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Tips for softening the blow when a natural disaster strikes close to home

By Kathryn Weber
Tribune Content Agency

As homeowners, we like to think of our houses as personal fortresses, but we’re clearly at the mercy of nature. Storms can strike in any season, not to mention fires, floods and other calamities. Some judicious preplanning can help us weather these threats.

Document your belongings

Should disaster strike, you’ll need documentation for your home and belongings. Using your cell phone or digital camera, take short videos of each room and close-up shots of items such as TVs, stereo equipment, and furniture. Be sure to take photos of your home from the outside, too. This will help insurance adjusters verify the type of home you lived in, and provide proof of what you owned should the house be lost or damaged.

Download the videos onto a digital DVD disc and place the disc in a plastic bag, along with all your important documents (insurance policies, mortgage, wills, birth certificates, banking information). Place these items in a waterproof box that you can take with you if you need to evacuate.

You may also want to keep important keepsakes in the box, such as baby photos and wedding albums. Lastly, this is a good place to keep an emergency stock of cash; when disaster strikes, it can hard to find a working ATM. Be sure to stash away both large and small bills.

Important emergency aids

After a disaster, it can be difficult to call for help or contact relatives. For that reason, it’s a good idea to invest in a solar phone charger. You can find a variety of these priced from $29 up, and when you need juice for your phone, you’ll be grateful for this handy gadget.

Another helpful item is a hand-cranked radio for accessing news and alerts. Invest in pet crates to help you transport animals quickly and easily. A generator could be a lifesaver. Consider buying one before an emergency, when the prices are lower and there’s good availability.

Prepare an emergency kit

Simple things you should have for your kit include a flashlight, whistle, extra medications, formula for infants, personal care items like toilet paper, feminine items, tissue, matches in a waterproof container, a small tool kit and a first aid kit.

For a complete list of useful items, check Ready.gov, which also offers important information on items you should have on hand to help purify water, and how to store water and food in case of disaster.

The Ready.gov site has good information on how to create a family emergency plan. For printable templates, visit ready.gov/make-a-plan.

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