Ask the Readers: Are You Prepared for a Natural Disaster?

By Ashley Jacobs on 30 August 2011 (Updated 6 September 2011) 75 comments
Photo: Marion Doss

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Kristin Haffey, Jennifer, and Lisa @ Cents To Save for winning this week's contest!

With the recent earthquake and hurricane on the east coast, disaster preparedness is a topic on the minds of many people. Many people have a plan in place to follow should disaster strike. However, some people have no plan to follow if they are faced with a natural disaster.

Are you prepared for a natural disaster?  Do you have an emergency fund? What about an evacuation plan? Do you know what your insurance covers? If you aren't prepared for a natural disaster yet, are you thinking about getting prepared?

Tell us if are prepared for a natural disaster and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — one for random comments, one for random Facebook "Likes", and another one for random tweets.

Mandatory Entry: 

  • Post your answer in the comments below 

For extra entries (1 per action):

  • Go to our Facebook page, "Like" us, and leave a comment telling us you did, or
  • Tweet your answer. You have to be a follower of our @wisebread account. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it. Leave a link to your tweet (click the timestamp for the individual URL) in a separate comment.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, September 5th at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after September 5th on the original post. Winners will also be contacted via email.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered, or associated with Facebook.
  • You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

Note: Due to recent changes in Facebook's promotions guidelines, we have restructured the entry format of our giveaways.

Good Luck!

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Guest's picture
Christie

The only real natural disaster we have to face where I live is snow, and lots of it. Pretty much, you stay home, eat out of your pantry, and stay warm.

*gets on soapbox* I really think that those who build houses and live where natural disasters strike often should have to pay for it in higher insurance and cleanup costs. There is a reason that some insurance companies will not cover certain areas: the risk is TOO HIGH. If we continue with the thought that "oh well, the govt will take care of us in this and any situation" then we are deceiving ourselves. We have bankrupted our country and our children and grandchildren will have to pay for our misuse of resources, in more ways than one. *gets off soapbox*

Biggest lesson for frugalites to teach others: Live within your means, whether you are a citizen or a government. Just live within your means.

Guest's picture
Sonja

@ Christie-I couldn't agree more. I live along the Gulf Coast and have survived both Katrina and Ivan. I do not live on the beach, nor do I live in a flood zone. I was not flooded either time. I have never made a claim on my home owner's insurance. There was very little damage in my neighborhood or the surrounding neighborhoods, so despite living in a hurricane prone area, where I live is relatively safe. Despite this, my home owner's insurance has tripled since Ivan. My current provider has dropped my wind insurance, and because we are moving the cars to that policy, they are seeing if they can reinstate it. If not, I will have to join a wind pool which will cost another 1k at least. To avoid these prices I would have to change jobs and move to a different part of the state/country.

As far as preparing for a disaster-I have my important papers in one box that is easy to transport. Photo albums and home-made quilts are in one place and easy to grab. Animal food is kept in containers that can be thrown in the car if need be. My experience is that you can only prepare so much and most of what you do doesn't matter if the big ones hit. Just get your family, the things that you can't replace, extra meds, and get out of the way :)

Guest's picture
Rebekah

We have an emergency fund and know what our insurance covers. But we do not have a disaster kit ready, which is one of those things I have in the back of my mind but never get around to.

Guest's picture
Raina

No, I'm really not prepared. My parents have a countryside property we've all gone to when a hurricane was expected to hit, and I assume we'd all head that way if it seemed like something might happen again. But if it were one of those real chaotic instances where you CAN'T leave, either because of traffic or because the roads are flooded/destroyed, I'm really not prepared for anything at home.

Guest's picture
Rana

I have been working on being prepared for a while now. It's a work in progress. I have "To go" bags for all four of our family members with items to keep us sustained for at least 3 to 4 days if we have to leave our home. I also have a stock pile of at least a months worth of food, water,and health and hygiene items started in my home if we are told to remain in doors.

There are some great blogs and websites with ideas on how to get prepared for things like Irene and Katrina or a blackout which our family was in back a few years ago.

Guest's picture
Staycee

We had a natural disaster three years ago that, because of where we live (midwest) and the relatively small amount of people involved, the rest of the country did not know anything about it. We had an ice storm that wiped out power lines and electricity to our entire community and most of the county for three or more days to everyone. This was in November when temperatures dip. Our emergency "preparedness" was tested. The surplus of wood in our woodshed was depleted when neighbors came knocking looking for ways to keep themselves and their families warm. We did run out of food that could be cooked on a campstove, but luckily the local grocery store opened (without lights) and sold out of everything on credit (anyone without cash was allowed to charge food). Gas was a concern. Those with generators couldn't get gas because of they need electricity to run. But we did know exactly what our insurance would/would not cover from the damage caused by the storm. So yes, to make a short story long, we are prepared for natural disasters.

Guest's picture
Jess G.

I have an emergency fund, but thankfully in Ohio (where I live) the only major issues are snow and the occasional tornado. They rarely get close to where I live, though!

Guest's picture
cwaltz

I am prepared to a small extent but not completely. I have canned goods and an emergency fund. We have a flashlight, a fireplace, and gas grill. However, I figure that we still would be vulnerable to flooding damage.

Guest's picture
NJJ

Yes, I'm as prepared as can be when it comes to emergency kits, important papers and evacuation plans etc. and financially. As long as I have plenty of time to actually evacuate like more than an hours notice. I'm definitely good to go!

Guest's picture
Keith

I like to live dangerously. No preparations for me.

Guest's picture
Alex J

The main natural disaster threat where I live is the Yellowstone Caldera. When that thing blows not much you can do to prepare.

Guest's picture
Jessica

No I wish but why lie. I'm not prepared outside of having a ton of canned food.

Guest's picture
Sophie

My father was a firefighter and when I was younger he would make sure we knew what to do in the case of an emergency (fire, or earthquake- we live in Southern California). Now that I'm older on my own, I'm not nearly as prepared. I should stock up on water and some non perishable food.

Guest's picture
Joel

We have a 5 gallon jug of water but that's about as far as our preparedness goes.

Guest's picture
Tamara

Can't say I'm too prepared... Trying to pay off debt has left my savings dry for years... Hopefully that will change next spring. No real evacuation plan, though our house is located near a few elementary/middle schools, as well as a university that would (hopefully) be able to accomodate us in the event of an evacuation.

I do have renter's insurance to cover all personal valuables and car insurance as well, but I guess I should re-visit the fine print as it relates to natural disasters. Having lived in Colorado all of my life, I guess I've taken the lack of devastating weather for granted. We're still susceptible to blizzards, tornadoes and rare earthquakes though, so I guess it's time to formulate a more specific plan.

Guest's picture
Monica

We aren't very prepared. We have some extra MRE's and camping stuff and we could survive for a few days at home if we had to, but we don't know what our insurance covers. Living in Arizona we don't have too many Natural Disaster concerns unless the power goes out for too long in a heat wave!

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Monica

I like wisebread on facebook!

Guest's picture
Amy

We've been paying back our Emergency fund, after having to use it. I'm so glad we had it! We've also been prepping a small emergency kit that would help us deal for several days with our local disasters - tornadoes, flooding (we're on high ground - but stores get wiped out quick), and blizzards.

Guest's picture
Donna

I am not prepared for a disaster. I've been meaning to get my emergency backpack together, and I have the list for it. I just need to get my butt in gear and do it.

Guest's picture
Kelly McMillen

We have some canned goods stockpiled, and we had some bottled water stockpiled in the garage, until the kids discovered it! LOL! So we need to replenish that-and hide it! Also have important papers and stuff where we can grab it fast, if needed. Would really like an alternative source of heat, that's one thing we need to work on. If there was anything that went on for more than a week or two, however, we would probably need to leave.

Guest's picture
Kirsten

I like to think I am prepared. We have emergency cash, water supplies and food packs. We have several first aid kits, too. When we had our home I believe we were even more prepared with a wood stove and portable generator. With an apartment we don't have those back ups. Though we do have a fireplace. Entering all three ways.

Guest's picture
Kirsten

http://twitter.com/#!/miriama59/status/108596233840496640

Guest's picture
Nicholas

Financially I am prepared but when it comes to reserve food and necessities, I am not that prepared. For evacuation plans, I will head east if it is a serious threat of a tsunami and stay put for any earthquakes. Since I don't own much I don't rely on what the insurance is supposed to cover. The only thing that I want to do to prepare more for a natural disaster is to stock up on nonperishable foods and emergency items.

Guest's picture
Aaron

Generally we are well-prepared, but we could do better. One never knows!

Guest's picture
sharon

not really! being affected by Irene has made me aware of how NOT prepared we are as a family, and how we do need to start this now...

Guest's picture

I actually made a blog post about how people can stay informed during disasters and emergencies. I posted on Twitter @wisebread with #WBask http://twitter.com/#!/applecsmith/status/108601331379474432

Guest's picture
Carmen

We have a tiny emergency fund, and no other natural disaster plan. Most of the natural disasters in our area have been related to snow or wind (straight-line or the rare tornado). I have on my to-do list to make a plan, but haven't gotten around to it. I'd at least like to get a generator in case we'd ever lose our ability to heat the house in the winter.

Guest's picture
Elizabeth S

I already like you on Facebook (and love your info).

Guest's picture
Elizabeth S

There is more that I would like to do. Stockpile more and buy a generator.

Guest's picture
KelR1

I'm prepared as in I would have absolutely no problem evacuating if I had to and there are only a couple material things I would grab. Other than that...not so much.

Guest's picture
scoutmaster134

Our family has practiced survival/preparedness for ages. Each person has a stocked "bug out backpack" that we take in our car on vacation. (our home is already stocked) as one never knows when a "disaster" will happen. we ALWAYS get the car filled up when it hits the 1/2 full mark for a sudden emergency. We have a small amt of 1s,5s, & 10s for quick transactions if power goes out. We made a solar oven (cheap!!), have a grill & outdoors firepit/grill for cooking along with tons of camping supplies to share with neighbors. I only stock a few gallons of water. we have water filters & purifiers on hand to use with the nearby river. wish list: a well on our property.

Guest's picture
DARA GATES

I like you on Facebook

Guest's picture
DARA GATES

In some areas I am prepared, but other areas need work. I'm trying to get 3 months of Rx's, but insurance is tricky. I keep a months supply of my dog's food and enough water for 4 days.

Guest's picture
Therese

We are partially prepared. We have an emergency fund, extra food stored and insurance, but no evacuation plan.

Guest's picture
Brigid

Most of my preparations are of the dumb-luck kind: Our house is on high ground and we have never had a problem with flooding (crosses fingers). I live on the East Coast where earthquakes and tornadoes are rare (although we have had one of each this year—the earthquake was small and the tornado was far from me). My sister married a man who is very capable, the sort of person you want around in an emergency, and has all that camping stuff. They live around the corner from me.

Just as a matter of course, I always have about a month's worth of food in the pantry, several flashlights on different floors, and plenty of candles. So my biggest preparation for Hurricane Irene was to get the laundry done before it arrived, in case we lost power. And I filled a couple of bottles with filtered tap water. That was it!

Guest's picture
Angie W

We are totally prepared for a natural disaster... we live in Seattle, where earthquakes and volcano eruptions are possibilities in our lives. Not to mention our windstorms that have hurricane force winds... if we weren't prepared, that would be irresponsible.

Guest's picture
Guest

no - not yet

Guest's picture
Dee Dee

Have a fair amount of non perishables on hand but not a large amount of extra water on hand. We have a well and our generator will not run it. Have wood and coal on hand for heating though.

Guest's picture
Sue

Recent events have given me reason to think more about what my plan would be. I live in an area that has relatively few natural disaster threats (but things happen I know). When my kids were little, there was a hazardous gas leak and the whole city had to evacuate. Of course, my car was in the shop and I had about $4 in cash. We hitched a ride with a neighbor and spent the day watching the TV's at the mall and snacked on not much. I should have learned then.

Guest's picture
BRB

I need to re-fill our water jugs, but other than that we aren't too bad.

Guest's picture
Lynda

nope not really. i have an emergency kit but that is all.

Guest's picture
Lynda

i like wisebread on facebook

Guest's picture
Lynda

tweeted http://twitter.com/#!/oshkoshbgosh123/status/108753274798219264

Guest's picture

I am somewhat prepared, but I could do better. Living inal Florida I have experienced several hurricanes, and with each experience, I have become better at getting through them.

Guest's picture

I'd say that we are more prepared than the average Joe, but could use some improvement. For example, we've got 72-Hour Emergency Kits ready-to-go for each member of the family, and we've got basic camping supplies. We've got an emergency fund, too.

With people in our area losing power for extended periods of time, it's made us think about generators, extra gas, etc. We need a evacuation plan, too.

Guest's picture
Tracey

I've started the process of preparing for a natural disaster (most likely snow here in Minnesota) but haven't gotten very far. My biggest concern would be keeping warm which probably calls for a generator but I'm researching other options as well. We definitely have an emergency fund and I know what our insurance covers, so at least I have that part taken care of!

Guest's picture
Linda

We have frozen jugs of water in our freezer. Our emergency pack contains waterproof matches, bandages & alcohol swabs,tweezers, scissors, needle & thread, travel toothbrushes, small soap, flashlight/radio combo that works without batteries (just wind it up), knife, toilet paper, energy bars, survival blankets, and other incidentals all in a small pack near the front door. My husband also keeps a small duffle with a change of clothing that I have yet to cram some clothes in (oh what to wear, what to wear) :) We live on the Oregon Coast in a small town where the signposts are marked with red or blue tape denoting your level of safety during a tsunami. The signpost on our street is "blue"! That's good, by the way.

Guest's picture
R McD

My family got prepared when we had several tornadoes in the St Louis area last year (one on 12/31/10 was within a few blocks from our house and we were across the street at the grocery store when it hit). This turned our family into a major campaign to get our act in gear. We even took it upon ourselves (at the hands of my 8 yr old daughter) to write to various companies to see if they would help us make emergency kits for all of the kids in her school. Needless to say, no one would help us accomplish her goal. BUT, it did help us get in gear and get ourselves ready for another potentially bad year of storms (or earthquakes, or other potential emergencies). We hope with our changes we will be prepared.

Guest's picture
Rebecca R.

I really need to prepare for an emergency situation, but I haven't. I have been prepared in earlier years, but after our last move this past January, I haven't gotten anything together again. Need to do that soon!

Guest's picture
Kristin

I'm sure that I could do better, but what I have is a large, stocked pantry, some cash always on hand, flashlights and batteries, empty jugs ready to store water quickly, and good insurance coverage.

Guest's picture
Lisa

As far as food, water, and shelter goes, I'd like to think that I'm prepared. In the money department I'm somewhat lacking (to put it mildly). My insurance would cover damages to my home and property, but it still pays to educate oneself in being as self-sufficient as possible. Help can't always reach those who need it.

Guest's picture
Arwen

Nope, not even close. I'd like to think I could survive "offline" in a disaster, and I often point to my special hiding places "come the zombie apocolypse", but aside from some awesome wildcrafting skills, I'd probably last only as long as the charge on my smartphone. Like it, I'd spend my days aimlessly searching for WiFi.

Guest's picture

After braving Irene I certainly feel more prepared. I know what we need if we're waiting out the storm at home. I also have all of our insurance documents stored in our fire proof safe with electronic copies available online!

Guest's picture
Arwen

Also, just "liked" you on FB. :)

Guest's picture
Arwen

Also, just "liked" you on FB. :)

Guest's picture
Nim

You guys love you some comments, eh? Le tweet: http://twitter.com/#!/Nim/status/109023875194568704

Guest's picture
Sarah V

Hey, are you talking to me... I just got power back after the hurricane and I was lucky enough to be in the bathroom during the earthquake. Yes, we were fairly well prepared but I do now realize that a generator might not be a bad idea.

Guest's picture
Francesca

I live in California, where the biggest natural disaster threat is an earthquake. I opted not to pay for the earthquake insurance since none of my belongings are so expensive that it'd be worth the extra money in premiums. But slowly but surely, I am working on an emergency fund!

Guest's picture
gt0163c

I am relatively prepared for a natural disaster. I'm aware of what disasters are possible in my area (just about everything except major earthquakes) and have my home well stocked. I keep some supplies at work and in my car and 95% of the time could get home within a few hours, even if I had to walk. About the only thing I'm not well prepared for is total evacuation. I could do it, but it would take me a bit longer than I'm comfortable admitting.

I'm also a member of a local disaster response team. I've deployed to help recover from a variety of natural disasters (mostly in the second-wave/clean-up phase). It's amazing and heart breaking to see the destruction and talk to the people who were affected. Most difficult probably was completely clearing out a home which had been completely underwater in a flood. The elderly homeowners were there for part of that day, watching as we brought out almost all of their belongings, sorting them between different piles to be hauled away to the landfill or be recycled. We were able to salvage only a few things. They were fortunate to have had insurance. Others we worked with did not. Really opened my eyes to the importance of preparedness.

Guest's picture
Carson M.

My household is completely unprepared for a natural disaster. We recently learned from Irene that there are a lot of things we take for granted, but next time we'll be totally ready to rough it if necessary. I'm thankful Irene didn't warrant a serious plan for us, though.

Guest's picture
Kristy OT

I'm going to go ahead and admit we are not prepared for a natural disaster - other than having all our important papers in one handy, easy-to-grab file. But we live in Dallas. Not much risk of anything besides lightning and tornadoes, and there's not much you can do about those!

Guest's picture
Betty

I'm prepared for mini natural disasters. We just were hit with the hurricane, and thankfully, we did okay. In preparation, I bought water, peanut butter, bread, and batteries for the flashlights. I'm use to getting ready for the blizzards, where within a few days you can make it to the store. I was not, nor never have been, prepared for the entire town being wiped out, like it was in some areas. I'm not sure you could possibly prepare for that.

Guest's picture
Betty

Responded on Twitter. http://twitter.com/#!/1bets1/status/109382716390244352

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Betty

I liked your post on Facebook.

Guest's picture
TrishB

I'm getting more prepared over time. I try to keep as much of an emergency fund as I can and to have some cash on hand. I have a kerosene heater and extra kerosene, a cooler, canned goods, water and battery powered radio and LED lights.

The worst thing that I've had to deal with so far was being unable to get out of my street for three days, with no power or heat in 20-30 degree F weather, due to fallen trees and a flooded river. I lived out of the pantry and slept in my winter coat. I was okay but it was pretty miserable, and I resolved to try to get better prepared as my budget allowed.

Guest's picture
Maria S

Yes, we are prepared!

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Jennifer

I think we are pretty well prepared for a natural disaster. I think the one thing that we need to work on is storing water.

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Jennifer

I liked you on facebook! I love all your info!

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Melody

No, I would not be prepared for a natural disaster. Being a college student myself, I don't think most collegians are.

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Melody

I liked Wisebread on facebook! : )

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kristina wittchen

Mostly

Guest's picture
KOL

Yes. We have red cross bug-out bags, and canned cooked food for a week. And the usual flashlights/batteries, etc. But I do not have a bag of personal clothing ready, nor something fast to grab that holds vital documents like birth certificates, etc.

Guest's picture
Liz M.

We are totally unprepared for a natural disaster! I know where to find the candles if the power goes out, but that's about it!

Guest's picture
Kelly

No, I'm not prepared.

Guest's picture
Guest

Yes, I am prepared.