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If disaster strikes, are you ready?

By Claudia Buck

The Sacramento Bee (MCT)

Published: Monday, Aug. 18 2014 10:20 a.m. MDT

It's not just wildfires that threatens our safety and financial well-being. It could be a flood, earthquake, landslide, or even a home or office break-in.

Michael Blann, Getty Images

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Disaster can strike anytime, anywhere.

It’s not just wildfires that threatens our safety and financial well-being. It could be a flood, earthquake, landslide, or even a home or office break-in.

Regardless, the old adage applies: Be prepared. Here are some ways:

TAKE THE VIDEO

One important precaution is a room-by-room inventory of the contents of your home. In case of fire, flooding — or even a break-in — you want a clear record of your home’s contents, including the garage and backyard, in order to make an insurance claim.

CPA Perry Ghilarducci learned that the hard way. About 20 years ago, he and his wife returned home from a weekend vacation to find their home had been burglarized. Thieves had carted away computers, electronics, a TV — and drove off with all of it in the family car.

“It’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate but don’t realize,” said Ghilarducci, who said he and his wife “struggled to remember everything we had in the house.” Trying to make a complete inventory for an insurance claim, they did their best from memory.

To avoid that time-consuming headache, there’s an easier solution: make a home inventory video.

“On a spare day, say when it’s 105 outside, take your digital camera and walk through your home. Do a room-by-room narrative,” said George Yee, a homeowners’ insurance agent.

Open cupboards and closets, pull out drawers. Zoom in for close-ups of valuables. Put your hand or a ruler up to give scale to smaller items, he said. If you have a valuable collection — coins, guns, jewelry, collectibles, etc. — spread them out on a solid, dark surface, such as a dining room table to photograph.

Wherever possible, state the value or provide photos of documents that back up the purchase price, said Yee.

When you’re done, make a duplicate copy of your camera’s digital chip and store in a safe place, such as safe deposit box, that’s away from your home. Do the same room-by-room inventory with the contents of your office.

If you don’t have a digital camera, you can also create a home inventory video using your smartphone, Yee said. Be sure to store it digitally somewhere safe, such as a “cloud-based” storage device.

“The key is to just do it … and be able to keep it someplace where you can retrieve it later,” if necessary, said Yee, a 28-year veteran of the insurance business.

DON’T CALL HOME

“The desire to call loved ones after an emergency or disaster is natural,” said the Safe America Foundation, a nonprofit that launched a “Text First. Talk Second.” campaign after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks in New York City and other locations.

In emergency situations, too many frantic cellphone calls often overwhelm wireless phone service and can prevent essential 911 calls from going through, the foundation warns.

“Just a single one-minute phone call takes up the same bandwidth as 800 short text messages,” it says on its website, SafeAmericaPrepared.org.

Instead, if you need to contact family or friends, send a text message. It can be as simple as, “R You OK?” or “IM OK.” The idea is to quickly get in touch, without needlessly jamming essential phone lines.

HAVE A FAMILY PLAN

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