OK, let’s not wait for something bad to happen. We’ll begin with things you can do long before the event that’ll improve your chances of survival and make recovery easier.
Establish an off-site account to store electronic documents (Cost: FREE to $100/year)
Most of us have this already in the form of iCloud, Dropbox, or something similar.
Securely store all the files you create off-site (Cost: FREE)
If you’re uncomfortable with the security and encryption of the off-site service you’re using, use a program like VeraCrypt to encrypt your files.
Document your home (Cost: FREE)
Make a video walk-thru and walk-around of your house, highlighting key pieces of furniture, artwork, and equipment.
Digitally photograph jewelry, collections, guns, antiques, heirlooms, and other valuables (Cost: FREE)
If a catastrophic event results in a total loss, this’ll be invaluable when filing with your insurance company.
Inventory your home, recording model numbers, date of purchase, and serial numbers (Cost: FREE)
If possible, include receipts to prove details of ownership. Your insurance company will use this as the basis to reimburse you for losses.
Gather your important documents and store them in Ziploc bags (Cost: FREE)
These include family photos, wills, financial documents, power of attorneys, bank records, etc. Water damage is the most common loss, so pre-packaging your documents in waterproof Ziplocs is cheap insurance. It also makes it easy for you to grab the documents quickly if you need to evacuate.
Consolidate passports, birth certificates, medical records, and prescriptions (Cost: FREE)
Include records for your pets as well. Store these in a Ziploc bag.
A printed list of important contacts and phone numbers (Cost: FREE)
If you lose the electronic phone list on your cell phone, this will be invaluable. Either laminate it or store it in a Ziploc. Keep it in your “go bag”, which I’ll discuss later.
A printed list of all of your accounts, with account numbers (Cost: FREE)
Do not include your passwords on this list. It is simply a memory aid that will allow you to reference the accounts later.
Up-to-date vaccinations for people and pets.
Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date. At a minimum, you should have your flu, tetanus and measles.
Apply “3M Safety and Security Window film” to all glass in your home (Cost: about $100)
This is a transparent 8 mil laminate that is incredibly tough. To cover all windows & doors in an average home will cost around $100 if you DIY. It is optically transparent (shaded and mirrored versions are available) and you’ll never know it is there once installed. The laminate makes your glass virtually penetration proof, and is a great crime deterrent.
Keep your property free of debris (Cost: FREE)
Anything loose becomes a flying object in high winds.
Trim your trees (Cost: FREE)
Broken limbs and branches can easily penetrate windows, doors and roofs in high winds, so get rid of them before the event. Cut down and remove any “questionable” trees that lean towards your house or are diseased.