Unprepared for the Unexpected: Too Many Americans Aren’t Prepared for Natural Disasters. Here’s What You Can Do Now

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By Mark McGillivray, Senior Vice President of Claims

Most Americans believe that there has been an increase in both the number and severity of natural disasters.

It’s not just a feeling.

It’s a fact.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration reports that the U.S. has experienced a record number of disasters in the past several years.

With the onset of the official Atlantic hurricane season on June 1, Allstate commissioned a national poll to gauge Americans’ preparedness and experiences with natural disasters.

The survey results were eye-opening: revealing a citizenry that is more acutely aware of the prevalence and dangers of natural disasters, but not sufficiently prepared to protect their families from hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, snowstorms and other severe weather events.

To be sure, plenty of Americans are taking some steps to prepare. For example, half of all Americans surveyed have emergency kits filled with safety supplies that can be used at a moment’s notice. But there is much more that Americans can and should do to ensure that the property and the people they care about emerge safely if and when disaster strikes.

Natural Disasters Hit Home

Over the last few years, we’ve all seen the calamitous images of burning wildfires and rising tides on the nightly news. But many of us have also personally experienced nature’s wrath, as more than 9-in-10 Americans report having lived through a natural disaster. And 1-in-5 say they experienced significant damage to their homes from a natural disaster in just the past year.

It’s no surprise then that one-third of Americans are concerned about their personal safety and well-being if a natural disaster were to strike. What is surprising is that this concern isn’t translating enough into concrete action.

Although 40 percent of Americans say they’ve thought about an evacuation plan, only eight percent have actually practiced a plan of escape. And 30 percent of people say they would take their chances if another severe storm was approaching and wait until it’s absolutely necessary to evacuate to a safe place.

It’s not just personal safety where there is a need for improvement. Property protection continues to be a blind spot, as only 36 percent of homeowners have a property inventory list in a safe place, which is down eight percent from two years ago.

It’s easy to keep pushing back these preparations for another day.

But that’s a big mistake. Allstate is an industry leader in catastrophe response and our teams have played a key role in helping customers and communities recover from disasters ranging from Hurricane Katrina to Sandy and the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri and Moore, Oklahoma. We’ve seen time and time again how being prepared for natural disasters today can save you a lot of heartache and headache tomorrow. Here are a few steps that you and your family can take to protect yourselves.

Evacuate Your Family to a Safe Place

Before a disaster strikes, families, and their neighbors, should discuss an evacuation plan or a meeting place away from their home. The plan should include a meeting location in case family members get separated and an out-of-state contact so the family knows who to call.

If you know a storm is coming, gas up your vehicles, review the best evacuation routes and keep a map or GPS unit in the car in case you are forced to take unfamiliar roads. And respect local authorities and law enforcement decisions on when to evacuate and when it is safe to return home.

Prepare an Emergency Kit to Grab and Go

Although half of all Americans polled said they have prepared an emergency kit, that still leaves another half who have not. Every family should consider putting together a well-stocked, first-aid kit as well as a disaster-supply kit and keep them in easy-to-access places.

A disaster-supply kit should contain plenty of water and non-perishable foods, a weather radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, cash, medications or prescriptions for those medicines, personal hygiene items, blankets, extra clothes and shoes as well as important papers, including insurance policy numbers.

Make a Home Inventory

This is one of the most overlooked steps you can take to protect your property.

If you don’t have an up-to-date home inventory, walk through your home with a video or still camera to take lots of pictures or videotape of your belongings. And be sure to update your list whenever you make a big purchase.

You can also use an application like Digital Locker to help create an inventory, which is available to anyone to use for free.

Annually Update and Evaluate Your Insurance Coverage

You’d be surprised how small changes in your life can affect your insurance, which is why you should review your policies at least once a year with your insurance agent. If you’ve moved to a new city for example, you may find that you need flood insurance, which is offered by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program and is typically not part of a homeowner’s policy. Whatever your needs, you and your agent can sort through your coverage to ensure you have the protection you need and the discounts you deserve.

With hurricane season picking up on the coasts, tornadoes in the Midwest and wildfires in the West and elsewhere, now is the time to get prepared and be protected. There’s nothing more important to Allstate than your personal safety. These simple steps can go a long way toward ensuring that you, your families and your property can weather whatever Mother Nature throws at you.


About the Survey
The survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 American adults with homeowners or renter’s insurance. Interviews were conducted April 8-16, 2014 via phone and has a margin of error + 3.1% at the 95% confidence interval.  The survey was conducted by FTI Consulting for Allstate.