Don’t Get Caught Unprepared! – September is National Preparedness Month

“Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.”, this year’s theme for National Preparedness Month, held annually every September since 2004. National Preparedness Month provides an opportunity to remind everyone to prepare themselves and their families now, and throughout the year.

National Preparedness Month is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency within the Department of Homeland Security, and it is part of a governmental effort to strengthen the United States’ preparedness capabilities, whether a terrorist attack strikes, or a natural disaster hits.

Better Business Bureau is proud to partner with FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security (Ready.gov) to offer tips on how to fully prepare for a disaster.

Make and Practice Your Plan

Disasters don’t plan ahead, but you can. Start by making an emergency plan with everyone in the home.

  • Put together a plan by discussing four different questions with your family, friends or household to begin your emergency plan. Discuss how you will receive emergency alerts and warnings, what your shelter plan is, your evacuation route, and the household communication plan.
  • It’s best to practice your escape plan with your family, including animals, at least twice a year so you are fully prepared when disaster strikes.
  • Fill out an emergency plan here, and share with everyone in your family, or household.

Learn Life Saving Skills

Learning basic home maintenance skills can protect your home and your family.

  • Learn how to turn off utilities like natural gas and electricity, and how to test and replace smoke alarms. It’s recommended to test smoke alarms every month, and to replace them every 10 years.
  • You should also know the ways to keep your home safe from cooking, heating and electrical fires by clicking here.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

Did you know according to FEMA, more than half of all homeowners in the United States do not carry adequate homeowner’s insurance to replace their home and its contents should a catastrophic loss occur?

Insurance is your first line of defense, which is why you should check your insurance coverage, and review your policy.

For more information on insurance, visit ready.gov/september.

Save for an Emergency

Did you know according to the Federal Reserve over 40 percent of Americans don’t have $400 in savings? It’s important to be financially prepared for any type of disaster. Disasters can be very stressful, but having access to personal, financial, medical and other records is crucial to a quick recovery.

  • Consider saving money and storing it in an emergency savings account, as well as leaving a small amount of cash at home in a safe place. If a disaster strikes, ATM’s and credit card machines may stop working, leaving cash as the only option.
  • You should also gather all financial and critical personal, household and medical information and store it in a safe, yet easily accessible place.
  • It’s important to also obtain property, health and life insurance, and review your existing policies for the amount and extent of coverage to ensure that what you have in place is enough for you and your family.

After a terrible and very public tragedy such as a mass shooting, wildfire or other natural disaster, or an accident, people want to help in any way possible, and that often means contributing to fundraisers to help the survivors and the families of the victims. Sadly, scammers often take advantage of these moments of vulnerability to deceive donors. In addition, there are often campaigns set up by well-meaning individuals who may or may not be directly connected to the tragedy.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance urges donors to give thoughtfully and avoid those seeking to take advantage of the generosity of others. Here are BBB WGA’s tips for trusted giving:

  • Thoughtful Giving:Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are providing assistance. Visit Give.org to verify if a charity meets the BBB Standards for Charitable Accountability.
  • Crowdfunding:Keep in mind that some crowdfunding sites do very little vetting of individuals who decide to post for assistance after a tragedy or a disaster, and it is often difficult for donors to verify the trustworthiness of crowdfunding requests for support. For more Give.org tips on crowdfunding, check out this Wise Giving Wednesday
  • Government Registration:About 40 of the 50 states in the U.S. require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office) before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag.
  • How Will Donations Will Be Used?:Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used
  • What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund?Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, if collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA, or lawyer this will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (paying for funeral costs, counseling, and other tragedy-related needs).
  • Online Caution:Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in text messages or email. These may take you to a look-alike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or may download harmful malware onto your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on social media have already been vetted.
  • Financial Transparency:After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out without having to wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.

Source: BBB.org

If you would like to report a scam, call your BBB at 256-533-1640 or go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.