WLL helps area residents plan for future disasters

Women, Land & Legacy of Southwest Iowa held a disaster preparation event at the Tabor Community Center on January 23 to help area residents plan for future events.

Elizabeth Davison, Farm Bureau Insurance Agent, and Sheri Bowen, Mills County Public Health Agency Administrator, were the speakers for the evening. Yeya’s Scratch Kitchen of Tabor provided a catered meal. About 20 women attended.

Bowen told the group funding for emergency planning has been available since September 11, 2001, and every public health department of every county has an emergency plan. She advised that every family or individual also needs to have a plan, as a way to improve their own outcomes in the event of a disaster.

Bowen stressed that everyone needed to be personally prepared because in the event of a disaster, outside sources of emergency supplies may be lacking or slow in coming, and emergency responses may be limited.

She suggested starting with being informed, knowing how they would be notified of an emergency, and who to contact for more information.

Bowen said the next step was that everyone should create and maintain a disaster/go kit that would enable them to survive without any outside assistance for at least 72 hours, whether they had to survive at home or elsewhere. Bowen had provided several preparedness handouts, some of which included suggestions for what should be included in a disaster kit, like:

• money;

• medications-at least a week’s worth;

• extra clothing and bedding;

• copies of important documents;

• 3 days worth of non-perishable food;

• 1 gallon of water per person/per day;

• a battery powered or hand-crank radio/weather radio;

• batteries;

• a flashlight;

• a first aid kit;

• a whistle;

• a dust mask;

• plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place;

• moist towelettes, feminine products, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation;

• hand tools like a wrench or pliers;

• a manual can opener;

• local maps;

• a cell phone and charger and/or solar charger, and

• a list of emergency phone numbers as well as those of family and friends, in case a primary cell phone is lost.

Bowen also reminded the audience to keep in mind the needs of any pets they have when preparing their disaster kits.

Bowen talked about the 2019 flood, and how many people were unprepared for the length of time they would be out of their homes. She said during the 2011 floods people had some notice that they needed to evacuate, and many packed thoroughly and moved things thinking flood waters might enter their homes, then the water didn’t. When 2019 flooding hit, there was little to no notice for some regarding evacuation, but many assumed it would be like 2011 anyway, and likely not get in their homes, and they would be back at home within a few days at most. The extent and duration of the 2019 flooding was a rude awakening for many, and Bowen said local governments and organizations would like to help people be more prepared in advance of the next disaster.

“We always think bad stuff won’t happen to us,” Bowen said, “and we have to believe that to get through life. But you need to be thinking, just in case, about the things that will be important to you and how to protect them.”

Davison talked to the women about automobile and home insurance, including what to do in the event of an accident or home loss, as well as understanding their policies.

Davison advised the audience to call the police in the event of an accident, rather than just taking information and leaving, saying they would need a police report anyway for an insurance claim. She also advised downloading their insurance company app to their phone, so their policy information and insurance card would always be available on their phone.

She cautioned the group to take pictures and get as much information as possible, saying they actually had a year to file a claim, and should take the time to assess the situation before doing so. In particular, she noted that claimants should be aware of how much their deductible was, and how much repairs would cost, as it may not be worth filing.

Davison also suggested the audience members should know whether they have roadside assistance and what the company will pay for (and how much), as well as whether they have rental car coverage.

Regarding home insurance, Davison pointed out most home losses don’t come out of the blue; they have a cause, such as old wiring, a roof that has been leaking for some time, an ancient furnace, etc. She warned that insurance companies will look at the customer’s culpability as well as home maintenance and upkeep in the event of a claim.

She offered some other advice regarding home insurance:

• Keep the insurance agent up to date on any improvements as they may lower the premium;

• Take pictures of the house and expensive contents at least once yearly, keeping an inventory and appraisal of valuables on file;

• Understand deductibles are to be paid per occurrence, so, for example, hail damage on three occasions will involve three deductibles;

• Make informed decisions about whether it is worth filing a claim, taking deductibles into consideration, and

• Understand that insurance companies can and do purge or drop clients that file claims too often, as “they raise the rates for everyone.”

There were some questions from the audience regarding flood insurance, but Davison indicated flood damage and insurance was a whole different field, and most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flooding. Davison said, “If you live in a flood plain and don’t have flood insurance, you’re up a creek.” The handouts Bowen provided also had information about flood insurance and filing flood insurance claims.

Davison’s final advice to the audience was to read their policies and know what was and was not covered.

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