What to Do After a Natural Disaster

What to Do After a Natural Disaster

Whether it’s a flood, tornado, hurricane or earthquake, a natural disaster can turn your world upside down in a matter of seconds. Besides stress, adrenaline, and fear, there may be injuries to deal with and damage or loss of property. Many people don’t know what to do in the wake of a disaster, which can hinder their coping efforts and recovery.

Here’s a list of the 6 main steps to take immediately following a natural disaster and in the days, weeks, and months that follow.

  1. Deal with the Immediate Aftermath
      • Make sure all household members are accounted for. If anyone is missing, seek help from first responders.
      • Attend to physical injuries or emotional distress. In cases of serious injury, summon professional help.
      • If you and your family need to evacuate, follow your family’s evacuation plan, grabbing emergency kits, go bags, and essentials as assigned.
      • Notify family and friends that you’re safe. If you can’t connect directly, you can register with FEMA’s emergency family locator online or by calling 1-800-588-9822. See more FCC & FEMA communication tips here.
      • Be aware of any new safety issues created by the disaster, such as damaged roads/bridges, chemical spills, downed power lines, and washed-out roads. Inform local authorities if possible.

 

  1. Find Temporary Shelter or Housing
      • If your home is damaged and rendered uninhabitable, take photos of the damage, remove any valuables you can, and secure the property. Call your insurance company as soon as you’re able.
      • If you need to find an open emergency shelter near you right away, you can text SHELTER and your 5-digit zip code to 4FEMA. You can also use the FEMA Mobile App.
      • gov also has shelter resources online.
      • If you need to secure a hotel or other short-term housing, check FEMA’s resources for interim housing.
      • Remember that COVID-19 safety and health precautions may still be in effect so be sure to protect yourself and your family and stay informed on general guidelines.
      • If you have a pet, be sure to ask all sheltering or housing inquiries if pets are allowed.
      • Keep all your receipts from temporary housing costs, as you can most likely submit them for reimbursement.

 

  1. Emergency Food and Water
      • Listen to local radio or television to find disaster feeding sites.
      • Check with local agencies, emergency shelters, and food banks for food assistance.
      • If you have to boil or otherwise disinfect water, follow the proper guidelines.
  1. Seek Disaster Assistance
      • Check local radio and media for information on housing, food, first aid, clothing, and financial assistance.
      • The American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other volunteer organizations also provide assistance, supplies and help with clean-up efforts.
      • FEMA helps homeowners and renters who have lost their homes as a result of a presidentially-declared disaster. Assistance includes temporary housing, counseling, low-interest loans and grants, and other assistance. Register at gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA. You’ll need your:
          • social security number
          • telephone number
          • insurance information, address (location of damaged home and current address)
          • total household annual income
          • routing and account number for bank account
          • a description of damage and losses
  1. Returning Home
      • Wait until your area is declared safe.
      • If returning at night, use a flashlight to inspect your home and property. Keep an eye out for animals, including dangerous ones such as venomous snakes.
      • Inspect the property and perimeter first, checking for hazards such as gas leaks, downed power lines, and structural damage. Do not enter if you smell gas, see floodwaters, or if there’s fire damage.
      • If you do enter your home, you’ll need to be extremely cautious. Follow the dos and don’ts of inspecting your home in FEMA’s guide here.

 

  1. Replacing Lost Records & Protecting Your Property
      • Ideally, your important records and financial documents were part of your emergency kit.
      • If you need to replace records such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, marriage certificates or social security cards, follow the instructions at USA.gov here.
      • Contact your creditors to inform them of the situation and work with them for current and ongoing payments.
      • If the disaster is a declared Federal disaster, you may be eligible for federal income tax deductions. Check with your tax planner.
      • If a member of your family is injured and you’re caring for them, check with your employer to see if you’re eligible for the Family Medical Leave Act or disability benefits.

 

While checklists and logistical aspects all need to be dealt with, also keep in mind the mental toll that natural disasters exert. Seek help if you can, take breaks and walks, and practice self-care. Remember that children are especially affected. Community and support networks are especially important in times like these — lean on them when you need support, and offer help to others when you have some extra energy to give.

 

 

 

Keeping Your Car Virus-Free

Keeping Your Car Virus-Free

As the nation begins to open its doors and more people get back on the road, it’s important — now more than ever — to make safety your number one priority. Not only following all of the traffic laws, but also making sure your vehicle is clean and free of any harmful bacteria or viruses, like coronavirus.

Routine vehicle cleaning and disinfecting will ensure the safety of you and your passengers. So, whether it’s a few trips to the grocery store, getting a much-needed haircut, or returning to the office, as we head into our “new normal,” remember to consistently clean and disinfect your vehicle to help you stay healthy and safe.

 

Items You’ll Need

    • Disposable gloves
    • A bucket of warm water
    • Soap (preferably anti-bacterial)
    • Microfiber cloths
    • Disinfectant wipes (if available)
    • A portable vacuum

 

Cleaning Your Vehicle

Before you start, make sure to suit up in gloves and a facemask, as well as clothes that can be washed as soon as you’re done.

Next, thoroughly clean the most high-touched areas. These include:

    • Steering wheel
    • Gear shift
    • Turn signal/wiper lever
    • Navigation screen
    • Door handles (inside and outside)
    • Dashboard
    • Heating/cooling controls and vents
    • Radio dials
    • Seats and armrests
    • Seatbelts and latches
    • Mirrors
    • Locking/window controls

And don’t forget other places that you or someone else has touched, such as the seat adjustment controls, grab handles and cup holders.

Just as with washing your hands, you’ll need to (gently) scrub for at least 20 seconds to break down the virus. Disinfectant wipes and other automotive cleaning solutions are your best option for surfaces. If those are not available, use warm, soapy water and dry with a microfiber cloth.

For your seats, leather or upholstery, you can use disinfectant wipes, upholstery cleaner, or a small amount of warm, soapy water. To avoid damage, make sure you aren’t using too much water or scrubbing too aggressively. After washing leather seats, apply a leather conditioner/restorer to keep them from cracking, and let dry. When using any alcohol-based disinfectants, make sure they contain at least 70 percent alcohol.

Finally, make sure to regularly shake out and vacuum your floorboards and mats. These are frequently touched, yet overlooked areas of vehicles that have the potential to carry harmful germs from the bottoms of shoes.

DO NOT USE  bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or any ammonia-based cleaning products in your vehicle.

 

Safely Riding with Passengers

It is always a good idea to keep safety and disinfectant items in your car, especially if you are transporting others. These include:

    • Sanitizer (at least 70% alcohol)
    • Disinfectant Wipes
    • PPE – gloves and face coverings like masks, bandanas, or scarves.

When you are riding with others or using a rideshare service, it may be impossible to maintain the CDC recommended social distance guidelines. So, when in a car with others, consider wearing your mask and roll down or crack a window. It’s important to let fresh air in because ventilation in cars is usually poor.

If you are riding with someone who is infected but asymptomatic, coronavirus particles can build up inside the cabin, increasing your chances of contracting the virus. Cracking a window will help disperse the particles and decrease your chances of infection.

 

How California Casualty is Keeping Vehicles Clean

Customer safety and satisfaction is our main priority. That is why California Casualty partners with Enterprise to handle the vehicle rental needs of our customers during the claims process.

All vehicles rented from Enterprise carry the Complete Clean Pledge – to follow best practices recommended by leading health authorities to ensure your safety. In addition to vacuuming and wipe-down cleaning, between every rental, Enterprise uses a disinfectant to sanitize key areas throughout the entire vehicle. View them here.

For more information on the Complete Clean Pledge and all that Enterprise is doing to help keep our customers safe, please visit their website at https://www.enterprise.com/en/car-rental/on-call-for-all.html

 

This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

Car Safety Tips to Follow This Winter

Car Safety Tips to Follow This Winter

While winter weather has been lingering for a couple of months, there’s still more to come. Did you know that heavy rains, blizzards, and ice storms often arrive in February and March across many parts of the country?

Here are a few life-saving tips to remember as you get on the road this season.

  • Remove bulky coats/jackets when buckling children into car safety seats.

In an accident, the material will squish down and the harnessing system will be too loose to be effective. Layer blankets on your child’s lap after buckling them in.

A list of recommended warm clothing that won’t interfere with car seat safety can be found here.

  • Keep your gas tank at least half full.

This prevents water condensation from getting into and freezing up fuel lines. A frozen fuel line means limited gas supply to the engine, stopping you in your tracks.

  • Use wiper fluid that is formulated to NOT freeze.

Windshields coated with ice or splashback from roads create dangerous visibility. You will need to clean your windshield while driving, and only fluid that stays liquid will do the job.

Experts recommend carrying tire chains, jumper cables, a shovel, ice scraper, and even spare wiper blades. Other life-saving items include bottles of water, high-calorie foods and snacks, blankets or sleeping bags, a spare pair of boots, flashlights, gloves, solar cell phone chargers, and a first aid kit. Kitty litter for traction is also a good idea.

  • Be aware of deadly carbon monoxide in your vehicle(s).

If you can smell exhaust in your vehicle’s cabin, you should have your systems checked. Leaks in exhaust systems, defective ventilation systems, and even an unsecured back hatch or partially open trunk can allow carbon monoxide gas into your vehicle. Tailpipes blocked with snow or ice can send carbon monoxide into the vehicle too.

Also, warming a car in a garage, even with the door open, allows dangerous concentrations of the gas into the vehicle and even into your home.

It’s important that everyone knows the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Bring essential medications in case you get stranded.
  • Don’t venture out in extreme conditions unless it’s an emergency.

You are not only putting your life in danger, but also the lives of first responders who will have to venture out to search for you if you get lost or stranded.

 

TAKEAWAY: Find more winter driving tips and preparation at the California Casualty blog.

 

Ways To Protect Your ID When Shopping Online

Ways To Protect Your ID When Shopping Online

Many of us will be using smartphones and laptops for our holiday shopping. While it may be more convenient than a drive to the mall, going online presents dangers to your credit and personal data. Cyber-crooks are lurking, just waiting for a slip-up to steal your identity and get into your bank and credit card accounts. As you tap in and surf for deals, be cautious about where you go and the information you give others. It’s estimated that one-in-five Americans have been a victim of identity theft, and 43% of those had their identity stolen while shopping online during the holidays.

Be Secure

It’s more important than ever that you protect your personal information. Here are some important internet shopping safety tips to remember:

    • Don’t open suspicious or unsolicited emails that can often take you to dangerous sites
    • Shop with familiar companies, looking for the secure “https” in the URL (“S” indicating it is a secure site), and beware of copycat sites with slight misspellings
    • Use strong, unique passwords for online accounts
    • Avoid using debit cards and pay with a credit card for online shopping (credit cards offer the most fraud protection)
    • Refrain from shopping or banking while using free or public Wi-Fi
    • Be aware of fake charity, pet adoption and lonely-hearts solicitations
    • Check your credit card, bank and other accounts often for suspicious or fraudulent charges
    • Never send a gift card for payment (a trick many crooks use)

If you are planning on giving to a charity, you also need to take your time and do research to make sure your donation goes to a good cause. Scammers know that people’s good hearts make them easy targets for rip-offs. Remember to:

    • Be skeptical of email solicitations from charities you have never heard of or supported before
    • Avoid giving to any organization requesting gift cards, wiring money, or transferring funds to an overseas bank
    • Realize that many social media donation sites may not be legitimate
    • Seek out each charity’s authorized website (crooks often use sound-a-like sites and misspellings)
    • Check the legitimacy of charities through sites such as the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator and GuideStar

Resolution

If you suspect that you have been an ID theft victim, the Federal Trade Commission recommends:

    • Placing a freeze on your credit report (locking down your credit to anyone)
    • Placing a fraud alert (protecting your credit from unverified sources) with one of the three nationwide credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion)
    • Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

Find more ID theft protection information https://mycalcas.com/?s=cyber+crooks.

TAKEAWAY:

One of the many benefits that California Casualty offers with every auto and home/renters policy is free ID theft resolution services from CyberScout. Learn more at www.calcas.com/identity-theft or call 1.800.800.9410, option 3 to learn more.

 

Read Next:

How We’re Listening and Learning From You

Here’s Free Help If You’re A Victim Of ID Theft

We’ve Got The Heat To Help, And Love Giving Back

Auto Insurance Does More Than Fix Your Car

Auto Insurance Does More Than Fix Your Car

It also protects your assets… if you have the right amount of coverage. In today’s world, having the right amount of auto insurance is imperative. The costs to repair vehicles are increasing, and many times accidents involve lawsuits.

If you do not have high enough liability limits and an accident victim chooses to pursue greater compensation for their injuries, your financial assets – such as your home, your savings, future earnings and even your retirement – are at risk. One serious crash could result in some serious financial distress, even bankruptcy. (Please read that again.)

How is that?

Well, your auto insurance is made up of the coverage limits you choose: Bodily Injury Liability (BI), Property Damage Liability (PD) and Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UM).

The minimum liability insurance required varies by state, but generally, it looks something like this:

  • $25,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $50,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $25,000 property damage liability per accident

 

That means if the insured driver is at-fault in a crash, their insurance would pay up to $25,000 to each person in the other vehicle(s) for injuries – up to a total of $50,000, and pay up to $25,000 for the damage caused to the other vehicle(s), public property, etc.

That might sound like enough, but considering the high costs of medical care, the amount someone might suffer in lost wages, and that the average vehicle now retails for almost $40,000, the at-fault driver could pay out-of-pocket tens of thousands of dollars (or more) above what their insurance would cover.

The Insurance Information Institute recommends each person carry at least $100,000 bodily injury protection per person, $300,000 bodily injury protection per accident, and $50,000 for property damage. If you have a lot of assets (a home, investments, vacation property) and a higher earning potential, you should buy even more protection ($250,000, $500,000, $100,000).

Don’t forget uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM). It’s estimated that one out of eight drivers has no insurance, with many others carrying minimal coverage. You’ll want higher limits to pay for any injuries and damage to your vehicle if you are hit by one of these drivers.

Insurance companies urge everyone to purchase as much liability insurance as they can afford, and we are no different.

As your insurance partner, California Casualty takes seriously our obligation to inform you about important insurance gaps, and to offer higher limits (that cost very little for the protection they provide).

TAKEAWAY:

Call one of our customer care representatives at 1.800.800.9410, option 3 to review your current policy limits and discuss your coverage amount options.

Control the Chaos of Moving

Control the Chaos of Moving

August is prime moving season. It can be quite a task if you are packing up for your first apartment, or heading to your forever home. Not only do you need enough boxes, but you’ll soon be learning a new route to work or school, trying to figure out the parking situation, and going through the fun of setting up utilities, internet and other necessities. As you race around trying to get everything prepared, it’s easy to get frustrated or forget important things.

Here are some helpful packing tips that can make the effort a little easier:

  • Make sure you have enough boxes for your move (find a box calculator here)
  • Designate an “essentials” suitcase or bag for hygiene products, medications, toothbrushes, chargers and a change of clothes you’ll need for a few days (and keep in your car)
  • Keep clothes on hangers, zip tie them together and wrap them in plastic for easier transition into a new closet
  • Put fitted sheets on both sides of a mattress to protect it
  • Pack glass bottles in kids pool floaties to protect them from breaking
  • Wrap breakable dishware and glass in t-shirts or towels
  • Use painters tape to label electrical cords with the name of the corresponding appliance for hassle-free matching, and pack them in toilet paper or paper towel rolls
  • Put screws and other small hardware in sandwich bags and tape them to the piece they go to
  • Instead of using markers, use color-coded tape to designate where each box will go

 

Getting to your new home and realizing you left important things behind can be a real downer. Here’s a list of some essentials things you’ll want to do:

  1. Submit your change of address to the Post Office a couple weeks before your move – it often takes ten-business days to get processed
  2. Open a checking account in your new city a few weeks prior to the move
  3. Get copies of your family’s medical records and veterinary records for your pets, as well as copies of prescriptions you may need to transfer
  4. Have official copies of your child’s school records (needed to enroll them into a new school)
  5. Look for valuables you may have hidden around the house (jewelry, stamps, coins)
  6. Remember items you left at the cleaners (or the watch at the repair shop)
  7. Leave some cleaning supplies for the after-move clean-up
  8. Bring an extra roll or two of toilet paper (enough said)
  9. Leave behind the garage door opener – many people forget to take them out of their vehicles
  10. Gather all the house keys you have hidden or given to neighbors and friends, and to rekey the doors of your new place

You can find an easy to use, downloadable moving checklist here.

Here’s an important note: If you are renting a moving truck, most auto insurance companies don’t extend coverage to those type of vehicles, and auto insurance may not cover rental trailers. You should contact your insurance provider before the move, and consider buying the rental truck company’s liability, damage waiver, and cargo protection policies.

TAKEAWAY:

Are you ready to move? Download a renter’s moving checklist from our resources page, mycalcas.com/resources. Also, let one of our advisors make sure you have the coverage you need for your big move. Contact us at 1.800.800.9410 option 3.   

 

control the chaos of moving

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