Disasters and emergencies can happen at any time – but what if something happens when you’re in a home that you don’t own?
Emergency preparedness is a renter’s responsibility, too. Whilst you might not be liable to pay for structural damage, you’ll certainly need to make sure that your family and your belongings are safe.
We’ve compiled our best rental-specific tips for preparing for disasters below.
Before the Disaster
Ask About a Disaster Preparedness Plan
In the event of an emergency, it’s important to have all of the relevant information at hand. The experts at Rentec Direct recommend asking your landlord about their disaster preparedness plan if they have not shared it with you already. This plan should detail protocol and will include things such as:
- A contact list for local agencies, as well as the point of contact for the property
- Exit plans and diagrams
- Call and check-in plans
- Health, safety, and security tips, and local resources
- A pet safety plan
- Any known environmental, mechanical, utility, and plumbing issues
Create an Emergency Kit
The best way to beat a disaster is to come prepared, and the best way to prepare is to create an emergency kit. What you have in your kit will depend on where you live, and the type of disaster that you’re likely to face (people living in Oklahoma may not need a hurricane-ready kit, for example), but the government’s experts at Ready recommend including the following in a basic kit:
- Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days)
- Non-perishable food (a three-day supply)
- Battery-powered radio
- First-aid kit
- Dust mask
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape
- Moist towelettes
- Wrench or pliers
- Can opener
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
From spring 2020, the CDC also recommends including masks, soap, and hand sanitizer in your emergency kit.
Secure Renter’s Insurance
Renter’s insurance is a godsend when it comes to preparing for a natural disaster, but it’s important to understand what it actually covers. For the insurance experts at The Zebra, “Renters insurance offers liability coverage, protection for your personal property if it’s damaged as a result of a covered peril, and loss of use.
“Any property damage to the rental unit itself is not covered by renters insurance — that’s for your landlord and their rental property insurance policy to sort out. If the rental unit in which you’re living is made uninhabitable via natural disaster, your renter’s insurance policy should cover your additional living expenses if you need to find alternative accommodations.”
It’s important to be aware that most renter’s insurance policies do not cover all-natural disasters. Most policies only protect your belongings in the event of: fire and lightning, windstorm or hail damage, smoke damage, volcanic eruption, or damage due to the weight of ice, sleet, or snow.
What should you do if your belongings have been damaged by an earthquake, hurricane, or flood? The Zebra’s experts break it down further:
- Earthquakes: If you live in a particularly earthquake-prone area, you may be able to purchase an additional earthquake policy. Speak to your insurance provider for more information.
- Hurricanes: While renter’s insurance does not cover hurricanes per se, if you can prove that your property was damaged by a coverable issue, such as wind or hail, you may be able to get your property covered.
- Floods: Most renter’s insurance policies only cover water damage from faulty plumbing or other similar issues. If you live in a flood-prone area, speak to your insurance provider about a specific flooding policy, or speak to a team member at the National Flood Insurance Program for more information.
After the Disaster
The way you handle things after a hurricane, flood, or fire is crucial for keeping your possessions (and your apartment) safe. The cleaning experts at SERVPRO shared their best tips for what to do after the disaster:
- Assess whether it’s safe to stay in the apartment
- Be careful when handling wet materials
- Remove excess water by mopping and blotting
- Wipe water from wood
- Place aluminum foil or wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpet
While it’s impossible to predict when a disaster will strike, it’s always possible to be prepared – and when you’re facing a hurricane, tornado, or flood, that preparation can make all the difference.