Claim and Preparation Tips for a Hurricane: Meds, Pets, Labels and ZipLocs

With a hurricane hurtling our way this week, now is the time to find and review your homeowners and automobile insurance policies. Call your insurance agent to get updates on your coverage, if you need to.

You may or may not have a separate flood insurance policy, which would cover rising water.

But many other kinds of storm-related losses are usually covered by standard homeowners’ policies – in particular, wind damage and water damage from above (for example, rain falling through a hole in your wind-damaged roof).

Regardless of what kind of property insurance you have, you need to act now to protect those policies and other essential documents, and to make arrangements for your family and your pets to weather the storm with you.

There are many lists available regarding emergency preparation (especially regarding food and water), but here are some practical actions that may have been overlooked:

Do these 2 things right away.
1. First of all, leave right this minute and take each of your cars to a gas station to fill the tanks with a reasonable amount of gas.

  • Don’t put this off: whole neighborhoods are fairly likely to lose power at some point during the hurricane, and gas pumps need electricity to run.
  • You also don’t want to wait until the hurricane is literally knocking on your door: gas stations often run out of gasoline when a hurricane nears.

2. While you are out, stock up on strong freezer ZipLoc bags; they provide pretty good protection from water.

  • You are likely to use one- and two-gallon sizes the most.
  • Look for bags labeled for freezer use; any others will be too thin and flimsy for hurricane use.
  • Go for the name brands like ZipLoc and Hefty. Now is not the time to take a chance that bargain brands may or may not work just as well.

Protect your important papers. Use good, strong Ziploc bags to put all the following together NOW:

  • Your homeowners and automobile insurance policies
  • Round up keys and put them in the bag with your policies:
    • Extra set of car keys
    • Extra house key
  • A portable non-electronic list of phone numbers and other contact info for crucial family and neighborhood contacts:
    • Include a paper list of cell-phone numbers for each member of your family/household.
      • Why? Those phone numbers have most likely have been saved on your own cell phone for so long that most days you can’t remember them at all.
      • Your cell phone may run out of power, rendering your Contacts list totally inaccessible.
    • Numbers for distant family members and friends who will need to hear from you
    • Doctors’ and vets’ phone numbers

You can store this list in your cell phone’s Contacts.

    • But you should also print out this contact list, put it in a ziploc bag, and give a copy to each member of your household
  • If you’re able, print out a GPS-style aerial photo of your house, showing surrounding roads and identifiable landmarks. Write your Zip code on the photo, and then fold it up and put it in a ziploc bag that you can keep in your purse, pocket, or backpack in case you need it to help rescuers find you, if stranded. (Remember: Your actual street address may not be of much use if you have to call 911, as street numbers are rarely visible in flooded areas.)

Pack up all Prescription Medicines for all members of your household.

  • Check to make sure that each person in your household has enough of their meds for at least one week, or better.
  • If necessary, go to your pharmacy immediately and request Emergency Rx Refills for anyone’s medications that are running low. Do not delay.
  • Gather up meds for each member of your household. Pack them in freezer-strength ziploc bags, and label them for each person.
  • Put together lists of prescription medications and pharmacy info for each member of your household
  • Include on these Rx lists any necessary contact info for your family members’ doctors
  • Place these prescription/pharmacy/doctor lists in a separate bag in a separate location from the medications themselves.

If you have pets, they will need you now more than ever. Make plans NOW to look after them during the storm. Most shelters allow pet owners to bring their cats and dogs with them, and during emergency situations, some hotels permit your pets to stay with you, as well. But to do this, common sense dictates that you need to have some way to restrain your pets. Take the time now to….

  • Dig out that dog kennel or cat carrier that is in the back corner of your garage
  • Make sure you also have strong leashes for each of your pets, plus a way to tie the leashes to a post, etc.
  • Make sure each pet is wearing its current rabies tag, as well as easily visible identification on its collar
  • Find your pets’ current shot records, make copies, and place them in a Ziploc with your human medical information
  • Be sure that your pets’ ID tags have your CELL phone number on them. [Remember: your home phone may not be useable either because of power outages or because of flooded homes – so anyone who happens to find your pet won’t be able to reach you on your home phone.]
  • Pack up some pet food and light-weight food and water dishes for your cats and dogs.
    • (Remember: you may have to hand-carry all of this, so don’t try to pack up 25 pounds of dog food.)
  • If your pets require any daily medications, don’t forget to pack them, too.
  • Put all of the above pet items into a waterproof bag of some sort that you are sure you can carry by hand. If you are using large garbage bags, double-bag them. And then LABEL the bag (see below).

A day or two before the storm is due to arrive at your location – possibly knocking out your power for hours, or days, or more – be sure to take the following precautions:

  • Get $100 to $200 in cash from the bank. Don’t put this off: with power outages, ATM’s and even retail stores’ cash registers may not be working.
  • Charge your cell phone(s).
  • Purchase backup batteries for your cell phones, and charge them too.
  • Put each person’s cell phone and batteries in strong (freezer) ziploc bags.
  • Fill your bathtub with water. Find a one- or two-gallon bucket to keep near it. You will be able to flush your toilets, no matter what, with this water/bucket combination.

Label everything. Make sure you have some wide, clear packing tape. Make big 3” x 5” labels to tape onto each of your plastic bags. Using either a broad marker or a bold font in 24-pt or larger, include the following info:

  • Your family’s last name
  • Your family’s primary cell phone number
  • In smaller print:
    • Names and ages of all household members who should be with you during the hurricane
    • Name and descriptions of any pets traveling with you – also your veterinarian’s phone number
  • Cover each 3 x 5 label with clear packing tape. Cover labels with tape completely.

Go ahead now and put one of these 3 x 5 labels/cards in each household member’s purse, bookbag, backpack, or any other sort of tote bag.

Prepare for the worst…

  • Assume you will have to leave your house in a hurry…
  • Assume that you are going to be without electricity for a while…
  • Assume one or more members of your household will be hard to find/get in touch with…
  • Assume that a lot of important things are going to get wet…
  • Assume your life is going to be totally derailed and disorganized for the next several weeks, but always…

Pray for the best.