Flood insurance checkup

flood insurance
National Flood Insurance Program (fema.gov)

Hurricane Florence is not your average storm.  As it will undoubtedly devastate the area where it makes landfall, it will also wreak havoc along the east coast.  Some are already calling it a historic storm.  Flooding is expected not just along the coast, but also well into the mainland due to heavy rains.  Even my local county (Montgomery County) is bracing for persistent heavy rain even though we are in central MD. In its aftermath, hurricane Florence will be another reminder for Congress to act on a long-term reform of the National Flood Insurance Program.

The National Flood Insurance Program was created 1968 as a result of the aftermath of hurricane Betsy.    After the 1965 hurricane ravaged the gulf coast, Congress realized that flood insurance should be affordable and widely available to home owners, tenants, and businesses.  The National Flood Insurance Program provides coverage associated with hurricanes, tropical storms, and heavy rains.  Like other Federal programs, Congress funds the program.  However, in recent years, Congress has appropriated short term extensions for the program.  The current extension provides funding through November.

National Association of Realtors President Elizabeth Mendenhall, issued a statement regarding the impending storm and a plea to Congress to act on reforming the National Flood Insurance Plan.  Mendenhall stated in the September 11th press release that there are an estimated 750,000 homes at risk from a coastal storm surge.  Furthermore, there is the potential of an estimated $170 billion of property damage just in the Carolinas and Virginia (nar.realtor).

Representing the National Association of Realtors, Mendenhall urges Congress to pass a long-term National Flood Insurance Plan by pointing out that “Flooding is the most common disaster in the United States, one that affects Americans in communities both coastal and inland every year.” She is correct to say, “In these times, we are reminded of the importance of peace of mind for property owners with access to quality and affordable flood insurance.

FEMA’s Flood Smart (floodsmart.gov) portal is where you can find more information about flood insurance and protecting your home before and after a flood.  Before a storm like Florence, you can reduce your risk by preparing.  FEMA offers suggestions for flood prepping, which includes (but not limited to): elevating critical utilities; ensuring your sump pump is working and has a battery back-up; install a water alarm in your basement; clear debris from gutters and down spouts; store irreplaceable documents (such as birth certificates, passports, etc.) in a safe, dry place; and of course, build an emergency supply kit that is ready to go when you are.  Your emergency kit should minimally include non-perishable food, bottled water, first aid, medicines and a battery-operated radio.  Ready.gov has checklists and additional preparedness information, including building your emergency supply kit.

It’s also recommended to make an inventory of your valuables so as to make filing insurance claims easier.  Additionally, know your flood risk level by checking FEMA’s interactive flood map (msc.fema.gov/portal/search).

FEMA warns home owners that regardless of your risk zone, flood insurance may be a necessary add-on to your homeowners’ insurance policy.  Even if you live in low or moderate flood risk area, you are five times more likely to experience a flood in your home than a fire.  Don’t assume your homeowners’ insurance policy covers flood damage.  Even if you have a flood rider, your coverage may be limited.  Review your policy with your insurance agent to determine if you have flood coverage as well as its limitations.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/09/12/flood-insurance-checkup/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

National Preparedness Month

National Preparedness Month
National Preparedness Month (from Ready.Gov)

September is National Preparedness Month!  Being prepared is not just having a “bugout” bag at the ready.  Preparedness is about taking stock to ensure safety for yourself and family in various conditions.  When you hear “preparedness,” you may automatically think of disaster or national emergency.  But it’s also about coping with various local emergencies including: weather, active shooter, hazardous materials, chemical, cybersecurity, and power outages.

FEMA encourages Americans to be prepared to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.  National Preparedness Month is FEMA’s focused outreach effort to educate and empower everyone through local and online events (https://www.ready.gov/september).  National Preparedness Month activities are occurring throughout the country.  In Montgomery County MD, local National Preparedness Month activities are coordinated through the County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Preparedness in your home starts with maintenance.  Proper home maintenance can not only help mitigate a disaster, but also prevent one as well.  Regular maintenance of the home’s systems is obviously suggested.  However, there are specific emergency related recommendations to help you in your home, which include: testing smoke alarms monthly, replacing smoke alarms every ten years, and knowing how to shut off your home’s utilities.  Additionally, to prevent a chimney fire, you should have your fireplace and chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified and reputable professional.

Information is key to getting through an emergency.  If you have a cell phone, you may receive “Wireless Emergency Alerts” through the Integrated Public Alert Warning System, which includes amber alerts, weather alerts, and notifications from the Emergency Alert System.  However, localities also have there own alert systems.  Here in Montgomery County MD, the Montgomery Alert system can inform you of local government and school information, weather alerts, as well as traffic and infrastructure issues (montgomerycountymd.gov/OEMHS/AlertMontgomery).

National Preparedness Month
FEMA Preparedness Checklist (from ready.gov)

Do you have an emergency plan?  You should have a plan in case an emergency occurs in and out of the home.  Take time to update your home fire evacuation plan, and practice it with a family fire drill.  Choose a family rendezvous point in case an emergency occurs during work/school hours and the home is inaccessible.  Because cell phones are not reliable during emergencies, alternate means of communication should be considered.  Create a family communication plan by including: family contact information, family physician, medical facility information, and an out-of-town point of contact.

Is your homeowner’s insurance adequate?  The aftermath of recent hurricanes and floods have demonstrated that home owners with proper insurance coverage recover from those disasters quicker.  Insurance and emergency experts recommend to regularly review your insurance policy with your agent to ensure that the replacement costs of your home and possessions are covered.  Coverage varies depending on the policy.  Experts recommended to discuss flood and disaster insurance with your insurance agent.

As for the “bugout” bag… It’s recommended that you have an emergency kit in the home and in your car.  A basic kit should be able to get you and your family through 72 hours of an emergency.  However, extreme emergencies have revealed that infrastructure can be disrupted for weeks.  Many experts encourage having an expanded home emergency kit to last at least two weeks in case of a prolonged lack of infrastructure.

Learn more about National Preparedness Month at FEMA’s Ready.gov (ready.gov/September).  Ready.gov provides detailed information about preparedness for yourself, your family and your home, including assembling an emergency kit.  Local preparedness information in Montgomery County MD can be obtained from Montgomery County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (montgomerycountymd.gov/oemhs).

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/09/05/national-preparedness-month/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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In the unlikely event of nuclear war

Preparedness can mitigate personal disaster in case of nuclear war
Preparedness can mitigate personal disaster in case of nuclear blast (infographic from cdc.gov)

While a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps.  Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness…”  This was the introduction to a highly anticipated Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov) Grand Rounds on the health response to a nuclear detonation.  Unfortunately, the January 16th topic “Public Health Response to a Nuclear Detonation” was shelved to discuss the current flu epidemic.  Home owners want to know how to protect their homes and family in the unlikely event of nuclear war.

Living just outside Washington DC, it feels as if the anxiety for such as disaster has increased in recent months.  Many of you might wonder if there is anything you can do to save your homes and your families in the event of a nuclear war.  Like other potential disasters, preparedness can help mitigate personal disaster.

I had the opportunity to correspond with the Outreach Coordinator for Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Joe Corona, CEM.  When asked if the county has a plan in case of a nuclear war, he stated “We’ve taken a look at what we would need during the unlikely scenario of a nuclear attack (i.e. plume modeling, evacuation planning, public messaging, recovery planning, etc.), and applied them to multiple situations, so that in the unlikely event of a nuclear attack, we’re able to look at the priorities and provide the most effective response that we can.”

Corona described the Montgomery County’s Emergency Operation Plan as an “all hazards framework” that is able to prepare, respond and recover from an incident “regardless of the type of event.”  He added, “Our focus is responding to community needs effectively regardless of the event, and to be able to quickly increase or direct resources in order to provide the maximum benefit to the community, with life safety always being the number one priority.”

In this unlikely scenario, what can you do to protect your home and family?

Prepare by creating a plan, and building an emergency kit.  Corona suggests tapping resources from agencies such as Ready.gov, The American Red Cross, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, etc. to help you with your plan.  He recommends that you think about areas in your home that provide the best shielding from outdoor elements, and to “take steps now to prepare to shelter in place for longer periods of times.”  Corona suggests that you prepare at least three days of emergency supplies. However, in the unlikely case of nuclear war, you probably need to plan for “longer periods.”

Ready.gov (ready.gov/nuclear-blast) provides information on what to do before, during and after a nuclear blast.  Preparedness recommendations include building an emergency kit, make a family emergency plan, as well as identifying any designated fallout shelters in your community, and/or make a list of potential shelters near home, work and school.   “During periods of heightened threat,” you should have at least a two week emergency supply.

Corona recommends staying informed through Alert Montgomery (alert.montgomerycountymd.gov), noting that your chance for survival increases if you can act quickly.  “Alert Montgomery is the official emergency communications service for Montgomery County, MD. During a major crisis, emergency or severe weather event, Montgomery County officials can send event updates, warnings and instructions directly to you on any of your devices.

Check your homeowners or renter’s insurance coverage.  He stated, “In our responses, those who have insurance require so much less of the limited government resources and have tremendously more options through ‘loss of use’ provisions to seek alternate accommodations.  Photographing pre-conditions, keeping policy info in your go kit [emergency kit], and notifying the insurance company early after events go a long way to promoting recovery for the individual and recouping any losses.”

The Montgomery County OEMHS is a rich source of information on preparedness for disasters, including the unlikely event of a nuclear war. Their outreach personnel can answer your questions about staying informed, making a plan, building an emergency kit, as well as getting involved in the community (www.montgomerycountymd.gov/OEMHS/hazards/tech/radiological.html).

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Keep calm and carry on – building a panic room in your home

From blog.Allstate.com

There’s a mystique that many mid-century homes exudes. Maybe it’s the unpretentious architecture and retro-future feel that many people find charming. However, the homes also bring us back to a different time and place; yes, these homes remind us of the cold war era. During the height of the cold war, people went about their lives aspiring to advance in their careers, buying homes, and for many – having a bomb shelter of their own. Although building a personal bomb shelter in the back yard during the cold war may not have been as common as we are lead to believe; however, those who had a shelter of their own were most likely well known to their neighbors.

Although bomb shelters are passé today, finding ways to protect yourself in your home is once again trendy, and some say may be increasingly necessary. Today’s version of the in-house shelter is called a “panic room” (also known as a “safe room”). And like the movie “Panic Room,” the room may be able to offer shelter during a home invasion; but it can also offer shelter from other emergencies such as severe weather – and possibly some acts of terror.

When you think of a safe room, you might picture an elaborate shelter with provisions and amenities that will allow you to stay put for a couple of days or even a week or two. And in fact, FEMA (fema.gov/residential-safe-rooms) describes a safe room as “…a hardened structure specifically designed to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria and provide near-absolute protection in extreme weather events, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Near-absolute protection means that, based on our current knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes, the occupants of a safe room built in accordance with FEMA guidance will have a very high probability of being protected from injury or death.” FEMA offers plans and funding opportunities to build a safe room in your home.

As you can imagine, building a panic room can get expensive, especially if you are planning for long term shelter and for a variety of emergency situations. Many spend tens of thousands of dollars in designing their shelters. And even though you may not consider yourself a “prepper;” however, it is possible to create a basic shelter room with limited funds.

The Allstate Blog (Brendan ONeill; Storm Shelter? Safe Room? Build Your Own Ultimate Secure Shelter; blog.allstate.com, May 22, 2013) states that a safe room is simply “… a secure, reinforced, well-stocked room where individuals can go to avoid the risks and potential dangers that may arise in other parts of a home.” When designing a “shelter room” consider the basics. Choose a room that has no windows, impervious to flooding and is as close to ground level as possible (Allstate suggests a garage or a main level room). Consider reinforcing the room with a solid core or steel door, as well as lining the walls with plywood or other materials (some suggest metal sheathing or Kevlar). The room should be stocked with supplies that include emergency food, water, and first aid. Don’t forget communication devices, which should include a battery operated radio. A more elaborate panic room may include close circuit video monitors, a toilet and/or shower, and even a separate ventilation system. Visit Allstate’s site for a detailed list of basic items for your shelter (blog.allstate.com/safe-room-the-ultimate-secure-shelter-infographic).

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EMP’s, solar flares and your home – are you prepared

homesYour home takes on different functions at various times. Maybe you think of your home as place of relaxation and entertainment, or maybe it’s where you create gourmet meals. And although much of the living you anticipate in your home may be for enjoyment – will your home be a suitable shelter to protect you and your family?

To bring attention to preparedness, the Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov) played on pop-culture in a 2011 posting of a tongue in cheek account of preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse. The result of this and other efforts increased awareness of planning for emergencies and severe weather. As a severe weather event might inconvenience you for as much as a day or two, preparedness experts have since turned to preparing for and the aftermath of Katrina-like events, or worse – the takedown of the electric grid.

Preparedness experts have recently brought attention to the electric grid’s vulnerabilities with reports of hacking and alleged terrorist activity. However, one weakness that has been talked about in recent years, although has been known since the cold war, is the electromagnetic pulse (EMP). R. James Woolsey and Peter Vincent Pry, in their August 12, 2014 Wall Street Journal article (The Growing Threat From an EMP Attack; wsj.com), describe EMP’s, the aftermath, and preparedness. Woolsey and Pry quoted a 2008 EMP Commission report that estimated “within 12 months of a nationwide blackout, up to 90% of the U.S. population could possibly perish from starvation, disease and societal breakdown.”

Alternatively, the effect of a direct hit of a coronal mass ejection (CME) would be very similar to an EMP; causing “widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket…” Although 1859 was the last time a CME hit the Earth (when most of daily life did not depend on electricity), a CME barley missed the Earth (by several days) during July 2012. Scientists estimate a 12% chance of being hit by a CME in the next ten years (Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012; science.nasa.gov; July 23, 2014).

Although discussions about EMP’s and CME’s seem extreme; it should make you think about your preparedness level. If you don’t yet have (or need to update) a plan, preparedness information is available through government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (ready.gov). FEMA’s “Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness” interactive course is “a training program designed to help the citizens of this nation learn how to protect themselves and their families against all types of hazards…” and is a comprehensive source on individual, family and community preparedness (www.ready.gov/are-you-ready-guide).

Locally, the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security offers a resource library of information to prepare for and the aftermath of emergencies (montgomerycountymd.gov/oemhs/).

In addition to having an emergency plan, experts recommend reviewing your homeowners’ insurance policy to ensure of adequate coverage as well as compiling an inventory of your home’s contents; this is supposed to help you recover quicker from disaster. Additional recommendations include (but are not limited to) mitigating weather related damage: making sure your home’s doors and windows are secure and impermeable to weather, and also ensuring your roof and gutter system is well maintained (draining water at least five feet from your home); as well as removing debris and dead trees/shrubs from the home’s perimeter.

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