock the door after you have removed your vehicle.

  • Keeping in touch with friends and family.  We’re so reliant on internet access, but what if your access is cut-off?  Access can be out in one neighborhood, but available across town or in neighboring areas, so, having friends in other areas close by to get the word out to your contact list that all is ok can be a real help and a time-saver for you to be able to focus on keeping safe in the event of an emergency.

  • Keep an appropriate wrench accessible at the gas and water meters for your residence, and make sure they are the correct type−and that you know how to use.


These are just a few ideas meant to inspire you to think ahead, and plan.  In concert with the standards of keeping accessible water, emergency kits, flashlights, candles, matches, medications and batteries and some food items can come in handy and help alleviate some stress in the event of an emergency.  Partnership and sharing with neighbors, friends and family members is key.  Give this some thought, and start on your plan. Use this tragedy as inspiration to be as prepared as you can for yourself, your family and your friends.  Be safe!

The Author
Cris Christensen
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