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Disaster Season Is Upon Us...Here's How You Can Prepare Now

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As devastation storms the Midwest, it's become clear this week that disaster season is upon us. The fury started in North Texas last week when at least 10 twisters hit, leaving 6 people dead, dozens injured and hundreds of homes destroyed. Then, several more tornados struck parts of Oklahoma and Kansas this weekend, killing at least 2. Topping the week off was the monster twister that flattened the city of Moore and surrounding areas in Oklahoma, killing 24 people, including 9 children, and injuring about 240 people. The storm ran 17 miles and lasted 50 minutes before dying out. It damaged or destroyed around 13,000 homes and packed up to 600 times more energy than the atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima during WWI. Causing an estimated $2 billion in damage already, it's proven to be the most expensive tornado in U.S. history.

The image of the flattened Plaza Towers Elementary School and children crying in the streets has been burned in each of our memories. The stories of survivors are resounding in our hearts. This devastating time should remind us all that disaster season is in the works and we should all prepare. Despite the damage done in Moore, Oklahoma this week, authorities say the death toll was surprisingly low. They attribute this to a long advance warning and heightened awareness of safety procedures leading up to the storms

In honor of the victims, let us all take a moment to consider how to prepare for disaster season. With tornados in full swing in the Midwest, fires sure to abound in California, and hurricane season quickly on the way, we can all take a lesson from Oklahoma. Preparing for a disaster is the best way to prevent damage and make picking up the pieces in the aftermath more manageable.

One area that is often overlooked before a storm and one that causes frustration after the storm is insurance. According to a 2012 Insurance Information poll, only 31% of U.S. renters carried renters insurance. In high-risk areas, such as Oklahoma, insurance rates tend to be extremely high and so renter's often skip on that insurance or are underinsured. While the property is insured, all of your belongings in the rental property are not. The worst part is that renter's insurance is often extremely inexpensive, costing as low as $10 a month in some areas. It's an insurance you shouldn't skimp on.

So...you have insurance now...what happens after the storm?

The first step you should take is to call your insurance company or agent. Have your policy number and all relevant information in hand. Cooperate fully with them, filling out necessary forms and gathering data quickly that they need to process your claim. Next, take photos or videos of the damage and send them along with those documents. If possible, make temporary repairs to your home to prevent additional damage. Cover broken windows and fix leaky roofs. Do not, however, make any permanent changes until your insurance company has inspected the property and approved a contractor. Lastly...be patient. Even though insurance companies deploy additional staff after major disasters, they are still trying to deal with hundreds or thousands of claims. They have to wait on vendors to respond and must take safety into consideration when entering disaster areas. Be patient and know they will get to you when they can.

If you have any questions, don't wait to contact the Red Cross, National Guard, or a trusted insurance lawyer.

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