On October 10, 2018, I told my wife, Ginger, that we needed to leave - this is not going to be a small hurricane. So we left and went to stay with family in Birmingham. When we came back a few days later, I realized my family was one of the lucky ones. We had a house that was still standing, no major damage, running water, and electricity. The people who live 10 to 20 miles to the east of us came back to the biggest natural disaster ever to hit the Florida Panhandle.
Since then I have volunteered with the Ohana Institute, the school my youngest daughter attends. I have been a part of a chainsaw crew that clear trees for people in Lynn Haven, delivered supplies to the people in Callaway, and cooked meals for 10,000 residents and volunteers. It’s a very sad situation. Many people have lost everything. In taking some time to reflect, I have learned three things that I believe anyone, anywhere can use to be prepared for any disaster.
1. Have cash on hand. When the power goes out and the infrastructure is damaged, electronics don’t work. Most businesses go to a cash basis during and after a disaster. Having access to a couple hundred dollars can get you water, food, and possibly shelter. When they can’t take your credit card because their machine doesn’t work, you are out of luck.
2. Listen to the authorities. In case of a hurricane, when they say evacuate, evacuate (if you are at all able). During a tornado, take cover when they tell you to. The same goes for any major weather event. Listen to the people in charge. Many people stayed during Hurricane ￼￼Michael, and in a lot of cases, they wish they had left. Having a cash reserve that will allow you to evacuate when needed is important. As a Gulf Coast resident, I realize that most people don’t expect a hurricane to hit their front door. But it is eventually going to happen. And in this case it did. Most people did not leave because they did not have the means to pay for a hotel. So they stayed. In some cases they were able to weather the storm and in others they were not. Having a good evacuation plan is critical. Where are you going to go? Who could you stay with? Do you have enough gas money to get where you need to go? What will you do with your pets in case of a disaster? These are all things that we had to consider. Luckily, we had friends and family who allowed us to bring our pets with us. Planning ahead is crucial. Have an plan - even if you never have to use it.
3. Review your insurance policies at least once a year. Check that everything is up-to-date and enforceable. I’ve heard many stories about people not having homeowners insurance. This is devastating, especially when you don’t have the means buy a new roof, or in extreme circumstances, replace the whole house. Finding a way to have homeowners insurance is key. Consider all the other types of insurance as well such as disability, life, and long-term care insurance. Many times people are injured during a natural disaster and having insurance to cover your medical expenses can be the difference between bankruptcy and healing properly.
I know there are many different things to do when preparing for a disaster. But having a plan is the biggest one. I am changed by what has happened in my community. Going forward, I will have more conversations with my clients about the "what ifs." And not just about the big things like major disaster planning, but the little things as well. What if your A/C goes out? How are you going to cover it? Do you need a home insurance policy that covers appliances? Any event can mean financial disaster if you aren't prepared.
If you have been affected by Hurricane Michael and have questions about what to do now, please reach out to me. Or if you want help planning in case of a disaster, big or small, please contact me. I am happy to help in any way. Email me at email@example.com or you can click the image below to view my calendar and set an appointment.