Ready for an emergency rescue?

Storm surge from hurricane
“What should we do next?”

Dear Neighbor,

Little did I think that last month, when I announced I was going to focus on “Bigger” issues, the first one would be Hurricane Ian. Joe and I have been absolutely glued to the television and to social media. Throughout, I kept thinking about preparedness basics. And added a new focus on being ready for an emergency rescue!

So many of the people being interviewed simply weren’t prepared – even those who said they had experienced many earlier hurricanes!

Here are some of the obvious basic preparedness weaknesses that jumped out at us.

Did you notice some of these same things? Which of these would apply to you?

  • Despite what appeared to be timely warnings of the danger to come, many people shrugged off evacuation orders. “We’ll just hunker down and stick it out,” seemed to be the attitude.
  • One reason behind that attitude? Evacuation was simply too expensive. No place to go. Too many miles worth of gasoline, too many nights in a hotel. “It’s not worth it,” we heard again and again.
  • When asked about preparations for sticking it out, most people seemed to have considered storing food and water. Of course, many of those supplies were ruined when flood water rose much faster than anticipated. And people who had invested in generators could run them only if their property remained above the water line.

What about actually being ready for an emergency rescue by First Responders or Good Samaritans?

Planning for evacuation is one thing. But what’s the planning for emergency rescue?

  • This morning I heard one group say that they had performed over 700 helicopter and boat rescues! Neighbors did their share, too, pulling people and pets off of boats and out of houses even as they were being washed away. Amazing and heartwarming to see.
  • Although many people were being rescued from their own homes, did you see how many of them came out in flip-flops or even barefoot? And how many had their personal belongings simply stuffed into plastic bags?
  • In all the pictures I saw, only one person had a pet in a container. All the other pets required two arms for carrying.

Do people have insurance that will help them recover?

So far, all I’ve hear about are abject failures of the whole Florida insurance situation! Here’s a quote from a Bankrate article dated just about a month before the hurricane hit:

Since 2017, six property and casualty companies that offered homeowners insurance in Florida liquidated. Four more are in the liquidation process in 2022. Other insurance companies are voluntarily leaving the state. Still, more are choosing to nonrenew swaths of home insurance policies, drastically tighten their policy eligibility requirements or request substantial rate increases.

Reading more deeply into the problem, I found that Florida seems to have had way more than its share of insurance fraud – and thus huge litigation expenses on top of claims due to natural disasters.

OK, so how should we respond to what we’ve just learned?

Here’s what I propose to do about my own situation! Mostly, it’s a review of the basics, but with a few new twists.

Do I need to add new threats to my “usual” list?

Here in California, we’ve always focused on earthquake (still at the top), but over the past couple of years we have had to add evacuation due to wildfire (even though we don’t life at the Wildland-Urban Interface). And heavy rain could be a problem even as we struggle with an historic drought. We are NOT set up for rain!

What disasters are on YOUR list? Have you added any new ones? (By the way, we have built a list of over 90 possible threats in our Neighborhood Disaster Survival books. That threat list includes a lot of “social” disasters as well as what I would term “natural” disasters. Want a copy? Drop me an email and I’ll send it.)

Have I thought about being ready for an emergency rescue?

Here at Emergency Plan Guide, and in my neighborhood, we mostly focus on preparing to shelter in place. Food, lights, warmth, water, etc.

We also plan for evacuation: car ready to go, backpack or rolling cart with basic personal needs, important papers, container for pet, etc.

However, we have NEVER really discussed how to be ready for a dramatic rescue by first responders, when seconds count! When I see people hauled aboard rubber boats or helicoptered clinging to a wire basket, it is so clear that they too need to be prepared. At the minimum they should be wearing shoes, have a waterproof bag for ID and medicines (simple fanny pack?), and a phone.

What else would make a difference? Let’s put together a training for emergency rescue! Send your suggestions via comments or email!

Do I need to revisit my insurance?

First, of course, you need to know what you need to insure. Earlier this year I wrote about one of the most efficient ways to create a digital home inventory – one that would be available “in the cloud” even if you lost all your records.

If you haven’t yet done a personal inventory, now’s the time.

Head back to my January Advisory In particular, scroll down to the section on PINVENTORY. That program is thorough and doable. If you follow up, tell founder Carol Kaufman that I sent you!

Even before you finish your inventory, you can call to set up a meeting with your insurance agent.

Review your homeowner’s coverage with particular attention to flood damage that might apply:

  • Water damage (rain vs. flood – they aren’t the same!)
  • Wind damage (wind vs. rain – again, one may be covered but not if the other is present)
  • Coverage for soil displacement due to water, plantings that are destroyed, etc.
  • Any new requirements for “maintenance” or “building standards”

As I get this Advisory off, Hurricane Orlene is approaching the coast of Mexico from the Pacific – and it’s now a category 4.

Be ready and be safe out there!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. This Advisory is a very quick response to a very big disaster, one that we’ll be living with for years. I do hope you will be able to add what we’ve learned to your own list of emergency preparedness actions. Please share good ideas with the rest of us!

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  1. SM
  2. Tom Kintner