State officials will be reminding citizens throughout September to prepare for emergencies as part of National Preparedness Month, a nationwide month-long effort to encourage households, businesses and communities to prepare and plan for emergencies.
This year's NPM theme is "Don't Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today." People can learn more by following the hashtag #NatlPrep on Facebook and Twitter.
"With families being more mobile and involved in multiple activities, it's very likely that an emergency could happen when everyone isn't together," said Richard D. Flinn Jr, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. "Having a family emergency plan ensures that everyone knows who they should contact to report that they're safe and where they will meet in case they can't get back home."
Flinn said that simple steps can be taken now to prepare a family, school, workplace or community for any type of incident that would disrupt the day-to-day routine.
Citizens are encouraged to visit www.ReadyPA.org to find sample checklists, contact lists and other preparedness tools to take advantage of before an emergency occurs.
"Once you've created a plan, it's important to practice it just as you would practice a fire drill at work or at school," said Flinn. "Another important step is to build a basic emergency kit so you have enough food, water, medicine and other essential supplies to sustain your family including your pets without any outside assistance for at least three days."
In particular, people should think about loved ones who may have special needs that could inhibit their ability to help themselves.
"The best defense during an emergency is knowing what to do," said Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy. "This is especially important for those who may need more help during emergencies, like children, older Pennsylvanians, and individuals with access and functional needs."
Those who take medicine or use a medical treatment every day should also be sure to have enough on hand to last for at least one week, as well as keep a list of prescriptions, including the name of the medicine, dosage and any other directions.
Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller said Pennsylvanians should review their homeowners policy and understand what will be covered and steps that you need to take to file claims if their property is damaged.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) recommends that homeowners insure their property at replacement value rather than actual cash value to help cover costs should extensive repairs or a full replacement be deemed necessary.
You should also keep an inventory and photos of your personal belongings so you have a detailed record if any are damaged after a storm.
If you rent your home or apartment, the property owner's policy that covers the rental unit may not cover your personal belongings. It is important that you obtain a renters insurance policy to protect your belongings in the event of storm damage.
"Planning ahead and understanding what you'll need to know if your property is damaged can ease the recovery process," said Commissioner Miller. "It is important that you know what is covered by your homeowners or renters insurance and whether you should consider additional coverage like flood insurance."
Miller said damage from flooding is not covered by a homeowners insurance policy. In addition, renters insurance does not cover property damage from weather-related floods. Flood insurance must be obtained separately and is available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and through some private insurers.
For more information on homeowners and flood insurance, visit www.insurance.pa.gov or contact the department at 1-877-881-6388.For free preparedness resources such as a checklist, personal preparedness plans and instructional videos, visit www.ReadyPA.org. Follow @ReadyPA on Twitter and Like ReadyPA on Facebook for additional helpful tips and information.