Insurance Checkup

Years ago, I would sit at the dining room table doing homework when Mr. Seal would come for his annual visit to review my parent’s insurance policies.  Today I am grateful for the service he provided my parents and to me.  When our home was burglarized in the late 80’s, he was there to walk them through the process.  Fortunately, that is the only time my family needed the policy.  Insurance is one of those things we buy with the hope that we never need it, much like a fire extinguisher or a spare tire.  It’s also one of the most important and responsible things we can do for our families and it is one more critical step in the preparedness process.

So today, I spoke to several insurance professionals about the steps they would recommend including in an annual “Insurance Checkup” and added it to a list of my own to come up with the following checklist:

  1. Inventory Your Home:  A video recording of your belongings and a corresponding spreadsheet detailing each item will be invaluable in the event of a disaster.  The more detail you can provide the insurance company, the smoother the claims process will go.  With the technology that is available today, you can store a copy online and on a flash drive or DVD in a fireproof home safe or safe deposit box.  A spreadsheet should further document the items included on the video inventory and any that are left out.  Be sure to print out a hard copy of the inventory with photographs of the items, as well.
  2. Save Your Proof of Purchase:  The claim filing process should go smoothly if you can provide proof of purchase in the form of sales receipts, credit card statements, or cancelled checks.  Including the model and serial numbers, when available will also help speed things along.  In the event of theft, it helps the authorities track stolen items, as well.   Some banks allow customers to view cancelled checks online for up to six months.  Be sure to print out copies to store with your inventory.
  3. Inventory Everything:  Be sure to include everything in your inventory. People often forget seasonal items or sporting goods since they are stored away.  It can be very expensive to replace three Rubbermaid containers of Christmas decorations, hockey equipment, golf clubs, or camping equipment.   Be sure to list it all, including your emergency preparedness supplies!
  4. Add Riders:  As you add items to your household, be sure to check your insurance policies and secure a “rider” if one is needed.   Collectibles, jewelry, and heirlooms may not be covered by a traditional policy.  A “rider” may not replace the irreplaceable, yet it will ensure you recover the true value of the item.
  5. Store Three Copies:   Most of the insurance professionals I consulted recommend storing three copies of your policies and inventories.  One copy should be stored in a fire proof and waterproof safe at home. One copy should be stored with a family member out of the area.  And finally, one copy should be in your “Go Bag” or the emergency bag that you will take in the event of an evacuation.  If you want to be extra prudent, keep an additional copy in your car and stored securely online. In each package, be sure to include the 24-hour contact information for your agent and the insurance carrier’s claims department.
  6. Understand Policy Coverage:  It is critical that you do so.  It might be interesting to know that most homeowners/renters policies in California do not include earthquake insurance.  Other areas may exclude flood or fire.  Be sure to read the fine print.  Most companies will provide the additional coverage at an additional cost.   Be sure to understand the difference between “replacement value” and “cash value”.   The “cash value” policy will include a depreciation schedule that you want to consider carefully. .  The “replacement” value policy may cost up to 25% more, yet the peace of mind may be worth the price.  Also, be sure your policy covers any pets in your home and your college student living on campus.
  7. Include Temporary Housing Costs:  No matter the disaster, check your policy to ensure that temporary housing costs are covered.  You will still have to pay the mortgage even if you are unable to live in your home.  It is crucial to have the extra coverage, especially in the event you are displaced geographically for an extended amount of time.  Ask anyone who was affected by wildfires or tornadoes in recent years.  It makes all the difference in the recovery process.
  8. Evaluate Your Policy Annually:   The best time to review your homeowners or rental policies is when you are preparing to file your income taxes.  It’s also a good time to call your auto insurance and ask for a better deal.  You will know what you have spent money over the previous twelve months to add new purchases to your inventory.  Also, if you have a child going off to college or already there, be sure to inventory the items they are taking.   Most policies will cover them.  It’s one more reason to check your policy on an annual basis.

Agents from State Farm, AAA, Liberty Mutual, and Farmers provided input in compiling the checklist above.  I encourage you to research the best company and agent that meet the need of you and your family.  The 2011 JD Powers & Associates Study of Customer Satisfaction with Homeowners Insurance is provided as a reference.  Keep in mind that insurance rates and regulations vary from state to state.

APN: The Five Principles of Preparedness

The Five Principles of Preparedness

Phil Burns brings us the Five Principles of Preparedness through the American Preppers Network and does an outstanding job at sharing his own families approach and presents it in such a way that any family can make it their own.  My favorite phrase is “Standard of Living Insurance” as he refers to the goal of having a year’s supply of provisions as a buffer.

We will be ordering his book Preparedness Principles  that expands on these principles and will publish a review in the weeks to come.

Moving Beyond AM Radio

Portable Ham Radio

Wouxus Powerwerx KG-UV

We were curious when a colleague first recommended a radio that is growing in popularity among emergency responders. We did some research and bought one for ourselves at the local Ham Radio Outlet. The Wouxun Powerwerx KG-UV is tough, inexpensive, and compact radio that can handle many of the popular local emergency frequencies and can be powered by AA batteries. It is sold mainly as a 2 meter ham radio but has also obtained permission to operate on other frequencies.

The radio can be unlocked with a simple software download and programmed to the Marine Band channels, the NOAA Weather/All Hazards channels and regular FM radio. It will not receive AM radio, but our local county emergency AM station has a mirrored FM station.

You can also listen in on some local police, fire, ambulance stations, although many departments have migrated to encrypted 800MHZ radios. Most agencies do still maintain their old VHF/UHF radio systems and opt to use them when there is an emergency situation when there is need to accommodate volunteers and outside agencies.

Another major advantage is that even without a license you can transmit and receive on the FRS and GMRS channels. These are the channels used by the very popular family service walkie-talkies that are available at most sporting good stores. You can also take advantage of the MURS channels which are hardly used and have very few restrictions. So if you already have a few FRS or GMRS walkie-talkies around you can keep in touch with the whole family. Channel 1 on FRS and GMRS are also used as the main frequency of many emergency groups.

And then you have the arena where the big boys play. Most large emergency management and disaster recovery groups use dedicated groups of ham radio operators to communicate in an emergency. With the little Wouxun, you can listen in and stay informed of what is going on around you. Before the disaster, you should find and program in the frequencies used by your local SKYWARN, RACES, REACT, SATERN, ARES, SALVATION ARMY, ARRL, RED CROSS, CERT and Search and Rescue groups. You can always listen without a license, yet this might be just the exercise and radio to encourage yourself, your spouse or another family member to get that license. Most of these groups hold regular radio meetings and usually have an interesting speaker after the normal business is concluded. Many of these groups also continuously monitor their frequencies. If you have an actual personal emergency you are always allowed to key the mic and ask for help.

To top it all off, the Wouxun is equipped with a built in LED flashlight! It’s not amazingly bright, yet it provides enough light to read or find your keys in the dark. The radio retails for approximately $120. It can be found for less if you shop around. The price is higher than most AM radios, but it is a bargain compared to its competition. There are 3 models on the market: KG-UV1D, KG-UV2D, KG-UV3D. From all reports they are all the same internally just a few updates to the case over the years. Within these models though there are a few different frequency ranges available. We recommend the most popular in the USA, which transmits on 136-174 & 420-520 (VHF & high cut UHF) range.  It’s also the version we chose. The next step is to purchase the programming cable and research all your local frequencies on your own. Or alternatively, you can accomplish the same goal the “preponomical” way and find a local member of one of the groups listed above that uses this radio who is willing to program it for you. The communications team members in these groups will understand exactly what you are looking for and are always happy to help.

20 Emergency Preparedness Apps for Android

In December, we traded in our iPhones for HTC Evo Design 4S smart phones.  It has taken us a while to make the complete transition.  I am still missing a couple of my favorite iPhone apps, yet I have learned to live without them.  Most apps are available on both platforms for an easier transition.  The following are 20 apps we have found to be very helpful to have on our new phones.  Most have Apple versions, as well.  If you have a favorite app that we have missed, please share!

SAS Survival Guide( $5.99..LITE Version available for Free)

Flashlight App (Free)

Emergency Radio (Free)

Pocket First Aid (.99)

iSOS ( $2.49)

ICE Tracker (Free)

Clinical & Drug Information (Free)

Pillbox (Free)

US Army Survival Guide (Free)

Ballistics Calculator (Free)

Pet First Aid ($1.99)

Advanced Weather (Free)

Weather Alert (Free)

Backcountry Navigator ($9.99)

Hurricane Tracking (Free..Pro Version $2.99)

Earthquake Alert (Free)

Quake Watch (Free)

Survival Podcast

Out of Milk (Free)  Food Storage Management

Emergency Response Guide

Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe

A few nights ago, a friend was over and asked me about the 2 gallon bucket of gel in the corner of my kitchen. I explained that I make my own laundry detergent. Rather than the typical rolling of the eyes, she nodded her head in approval. I went on to explain that not only does it save us around $200 a year, it’s also gentler on our clothes and does not irritate my husband’s sensitive skin. It’s a simple recipe. I buy the Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and the Borax at the local Ace Hardware. The Ivory soap 12-pack is also a great deal and it lasts an entire year. Making your own detergent is not for everyone. It’s nice to know you can if you need to!

Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe

1 bar of Ivory Soap
1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax powder
2 Gallon bucket

Grate the bar of soap (I do 12 bars at a time in the food processor and store them in ziplocks). Put the grated soap in a large pot on stove.
Add 6 cups water and heat until the soap in completely melted.
Add the A&H Washing Soda and Borax, stirring constantly until it is dissolved.  ‘
Remove from heat.
Pour 4 cups hot water into the 2 gallon bucket.
Add the soap mixture and stir.
Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water (22 cups) and stir.
Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel.
Use a measuring cup to fill old laundry bottles.
Use ½ cup per load.
**Adapted from recipe found on The Family Homestead

Scientific American on Potassium Iodide and Radiation

Our family is fortunate to have a radiation safety professional living in our home.  After the disaster in Japan last spring, the subject of potassium iodide was brought up on many occasions and led to many discussions about how to handle emergencies regarding radiation.  This article is the one we share most often with friends who ask us the big question:  How much potassium iodide should we include in our emergency kits?  It’s a personal decision.  As adults, we had quite a bit naturally in our bodies protecting our thyroid.  Educate yourself and make a good decision.

Doomsday Preppers on NGTV

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law sent me an email to tell me about a new show on the National Geographic Channel called Doomsday Preppers.  She knew it would be right up my alley. I just watched two episodes online since I do not have that channel. It’s entertaining and insightful. Continuous education is a key component of preparedness. It’s even better when it’s presented in a creative manner.

I love the website, specifically the “Doomsday Dashboard”. It surprised me that highest percentage of people are most concerned about a pandemic. I would think the economy would have been in the top spot.

They also have a sweepstakes where they are giving away $20,000 in prepper prizes! Check it out!!

National Geographic Doomsday Preppers