Whitney Hughes, Director of the Allegheny County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, frequently appears on the “Legal Briefs” segment of Pittsburgh Today Live on KDKA-TV. Following is a transcript from a KDKA appearance.
PLANNING FOR DISASTER
We’ve seen the horrific pictures of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, but here in Pittsburgh, we’re not immune. The flooding from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and even as recent as June of this year from storms moving through the area have affected many local residents as well.
Below are some tips – pre-planning if you will – to ensure that in the event we are faced with a disaster locally, we may have a bit of an advantage in putting the pieces back together.
Carefully review your homeowners’ insurance policy. Most policies will not include flood coverage. You will need to have specific coverage for this type of loss. Even if your property isn’t located in a flood plain, you can still get flood coverage. Traditionally, flood insurance was offered only through the National Flood Insurance Program (which is managed by FEMA), but now private insurance companies are offering coverage as well. Also check the extent of the coverage- make sure both the dwelling and the contents are covered. Normally there is also a 30 day waiting period for flood insurance policies to take effect- so keep that in mind as well.
Make copies of important documents- birth certificates, drivers licenses, social security cards. Having these- even if they aren’t the originals- will make dealing with all of the bureaucracy after a disaster much easier.
Keep records of your valuables so that if you need to replace them you know the approximate cost. This will be a huge help if and when you need to file an insurance claim.
Heed ALL Warnings
You always think it can’t happen to you – but it CAN. If a municipality or the county issues flood warnings – pay attention. If a road is closed due to flooding – don’t drive on it. If you are told to evacuate – do it. If you don’t- you are not only risking your own life and the lives of the people you live with, but putting additional strain on local resources and first responders in the event a rescue is needed.
If you know something is headed your way, get your emergency kit together. Have enough water and non-perishable food on hand, keep the copies of those documents together in a water tight bag and then also make sure you have your cell phone- and the charger.
Plan for your pets – have not only your important paperwork and supplies ready, but your pet’s as well. Make sure they have identification tags (preferably microchipped) and rabies tags or documentation as well. Keep enough food and water for them specifically. Keep in mind that emergency shelters usually don’t take pets so make sure you have a buddy or contingency plan in the event that you need to evacuate.
In the event of a disaster- know your resources. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency www.FEMA.gov ), PEMA (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency www.pema.pa.gov ), the Pennsylvania Insurance Department (http://www.insurance.pa.gov/Coverage/Pages/Flood.aspx ) are invaluable resources as are their websites. The ACBA has been involved in this as well- we’ve had booths at FEMA centers in the past and to this date maintain a panel of attorneys willing to provide assistance in the event of a disaster as well.
The Allegheny County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service can help you find an attorney equipped to handle this specific type of case. To speak with an attorney or for more information, call 412-261-5555 or click here.