Rescue personnel navigate flooded streets in the family housing section of Naval Support Activity Mid-South on May 1, 2010, during major flooding after heavy rains breeched nearby protective levees. (U.S. Navy photo)

Preparedness for the Unprecedented: Make Disaster Plans and Ensure You’re Covered

Ten years ago, Nashville and the surrounding areas were devastated by a flood whose magnitude will never be forgotten. As the floodwaters invaded Nashville, took lives and damaged property and public infrastructure, the nation watched with immense disbelief and sadness. As the floodwaters receded, we pulled together, volunteered to help each other and helped the city recover. This year has brought a series of tornadoes, flooding and a derecho across Tennessee simultaneous with the spread of COVID-19, a massive derecho in Iowa, wildfires in the west and hurricanes in the Gulf. We have yet again faced unbelievable sadness and devastation nationwide. As we always do, I know that Tennesseans and all Americans will pull together, overcome and move forward in the aftermath of immense devastation.

September is National Preparedness Month. We can and will continue to prepare for disasters and learn from past disasters. Unfortunately, disasters can happen at anytime and anywhere and they don’t wait. Therefore, it is important that you create a plan for you and your family today – don’t wait for disaster to strike. It all starts with a conversation among your friends and family about how you will communicate, what you will need and where you will go before, during and after a disaster. During these unprecedented times, make sure to update your plan based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations due to the ongoing coronavirus.

Next, build a disaster kit. You should gather supplies for everyone living in your home and ensure the supply will last for several days after a disaster. Remember to consider the unique needs of each person or pet in case you must evacuate very quickly, such as specific medications and medical supplies. Additionally, you might want to include items such as face masks and hand sanitizer in case you must go to a shelter after the disaster strikes. You should also take time to know and understand the specific risks in your area so you can include geographic-specific items in your disaster kit.

Lastly, we should teach the next generation about the importance of preparedness, as it is one of the most important gifts we can pass down to them. Taking the time to discuss with your kids about preparing for emergencies – and what to do in case you are separated during one – could be the difference between life and death. You should create a meeting place, an emergency contact list and multiple different escape routes depending on the type of disaster, so they know their options and can follow the plan. You can also reassure them by providing information about how they can prepare and get involved in helping their community prepare, before a disaster strikes. For more information on planning and preparedness, visit www.ready.gov/September.

Amid an unprecedented year, Tennessee has remained resilient. We sincerely appreciate all the support we have received from the federal government from assisting our small businesses financially to providing aid to Tennesseans who have lost everything this year due to the pandemic and natural disasters. However, it is important to remember that when there is a disaster it is not guaranteed that the federal government will come in and rebuild to the prior standard that you were at beforehand. This does not happen in every case – as it is usually only when the damages are high enough that the state will request a presidential disaster declaration and be granted the request from the federal government. Therefore, financial preparedness is one of the most important ways to prepare yourself and your loved ones.

Americans at all income levels have experienced the challenges of rebuilding their lives after a disaster. In these unique and difficult times, having access to personal, financial, insurance, medical and other records is crucial for starting the recovery process quickly and efficiently. Start by gathering financial, critical, personal, household and medical information and consider saving money in an emergency savings account that could be used in a crisis. Additionally, keep a small amount of cash at home in a safe place in case you must evacuate quickly, because ATMs and credit cards may not work during a disaster when you need to purchase necessary supplies, fuel or food. I encourage you to take the time now to reach out to your insurance carrier to discuss financial preparedness through obtaining property, health and life insurance if you do not have them already.

It is worth noting that all insurance policies are not the same and you should be sure to review your policy to make sure the amount and types of coverage you have meet your requirements for all possible hazards. For example, homeowner’s insurance does not typically cover flooding, so you may need to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. Flood insurance is vital for flood preparedness because aid can take months and it may not be enough to cover the costs of rebuilding a home in the aftermath of a flood.

If you do not own your home, renter’s insurance is a tool that can help you prepare financially for a disaster by protecting the contents within your rented property. Bottom line, having insurance for your home or business property is the best way to make sure you will have the necessary financial resources to help you repair, rebuild or replace whatever is damaged.

As a nation, let’s volunteer to be better prepared by taking the right steps to protect the life you have built and your property. Preparedness starts with you: individuals, families and communities. Take steps today by starting a preparedness conversation with your loved ones and then speak with your insurance agent to review and renew your policies.

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Hodgen Mainda serves in Governor Bill Lee’s administration as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and the State Fire Marshal. Before his appointment to Governor Lee’s cabinet, Hodgen was Vice President of Community Development at the Electric Power Board (EPB) in Chattanooga, Tennessee – one of the nation’s largest publicly-owned power providers and the first public provider of gigabit Internet in the country. Before his service at EPB, Hodgen worked in the private equity sector for three years after serving as COO at Dale Buchanan & Associates, the largest social security disability and veterans affairs law firm in the southeast. A native of Nairobi, Kenya, Hodgen moved to Tennessee in 1997 to pursue higher education at Middle Tennessee State University where he studied Political Science and International Relations and graduated from the University of Eastern Africa.

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