JACKSON, Miss. — Disasters can create chaos and confusion. If you aren’t prepared when an emergency happens, you’ll be forced to make decisions in circumstances that could further compromise your safety, and that of your family and loved ones.
It doesn’t matter if the emergency is a flood, a tornado, extreme heat or a power shutdown. Preparing yourself today means being protected from tomorrow’s disaster; the more prepared, the better.
The first thing you need is a plan. Having a well-rehearsed disaster plan can protect you, your loved ones…your pets. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers emergency plan fill-in forms and a number of practical planning resources – like how to decide on an emergency meeting place – at https://go.usa.gov/xyqyG. Make your planning a fun family project.
Complete the computer work and rehearse the strategy you develop.
Things you can do before the next flood:
- Reduce the risk of damage from flooding by elevating critical utilities, such as electrical panels, switches, sockets, wiring, appliances and heating systems.
- Waterproof your basement. Make sure your sump pump is working. Install a battery-operated backup in case of power failure.
- Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
Consider what you’ll need to do in case your family has to leave home for a temporary evacuation center:
- Plan and practice a flood evacuation route. Ask someone located in another city or state to be your “family contact” in an emergency, and make sure everyone knows the contact’s address and phone number.
- Build an emergency supply kit. Food, bottled water, first aid supplies, medicines and a battery-operated radio should be ready to go when you are. Visit Ready.gov for a complete disaster supply checklist.
- Make a pet plan. Many evacuation shelters do not allow pets. What will you do with Fido if the family is evacuated?
- Know how to shut off the gas, power and water to your home.
- Have some emergency cash tucked away; ATMs could be offline after a disaster.
- Never have less than half a tank of gas in your car. If you must evacuate, gas pumps may not be working.
Check your insurance policy to be sure you have enough coverage:
- Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding, but flood insurance is available for homeowners, renters and business owners through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
- You can probably purchase flood insurance from your insurance agent. If your agent doesn’t sell flood insurance, call the NFIP Help Center at 800-427-4661 for assistance.
- Take photos and videos to conduct a household inventory and keep a record of all major household items and valuables. These documents are critically important when filing insurance claims.
If you have not yet applied to FEMA for assistance to repair or replaced property damaged by last February’s storms and flooding, you have until Nov. 19, 2019 to do so. You can register with FEMA by visiting www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585). The tollfree lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Multilingual operators are available. You may also register at one of the state/FEMA disaster recovery centers are located at:
East Columbus Gym
222 Lawrence Drive
Columbus, MS 39702
3505 Pemberton Square Blvd., Suite 25
Vicksburg, MS 39180
Both DRCs operate 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday. Both facilities will close permanently at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31.
All FEMA disaster assistance will be provided without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex (including sexual harassment), religion, national origin, age, disability, limited English proficiency, economic status, or retaliation. If you believe your civil rights are being violated, call 800-621-3362 (TTY 800-462-7585).
FEMA’s mission: Helping people before, during, and after disasters.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For more information, applicants may visit a temporary disaster recovery center, or contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting SBA’s website at SBA.gov/disaster. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.