Many on the East Coast of the United States were recently reminded how unprepared they were for Mother Nature’s whims. An unprecedented earthquake that rattled buildings and people from the Deep South to Canada was swiftly followed by Hurricane Irene which swept up the Atlantic coast from the Bahamas. While somewhat familiar with hurricanes, Easterner’s certainly could not have predicted an earthquake for the area. And lately, many areas of the U.S. have seen such unusual events, from deadly outbreak of multi-state tornadoes to devastating wildfires in drought-stricken areas. Such events remind us that not only are we not immune from nature’s wrath, but that planning now for even unlikely disasters can save lives and property.
Plan and practice with your household escape routes from your home as well as safe places in your home in the event of any natural disaster. Homes should also be equipped with safety items such as ladders for second-story rooms, fire extinguishers, etc. It can be easy to lose track of one another during a disaster, so make certain everyone, including children, memorizes contact information for each other and outside assistance. Arrange both for a meeting place just outside your home and, in case this area is also dangerous, a back-up area such as a nearby fire station.
Every home should be equipped with the basics for survival – flashlights, battery-powered radios, batteries, blankets, warm-clothing, rain gear, first-aid kits, water, and non-perishable foods. Extra fuel can be helpful if a home has access to a generator, as well as extra gasoline to fuel a car. Keep an extra store of any medications necessary for survival. Items should be regularly checked and replaced if needed.
Not everyone can afford to build a super-secure, disaster-resistant home. But there are some relatively inexpensive ways to better secure your home. Dangerously heavy items such as bookcases, televisions and appliances can be easily bolted to the wall to help prevent their tipping over in the event of earthquakes, floods or storms. Thick drapes can help stop flying glass shards if windows break in a storm. Regularly cut back heavy trees and limbs to keep them from falling and injuring property or people. During construction, items like anchor bolts which better secure walls to foundations and metal clips that better attach roofs to walls can cost pennies but save thousands of dollars in property damage, and potentially save lives.
Saving money by having less or no insurance is a false economy. For instance, many homeowners forego flood insurance. But FEMA estimates that about 25% of flood claims are for properties not located in high-risk areas. Also, though you have medical insurance, what happens if another person is injured on your property? You may be held liable for their medical expenses and damages, which may be financially devastating without proper coverage.
Similarly, if you are injured during a natural disaster, others may be equally liable. While damages termed an “act of God” may mean that your neighbor’s tree falling on your home is not his or her fault, if the neighbor was aware the tree was weakened or dying and a potential risk, then that homeowner may be held liable. A property owner who knowingly fails to take steps to de-ice their walkway during a freeze may also be responsible for the injuries of anyone who falls. In this instance, you can contact an Illinois personal injury lawyer for assistance.
About the Author: Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyer that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit http://www.millonpeskin.com.