Tag: insurance

Stay home – the latest response to coronavirus emergency


This has been a dramatic week, with my emotions ranging from confusion and concern to frustration and shake-your-head disbelief as we figure out how to manage as we head into our second week of “stay home.”

You may be coming under that order too, if you haven’t already. So, some input to consider while you figure out how to change your habits.

“Stay Home” has generated some interesting and varied calls and emails from family and colleagues, telling me what THEY are doing. Sharing some of the highlights might make interesting even if disconnected reading.

Besides, I know you are probably home looking for things to do!

So here goes.

Seven Stay Home Questions and Answers — one of my favorite formats.

Q1. (This is for the kids.) Why is soap called the virus ANNIHILATOR?

A. Because  .. well, because oil doesn’t mix with water! Wait a minute. What’s the whole story?

Q2. Where does the word “Quarantine” come from?

Direct quote from the CDC website:

The practice of quarantine, as we know it, began during the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. This practice, called quarantine, was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which mean 40 days.

(The picture below is NOT from the CDC. I found it myself. I think it’s a pretty good image that suggests a 14th century Carrack.)

14th century ship: Carrack
What is this type of ship called?

Q3. How can I entertain my kids and myself while we are stuck at home?

A. So many good ideas out there, and they are multiplying rapidly! Here are just two that I’ve seen (and I’m not looking hard because I don’t have kids at home!):

Q4. Entertainment doesn’t work for me. I need to make some money. Any ideas?

A. Maybe now’s the time to consider an at-home job. Here are some online jobs that might be worth following up. Before you do, though, click to get a copy of “Do you have what it takes?”, an entrepreneur’s checklist from our company, The Marketing Machine®. Spend some serious time assessing your strengths and weaknesses, your accomplishments and failures. Any new business takes guts, organizing ability and follow-through.

  • Podcast transcriber
  • Website builder (Be sure you set the terms and scope so you don’t get pulled into a job you’re not able to manage.)
  • Graphic designer (Same comment as above.)
  • Editor/proofreader (Check Carol Tice’s various courses and blogs.)
  • Online tutor or coach (Maybe YouTube video lessons on how to play guitar?)
  • PowerPoint designer
  • Consulting on something you are an expert on
  • Affiliate marketer (Have to figure out how to promote product and how to collect money.)
  • Data entry (I have a friend who does data entry for medical practices. Boring but lucrative.)
  • Grant writer (If you are talented.)
  • Renter – rent out an extra bedroom

Q5. I really would like to do something for others, but being stuck at home makes that difficult. What are other people doing?

A. As everything shuts down tighter and tighter, options become limited. But here are a few suggestions.

  • Make a commitment to phone a family member a day. Use WhatsApp
    (video) for a better experience. (My grandkids live in Germany and I have received pictures and videos from their dad via WhatsApp every single day since they were born!)
  • Handwrite some long-overdue personal notes. Just thank people for what they have meant to you. A chance to practice your cursive.
  • Can you widen your social circle via phone? Reach out to members of your church. Have your kids call members of their scout troop or sports teams.
  • Start a community outreach project. Here we have just set up a Good Neighbor Check-In program – essentially a phone tree using volunteers to reach out to everyone in our senior community. The flyer just went out to our neighborhood yesterday. (I am working on a project write-up and will share all the details soon.)
  • Give blood. It’s safe. It’s life-confirming. Call your local blood bank to get details.

Q6. If we’re going to stay home for weeks, how can we use this extended time most effectively?

A. For sure, don’t fall into the habit (that I am already tempted by) of staying up late and sleeping late!  Use a white board to set up a family calendar and block out times to work on specific projects. Here are a couple of projects to keep you engaged and also improve your overall level of preparedness.

  • Document your personal property for insurance. I’m talking photos and videos of every room, every drawer, and every box in the closet. Figure out how to label your records so they can be retrieved. If you are considering this project, start here for a good overview: https://home.howstuffworks.com/real-estate/buying-home/create-household-inventory-for-insurance1.htm
  • Straighten and refresh all your emergency kits. Our latest books in the Q&A Mini-Series would be perfect guides for this project: Custom Go-Bags and Car Emergency Kit. If you have teenagers in the house, eager to get behind the wheel, the Car Emergency Kit questions and answers will open their eyes to things that I can guarantee they have never thought about!
  • Start writing your OWN book! Now you have time to plan and really get started. (Set aside at least 2 hours a day of uninterrupted time to work on it. Once you are “in the groove,” writing comes more easily. But it’s impossible to make progress if you stop and start.)

Q7. I haven’t changed my emergency supplies inventory. Are there any new items we ought to consider given the coronavirus?

A. I’ve seen two that I would recommend. One is cheap and the other expensive.

First, a plastic face shield to protect against splashes and sprays. Some models are disposable and others reusable or replaceable. Here’s the link to a reasonably-priced visor that flips up for convenience. Link takes you to Amazon (where we are affiliates, as you know).

Second, when a neighbor traded us 1 bottle of her mayonnaise for 2 rolls of our toilet paper, I was reminded of the wonder of bidets. My experience has been with European models (a separate bathroom fixture that probably costs upwards of $700) but there are also electrical bidet toilet seats and quite inexpensive mechanical toilet bidet attachments. Really, having a clean stream of warm water to clean your bottom sounds a lot better than scratchy toilet paper!

OK, enough of this miscellany. I hope you’ve found something of interest. Let us know what discoveries YOU are making as we work through this new experience . . .

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. I have been working on a business series on “how to work remotely,” with input in particular from HR and business manager contacts. It’s been tough to focus on just one thing while we are ordered to stay home. I’ll start publishing that series here next week.

Take an Insurance Inventory

How to file insurance claim after fire? You need an insurance inventory.
“How will we ever remember what we lost?”

Take an Insurance Inventory Before You Need It

After last week’s Advisory about spring cleaning, with the comments on updating insurance, I felt obliged to take action and create an inventory of our stuff, once and for all. First, I looked for some advice about how to begin. Here’s what I have discovered so far about inventories.

What goes into an inventory?

I started by looking at several paper inventory sheets that are meant to be filled out by hand or, in some cases, by computer. Here are examples.

Example of insurance inventory sheets.

What layout do I prefer?

What you see immediately is that there is no one format that works for every home or every business.

Determine what information to include.

What I did find, though, is that if you are doing an insurance inventory you want to include at least these items, in whatever format you prefer:

  • Date of the inventory
  • Item type
  • Item description (manufacturer, brand)
  • Where item is located now
  • Cost when originally purchased

If you are doing a business insurance inventory, you will want to include this information also:

  • Make/model
  • Serial number
  • Warranty
  • Current value

Organize by category or location?

Some people lump all similar items together in categories– for example, they’ll do a list of electronics, one for books, one for appliances, one for musical instruments, etc.

Others organize the inventory by location – everything in the living room, office, kitchen, etc.

However you do it, don’t forget things you own that are not inside the home! For example, do you have items in a bank safety deposit box? A storage unit? Digital items stored only in the cloud? What about patio furniture, tools in the garage, etc.?

Just this far in, and the thought of writing it all down seems overwhelming.

So I looked into other options.

Video-tape an insurance inventory!

This makes sense. Go through the house or office, starting outside the entrance and going through every room, carefully filming everything and commenting on the tape as you go.

Depending on how much stuff you have, you may need or want to supplement video with still shots.

Here’s some thinking I did for two sample categories in my house.

Office inventory

In our office, I will start by panning around to show furniture, certificates on the wall, book cases, file cabinets and the supplies closet.

Then I’ll stop the filming to prepare the desks and supply cabinet for the REAL inventory – opening drawers and boxes so supplies and files are visible, and then taping the whole area again.

Our network setup (routers, modem, controller) is worth another whole series of shots with commentary.  Same with phones, computers, monitors and printers.

Special collections

You can guess that we have a lot of emergency supplies and equipment.  Some of this will show up in the office, but most is stored on shelves in the laundry room and two different closets!  I’ll have to go through these to film emergency radios, HAM radios, emergency lanterns, batteries and more batteries. We also have survival kits, CERT helmets and miscellaneous camping gear. Lots of stuff for the insurance inventory!

Note about collections. This I already knew! If you have valuable collections (art, jewelry, collectibles) you may want to get them appraised and add a rider to your policy to be sure they are adequately covered. Most regular homeowner policies have a surprisingly low limit on specialty items. There’s also a limit on coverage for home business equipment that may not be enough for you.

You get the idea!

In an emergency, if the house were flooded, tumbled by an earthquake or simply trashed by intruders, just these two categories alone – office and emergency — would be almost impossible for us to reconstruct without help from pictures!

Moreover, without some picture proof, we would be unable to put together a decent and fair insurance claim. And guess what – You may be asked for a list of what is missing within the first 24 hours of the incident!

Can I make an inventory using my phone?

If you are like me, you turn to your cellphone for a lot these days.  Can you use your phone to create the insurance inventory video?

Take photos.

There are apps (iOS, Android or both) designed specifically for inventories using photos. Take a picture, then label (tag) and put into a folder and file.  You can add just about as much info as you want; the app may even calculate the total value of the items in the inventory! Some apps allow you to transfer your inventory data to a spreadsheet or pdf. And at least one app creates QR labels so you can stick them to moving boxes!

As you can imagine, many of the inventory apps are free; the ones with the most options have a monthly or annual fee.

Make a video.

Since I am not an accomplished thumb typist, I looked at option 2 –narrating a video of my stuff.

Depending on the phone, the video will be limited by . . .

  • how much total storage the device has
  • how much data is already on the phone (programs, photos, etc.)
  • what resolution video you’re shooting.  (Higher resolution takes up more space.)

Use a camcorder.

Personally, if it comes to taking pictures, I think I would opt for using a camcorder. I have an old camcorder and it fits a lot better in my hand. I can see just what I am filming. It also has a better microphone.

It used to be that camcorders were considered “expensive.” Take a look at these models – way less than half as much as a new smart phone!  (Of course you can spend thousands of dollars on high-quality cameras for film making. We’re talking here about easy-to-use models perfect for everyday – and for inventories.)

The first one is very small, very compact, fitting right into your pocket. It offers zoom and wide angle. You can choose resolution: higher resolution uses up your battery faster. You can connect the camcorder to the TV and show your videos, or send to your computer. Click on the image or the link to get to Amazon for full details and prices. Obligatory disclaimer — we are Amazon Associates.

Sony – HDRCX405 HD Video Recording Handycam Camcorder (black)

Right in the middle of my research for this Sony camcorder at Amazon, I also got an ad from a big box store for the exact same item. There was a price difference of $40!  (Amazon was the better deal; well under $200.) It pays to shop!

Here’s a second example, with more zoom power, a two-channel microphone and what I would call movie effects.  Probably more fun for family and sports videos! Again, under $200 at Amazon.

Panasonic Full HD Camcorder HC-V180K, 50X Optical Zoom, 1/5.8-Inch BSI Sensor, Touch Enabled 2.7-Inch LCD Display (Black)

Final point. Protect your inventory.

Your inventory is useless if it is washed away in the flood, burned up in the fire, or stolen along with the collectibles. Be sure to keep extra copies off premises (with a family member?), in a fireproof safe and/or saved online in the cloud.

Now I have to admit that I haven’t actually STARTED on my inventory yet. But now I know what the next steps will be. How far along on an inventory are you???

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Spring Cleaning for Preppers

Spring cleaning means washing windows

If you are a dedicated spring cleaner, you’ve already taken care of the windows. You may have done some spring cleaning in closets or in the garage, too. And when the time changed a few weeks ago, you undoubtedly checked the batteries in the smoke alarms. (You did, didn’t you?)

With summer coming up quickly, it will be easy to get caught up in end-of-school parties, vacation plans, etc. In the midst of that, your spring cleaning may get interrupted, along with some of your good preparedness habits.

Here are a few quick reminders for your family and your neighborhood team. Click on the images to get more details on these items from Amazon.

Walkie-talkie spring cleaning.

Yesterday we picked up my daughter at the airport. While Joe circled, I hopped out with a walkie-talkie so we could keep in touch. This is one of the most convenient uses for these hand-held radios!  No dialing, no busy signals, no dropping of the signal. Just push to talk: “OK, I see her! “OK, we’re at gate 3, right at the crosswalk.”

But the walkie-talkies have to have good batteries! Actually, we have added walkie-talkie battery replacement to our twice-a-year Daylight Savings Time checklist.

Last week we also added 10 more walkie-talkies to our supply for our neighborhood group Block Captains. The Uniden model continues to be our favorite, and prices haven’t gone up much at all. Here’s the model we buy – less than $25 for a set of 2:

Uniden GMR1635-2 Up to 16-Mile Range, FRS Two-Way Radio Walkie Talkies, 22 Channels with Channel Scan, Battery Strength Meter, Roger Beep, Call Tone, Keypad Lock, Black Color

If you are building your emergency team, or are planning family outings that will involve keeping track of each other in crowds (like a theme park) or in the woods, consider Walkie-talkies for your own family use. For short-distance communications they really can’t be beat.

Spruce up safety clothing.

Some clothing items seem to find their way into dark corners and onto the floor of the trunk of the car. I’m referring to sweatshirts, gloves, hats, etc.

With summer coming, it’s time to clean out and be ready for warmer weather. But don’t forget the safety gear that you KEEP in the car.

For example, we have found that having colored shirts and/or reflective vests are smart additions to our usual car survival kits.

  • Heading for Disneyland? If everyone in the family — Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Kid 1, Kid 2, Kid 3, etc.! — is wearing the same bright-colored T-shirt you will be a lot easier to spot!
  • Being on the street in the dark next to a disabled car is terribly dangerous! A reflective vest becomes an important safety item on the street and a reassurance in a campground at night.

Last week when we put in our order for more walkie-talkies for our team we also bought 10 more reflective vests for our neighborhood group Block Captains. They are amazingly modest in price!  (It’s not like we are wearing these every day, so they don’t need to be top of the line.) I chose these because they have pockets, and the package came with an extra vest in child-size!

Click on the link below the imageto get full details.

CIMC Yellow Reflective Safety Vest with Pockets, 10 Pack, Bright Construction Vest with Reflective Strips,Made from Breathable and Neon Yellow Mesh Fabric,High Visibility Vest for Working Outdoor

Battery replacement.

How many flashlights and emergency radios do you actually have, when you add up all the ones in the cars and in the house?

Guess what, they probably all use batteries! And have you noticed the rule that says batteries will whimper and die just when you really need them?

So, the competent Prepper adds a flashlight check and battery replacement exercise to the spring cleaning list.

Over the years we have tested and tested different batteries. The best ones one year seem to lose place to another manufacturer the next year. So we simple buy batteries on a regular basis.

Again, you probably need different sizes. Here’s a convenient pack with the AA and AAA sizes most common for our flashlights and walkie-talkies. Click on the image for exact pricing.

You may want to separate batteries and put a set of extra ones – of the right size – in a plastic baggy that you store alongside the item they belong with. When the power is out you can’t be searching through your battery box . . .!

Here’s an image of one of our flashlights. Note the green batteries in the holder which will be replaced with the gold ones stored in the bag.

Replace batteries with right-sized batteries stored in plastic bag
Always replace all batteries when you replace one.

Car survival kit spring cleaning.

We’ve spent time before on everything to consider for the survival kits you carry in your car.

For spring cleaning, it may be enough to simply refresh.

  • Go through your first aid kits and replace old bandages, anything that has cracked or gotten wet. Recycle old medicines and put in new ones. Add anything you’ll need for summer, including sunscreen and dark glasses.
  • Replace all your snack food with new packages. Canned stuff may last a while longer, but why not eat it up now and put new things in its place?
  • Remove kids’ items that they have outgrown, and replace with more appropriate things – we’re talking games, toys, etc.
  • Consider adding a new battery-charger for your devices. As we’ve written before, the “power packs” store enough to charge your phone more than once. (Scroll to the P.S. in that Advisory for an example of a popular power pack.) And solar-powered chargers are now ubiquitous. Both make good gifts, too.

Communications update.

Do all family members have updated phone numbers? Do all response team members have updated phone numbers for their neighbors? Now’s a good time to refresh this info.

And test family members’ memory. Can they recite the phone number of your out-of-town contact?  (Make it a contest as you are driving to that vacation spot. . .)

Insurance review.

We see so many ads on TV about saving money by switching auto insurance. Maybe you have switched, and actually saved money!

When it comes to other insurances, it’s important to shop and compare, too. Given the past couple of years’ dramatic storms, fires and floods, you may discover that the coverage you thought you had has changed, or is going up in cost. Or maybe you thought you were covered and you haven’t been covered at all! Or you are now required to have coverage that you didn’t have to have when you bought your house years ago!

Check out these Advisories for important questions to have ready when you talk with your insurance agent.

OK, this Spring Cleaning review could actually take some time. You probably can’t do it all in one week.

But every item you check off the list means you are in better shape to avoid an inconvenience, not to mention an emergency.

Good luck!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

More hurricanes, and Harvey isn’t even over yet


Flooding from rain

New hurricane season started June 1.

Recent headlines announce the start of a new hurricane season, with between 10 and 16 named hurricanes to look forward to. There’s apparently a new threat, too – “superstorms” that fall outside the regular categories!

So, have you moved recently? Or are you planning some travel?

Or maybe right now you are sitting in an area that could be threatened by the winds, storm surge or flooding from a hurricane? (Hurricanes don’t just hit coastal areas. They can create flooding for hundreds of miles inland.)

At Emergency Plan Guide we’ve written about hurricanes before, of course. (Remember the “Hurricane Headscratcher” that we put out last year?) But even if you think you’re an “expert,” it can’t hurt to refresh your understanding of some smart things to do to prepare.

Here are two excellent references, new to this Advisory:

  1. For families: . https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes  Note particularly the comments about signing up for local alerts and getting familiar with local evacuation zones and routes.
  2. For business: http://www.agilityrecovery.com/assets/hurprep.pdf This 4-page checklist was written in 2013 so the statistics may not be up to date, but the recommendations are worth considering, particularly those that have to do with shutting your business down before the storm hits.

And to get back to Harvey, where there are still lessons to be learned . . .

Hurricane season reminds me of Harvey, so I went back to see what has happened in Texas since the storm hit there last year. (August-September, 2017)

The following list is about Texas, but it could apply to most every community affected or threatened by a natural disaster. (In fact, there are some striking similarities between what people in Houston experienced and what is going on right now in Hawaii.)

As you read, think about the threats your community could face and how it might fare . .

1- Insurance. Most homes in Harvey’s path didn’t have flood insurance. Since the storm, applications for flood insurance have increased, as you might expect. What you might not have expected is that the vast majority of new policies (quoted as 70% by one agent) are for homes outside the mapped flood hazard area. People are recognizing that planning around the concept of the “100 year flood” isn’t adequate.

2- Name. Harvey was so destructive (51 inches of rain in certain parts of Texas) that its name has been retired from the list of potential names for future storms.

3- Help from the Government. Texas has requested and received millions in aid for rebuilding. At the same time, the state requested “flexibility” in deciding how the funds should be used. This has alarmed advocates for housing and for disadvantaged communities because the list of projects submitted along with the requests was heavily weighted toward large-scale infrastructure.

4- Homeless. The problems haven’t ended for people displaced by the storm. Of course, some homeowners have started rebuilding. But other people whose homes were damaged have been notified they need to elevate the homes before they can move back in. Naturally, many can’t afford what can be considered major renovation. And the FEMA vouchers that were allowing homeowners to stay in hotels have now run out.

5- More homeless. People who were renting when the flood hit have suffered even more. If they had no insurance, they may have lost most of their personal property. Those who hadn’t found new apartments and had been staying in hotels found their vouchers ended even sooner than homeowners.

6- Still more homeless. I don’t even want to mention the FEMA trailers sitting empty months after the storm . . .

More results you may never have even considered.

7- Jails. Flooded courthouses slowed the wheels of justice, causing jails to become overcrowded. According to one jail insider, “The situation is so dire that the county lock-up may soon have to begin turning away arrestees.” (I was unable to find out if that actually happened.)

8- Animals. The water that inundated the area also caused displacement of animals. Alligators from the wild and also from parks floated free and appeared in flooded neighborhoods. Fire ants, driven from their underground homes, clustered into “floating islands” to protect their queens until waters receded and they were able to build new nests in new locations.

9- Disease. Medical professionals continue to monitor the impacts of the air pollution, contaminated water and mold caused by the flooding, mostly from the superfund sites in the region. Researchers predict long-term health and emotional health problems.

Yes, 2017’s hurricane season was “the most costly and disruptive on record” in the U.S. So maybe this year won’t be so bad?!

You can hope.

In the meanwhile, this one storm alone reminds us how Americans have become so dependent on modern conveniences – power, hospitals and medical services, transportation, communications – that when these get interrupted or destroyed, the results can be disastrous.

Time to take another look at how well YOU are prepared for an emergency.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Many of our Advisories are meant to be shared. This is one. In particular, share the links to the two sets of checklists for families and for business. Just one good idea could save both money and anguish — not to mention lives.

Insurance for Volcanoes


Lava from volcano“It’s just part of living here,” one of Hawaii’s residents is quoted as saying over the weekend. He wasn’t planning to evacuate from his home, even though fissures were opening in his neighborhood and lava flows from the Kilauea eruption on Friday were approaching. “I’ve been through this a dozen times.”

As of today, though, he may be joining the nearly 2,000 people facing mandatory evacuation, not only because of fire and lava but because of dangerous gases.

If you have friends in Hawaii, or anywhere where volcanoes threaten eruption, you naturally have some important questions about protecting yourself. I had the questions – but wanted good answers. So, I started my research online . . .

l. is there such a thing as volcano insurance?

No. According to a CNN news report, “There’s no such a thing as volcano insurance or lava flow insurance.”

Yes. But the very next news item, coming from The Insurance Information Institute, https://www.iii.org/article/volcanic-eruption-coverage says the following: “Most home, renters and business insurance policies provide coverage for property loss caused by volcanic eruption when it is the result of a volcanic blast, airborne shock waves, ash, dust or lava flow. Fire or explosion resulting from volcanic eruption also is covered.”

Maybe. And a third news feature says, “It’s going to come down to your policy and your underwriter.”

Hm. So, onward . . .

2. So what MIGHT be covered?

State Farm insurance has a 2-page document about eruption coverage that feels authoritative. https://www.statefarm.com/simple-insights/residence/how-volcano-damage-is-covered-on-your-insurance  The article starts with the exact same quote that we saw above, from the Insurance Information Institute, namely . . .
“Most homeowners policies provide coverage for property loss caused by volcanic eruption when it is the result of a volcanic blast, airborne shock waves, ash, dust, or lava flow. Fire or explosion resulting from volcanic eruption also is covered.”

3. That language sounds encouraging. So what’s the problem?

First, note these two important weasel words that appear in both sources: “Most policies” and “[damage] resulting from.”
When you read “Most ” you must assume that there are some policies that do NOT cover volcanic eruption. And when you see “resulting from” you must ask, “What else could cause this damage?” That’s what brings you to the exclusions.

4. What are the exclusions?

If you’ve been subscribing to Advisories from Emergency Plan Guide for a while, you probably can provide at least some answers to this question.

Here’s more quoting: Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover damage from earthquake, land tremors, landslide, mudflow, or other earth movement regardless of whether or not the quake is caused by or causes a volcanic eruption.”

The key word here is “earth movement.” THAT seems to fall under coverage provided by earthquake insurance. Here in California it’s a totally separate policy offered by companies through the CEA – California Earthquake Authority: https://www.earthquakeauthority.com/ (There are limits on how much coverage you can purchase for the building and for personal property, and  also on what is actually covered. For example, demolition is typically NOT covered by the policy.)

And I take the sentence quoted in red above to mean further that if earth movement causes a lake to slosh over or a stream to divert onto your property, then the resulting “flood damage” would also not be covered. The typical homeowner’s policy does NOT cover flood damage. For that, you need a separate policy for flood insurance! (More on flood insurance here.)

OK, I now know more about separate earthquake insurance and flood insurance.

5. Can I get a special endorsement to my homeowners’ policy to cover volcanic eruptions?

If you live in a low-risk area, probably yes. But consider this list of states with ACTIVE volcanoes, meaning, you may NOT be in a low risk zone:

Alaska (98 known active volcanoes!)
California (21)
Hawaii (16)
Oregon (42)
Washington (16)

I could find no reliable info about possible costs for volcano endorsements.

6. What about damage to my landscaping, garden sheds, ditches and berms I put up to divert the lava flow, etc?

Not covered. And you won’t be reimbursed for efforts to remove lava or ash from the land afterwards.

7. What about my car?

If you have comprehensive coverage at the time of the eruption, and your car is overtaken by lava or burned up by flying cinders, it’s probably covered. And a vehicle crash that happens during or after a volcanic eruption would likely be covered just like any other crash. If you leave the car behind, and it is damaged over time by falling ash or dust, it probably WON’T be covered.

8. I rent. What about my personal possessions I had to leave behind?

Your landlord has no responsibility for damage to your personal possessions, so take as much as you can with you if you evacuate. If you have renter’s insurance, be sure take photos of your items (before and after if possible) so you can file a claim.

9. What about my lease if I have to leave my apartment or house?

Generally, your landlord must provide a “fit and habitable” place for you to live. If you can’t return to your rental because of damage, your lease will determine if you are eligible for any refund, if you have to pay any back rent, or if and how you can break the lease with no penalty. You should read your contract NOW so you are familiar with its terms. You should take those photos of your possessions now, eruption or no eruption. And if you try to cancel any long-term lease, be sure to get legal advice.

10. What else do I need to know?

Just as with flood and earthquake insurance, you must have the coverage before the disaster hits. In some cases, there’s actually a waiting period before coverage goes into effect.

A personal comment from Virginia – I’ve rented and owned and had both kinds of insuance. I’ve lived in flood country and earthquake country and climbed to the top of a smoking volcano. I even held an insurance license at one time. None of this makes me an expert on this particular subject. What I do know for sure, though, is that insurance policies by their very nature are difficult to understand. This may be a good time to review whatever policies you have so you know just what will be covered in a disaster — and what won’t be covered. Having that knowledge will make you sleep better and you’ll probably be able to negotiate better insurance coverage, too.

The more we know, the better prepared we can be!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


Preparedness Checklist for 2018


Lists work. They’re easy to figure out, satisfying to check off. Here’s one to get us all going toward some new levels of preparedness for 2018.

Review or reminder?

For a few people, this will be review. But for most of us, at least one of these items will cause a grimace or even a slap of the forehead because we know we should already have dealt with it!

There are more ideas and resources below the chart. But take a quick first look.

Which item should be first on your list?

Preparedness Checklist for 2018More resources for items on the list.

  1. Homeowners’ insurance may not cover water damage to the stuff in your basement. Neither may flood insurance! If you rent, what about the items stored in your “cage” in the parking garage? You will never really know what’s covered until you pull out your policy and go over it with your insurance agent. Here’s an Advisory that will give you more questions to ask about any insurance:
    Flood Damage Not Covered By Insurance
  2. What was a good place to head for last year may have changed. Update your plans, particularly if you have children. Pick an assembly place nearby – like the big oak tree at the back of the lot – and another place further down the block or even across town. Can your family members FIND these places without the maps in their phones?
    Get Out Now — Family Evacuation Plan
  3. Every homemaker knows this, and knows how to do it. In a survival kit, just pull and replace everything! (You may discover that more and more canned items now are self-opening. Yay!) On the kitchen shelves, load at the back, eat from the front. Basta.
  4. I finally got far enough ahead on my blood pressure pills to have 10 days’ worth stored in my survival kit. But they’ve been there a while . . . And as we all know, over time pills lose their effectiveness, band aids lose their stick, bottles dry out, tubes ooze. Your first aid kit could actually do you harm if it’s not up to speed.
    First Aid Kit Failure
  5. Seems as though it would be easy to run outside in a fire, doesn’t it? But people are trapped and burned every day. Practice with your family! Make sure you know two exits from every room, how to get down from the second floor. What’s your agreed-upon signal for a home invasion threat? Every individual needs to know how to respond. If all your children know is to come screaming for you, you have NOT trained them properly.
    Escape from Burning House
  6. People around you could turn into rescuers – and even into friends. It can’t hurt to be open to meeting more of them. Besides, it’s just a neighborly thing to do. And if you have a neighborhood emergency response team, invite them to come and find out more.
    Build a neighborhood team
  7. Memorize important phone numbers. Assume phones won’t be available in a car wreck, a storm, or an earthquake. Memorizing is healthy brain activity, too!
  8. Computer companies compete to be your back-up service. But where do they PUT your files, and how to you access them if your computer has been destroyed? Have at least 3 back-up methods: onto your own computer, onto a separate physical hard drive stored off-site, and into the cloud. Test whatever procedure you have put into place. Just having a COPY of something doesn’t mean you can necessarily start right back up to work.
  9. Did you know that if one roommate applies for relief from FEMA, the other roommate may not be eligible? Do you know who would have to sign off for you to get an insurance payout on your house? We all tend to let legal questions linger . . . 2018 is the year to clean legal issues up for a number of reasons, not least of all to get them off your mind.
    Legal problems surface after flood
  10. Emergency preparedness isn’t supposed to be all long faces and determined expressions. It’s supposed to be positive!  What would be fun for you and your family? Learning to tie knots? Identify edible plants? Start a fire without matches? Operate a HAM radio? Take a course in basic self-defense? Do the CERT training? Every one of these skills will improve your knowledge, improve your confidence, and make you better prepared for any emergency!
    Tie the right knot!
    Ham radio operators play key role
    Self-defense for the rest of us

OK, I think that should do it!  Post this list somewhere handy, so you won’t overlook these items. What else should we add to the list? Just let us know in the comments!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. While we’re still on the positive aspects of preparedness, don’t miss my most recent Top Ten list!  It’s a collection of comfy camping items that would make ANY trip so much more pleasant — and fun!  Here’s the direct link: https://emergencyplanguide.org/top-ten/



Winter Storm Prep


Winter storm

Photo via Pixabay by Free-Photos

How To Protect Your Home–And Your Family–In An Emergency

Intro to this week’s Advisory – From time to time, readers contact me to offer a suggestion, a correction or, happily, a Guest Advisory! This week is an example. It was written by Oliver Lambert, co-creator of DisasterSafety. As its name suggests, his site focuses on safety resources including but not limited to hurricane, flooding, wildfire, blizzard, earthquake, and tornado. His  mission is to provide the most updated and accurate info on how to stay safe before, during and after these disasters. For those of us who like to-do lists, this article has what you need for several of them! And if you want even more info, follow the links included.  Thanks, Oliver!

Winter can be a fun time for many families, especially on snow days; sledding, building snowmen, and drinking hot chocolate are some of the best parts of cold weather.

However, winter storms can cause hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of damage and can leave your home–and your family–exposed to the elements. Even if there’s no damage, there may still be power outages and other issues that can lead to emergency situations.

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to prepare for a major winter storm, and it’s important to do so as soon as the weather turns cold. In many parts of the country, fall and winter are unpredictable seasons, meaning the snow could fly at any time.

Being prepared means having the right tools to deal with Mother Nature plus a plan for your family’s safety.

Read on for some of the best ways to get started.

Winter Prep your home

It’s a good idea to walk from room to room inside your home and look for ways you can prep them for winter weather. This means reversing the direction your ceiling fans turn in so they’ll push down the warm air that collects near the ceiling; having your fireplace and chimney checked and cleaned; laying aside enough firewood to get you through the season; checking and replacing furnace filters and making sure the unit is in good working order; installing a carbon monoxide detector or replacing the batteries in the one you have; and protecting your pipes from freezing. For some tips from professional property managers on how to help your pipes stay warm even in freezing weather, read on here.

Think emergency

It’s important to think about how you’ll handle an emergency. If the power goes out, or if you get stuck inside your home due to heavy snowfall, what will you need to get through several days?

Backup generators, kerosene heaters or wood burning stoves (CO warning!), flashlights, extra batteries, a small radio, blankets, a reserve of food along with any cooking tools you’ll need, medication, and anything your pets may need is a good start.

Make a list and ensure you have everything you need to get yourself and your family through an emergency.

For tips on how to handle heating when the power is out, check out this article from the Red Cross.

Stock up on tools

Bad weather in winter means you’ll likely have to do some shoveling, so stock up on salt and make sure you have the right tools, including sturdy gloves that will protect your fingers from the cold and a shovel that’s in good shape. (The Red Cross article mentioned above reminds you not to overexert yourself in cold weather, too!)

Remember to have a camera handy for when the storm is over so you can photograph any damage for the insurance company. This includes damage to your roof, windows, deck, and gutters. If possible, take “before” photos of these areas in the fall, before the first snow. For more tips on how to handle any storm damage, check out this article from the real estate professionals at Redfin.com.

Get your car ready

Winterizing your car will take some collaboration between you and a mechanic, who can check  fluids, tires, and windshield wipers and make sure everything is ready for the cold.

What you can do is stock the car with a jug of water, blankets (foil emergency blankets are compact and inexpensive), flares, a spare tire and set of tools, a flashlight, and a bag filled with snacks such as granola bars in case you get stranded for a little while.

Look outside

The exterior of your home is just as important as the interior when it comes to a winter storm. Branches that are dead or hang close to your house should be trimmed so they don’t become weighed down with ice, and the gutters should be cleaned so icicles don’t form and clog them up. Clear walkways and make sure you have plenty of salt or brine on hand to keep them from becoming slippery hazards.

Remember that each family member should be aware of your plans for winter weather; talk about what you’ll do in case of an emergency and where everyone should meet in case you get split up. Keeping communication open will ensure that everyone stays safe.

Thanks for reading, for making your own check-lists, and being ready for winter.  Here in Southern California we continue to have historic high temperatures — 91 degrees on Thanksgiving Day! — and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) says that two-thirds of the continental US will likely experience warmer-than-normal conditions this winter season. So, things may not be quite as bad as they could be!  

But no matter the long-range outlook, a cold snap or two will surely happen. Be ready.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team