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National Preparedness Month: Two things you can do now to protect you and your family

September 04, 2018

By Marc Pearson

Preparing an emergency kit and checking your insurance coverage are two simple steps towards preparedness

We take safety seriously at Stantec, and I’m proud of that because my main client is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), whose mission is to reduce the loss of life and property from all hazards. FEMA’s history is built upon leading America to prepare for, reduce impacts from, and recover from disasters with a vision of “A Nation Prepared.”

September is National Preparedness Month, and this year’s theme is “Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.” This falls in line with our culture of safety, both at work and home.

Stantec requires that all meetings begin with a “safety moment” to reinforce this culture of awareness. When leading any meeting, I always encourage staff to think about home preparedness and direct everyone toward FEMA’s website. This site gives ideas on how to keep your family safe during disasters and checklists for how to prepare simple preparedness kits.

My challenge to you

Take 30 minutes during September and start building an emergency kit. Many of the basic items are already in your house or apartment, but the key is putting them in one location that can be accessed when needed. FEMA’s goal, and what Stantec is supporting, is to make our country more resilient and to help citizens and communities bounce back faster after an impact. Disasters are not always widespread catastrophes seen in the news. They can be a fallen tree on your house, a severe winter storm, or a long-term power outage. To prepare for any of these, I have a safety kit at home and review its contents every six months. Safety kits can be tailored to each person or family but should include:

  • Medicines
  • Non-perishable food
  • Simple tools
  • Matches/lighters
  • Cash (ATMs may be down)
  • Hand crank or solar powered radio/cell phone charger
  • Toys (if you have kids)

While the need for preparedness plans and kits are obvious, I often see raised eyebrows when it comes to checking insurance coverage. I recently attended the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) national conference in Phoenix where this topic hit home. During one session, Paul Huang, Assistant Administrator for Federal Insurance at FEMA, asked how many believed in disaster preparedness? Everyone raised their hands. He then asked, “How many believe that if you don’t live in a mapped floodplain, you can still be impacted by floods?” Everyone raised their hands. Then he asked, “How many of you have flood insurance?”

Almost no one raised their hand, including me.

If you live in an area with low or moderate flood risk, you are 5 times more likely to experience flood than a fire in your home over the next 30 years. Are you prepared?

Week three of National Preparedness Month addresses proper insurance coverage. Just because your home is not mapped within the limits of a special flood hazard area (SFHA) on a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) does not mean you’re out of harm’s way. During the home buying process, this detail is often passed over with little to no explanation. If you have a federally backed mortgage and your home is shown within a SFHA, you’re required by law to purchase flood insurance. However, if you’re outside the SFHA, it’s up to you to determine your risk and make an informed decision about food insurance needs. Most homeowner policies do not cover any damage from floods. It’s important to understand that any person living in a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) participating community can purchase flood insurance. Want to know your risk? FEMA has made it easy: visit their Maps Service Center and search by address, place, or coordinates. If you have questions about this, please ask. We have hundreds of staff who support this program every day.  

Whether you live in the middle of a high risk flood zone or atop a hill, you should consider the need for flood insurance. If you live in an area with low or moderate flood risks, your home is 5 times more likely to experience flooding than a fire over the next 30 years. For many, an NFIP flood insurance policy can cost less than $400 per year ($34/month). I can’t stress enough the importance of checking your insurance coverage now and understanding what is or is not covered. Addressing insurance gaps is a far less painful exercise than trying to clean up after a disaster with no coverage.

Because of Stantec’s strong safety culture, I’ve seen a shift in how our employees embrace safety awareness. I see our teams routinely perform risks assessments and take precautionary measures both in the field and around the office. The next step is to extend this same culture at home. In the spirit of this year’s theme to “Prepare Now,” please take a few minutes to visit, evaluate your insurance coverage, and take the first step in developing a home preparedness kit. If you want to share a photo of your kit, be sure and tag #Stantec and #NatlPrep on social media. I’d love to see how you are being proactive in building a more resilient world.

  • Marc Pearson

    Marc specializes in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Information Management (IM) in support of flood hazard analysis, water resource engineering, mitigation planning and other environmental related services.

    Contact Marc
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