How Bermuda Prepared Me for Living in Tennessee
Recent severe storms with tornadoes causing extensive damage and several casualties in our area have reminded us that NOW is the time to prepare – if we haven’t already.
Before moving to Chattanooga two years ago, I had the privilege of living in the beautiful islands of Bermuda for 32 years. I experienced more than a dozen hurricanes, some having spin off tornadoes. Bermuda’s first settlement was actually the result of a hurricane wrecking the ship ‘Sea Venture’ upon the reef during the 17th century. Thankfully, through the years, Bermudians have developed strict building codes because hurricanes occur so frequently. Bermudians are so well prepared that I would rather be on the tiny island of Bermuda during a hurricane than anywhere else.
I have come to realize my previous preparation for hurricanes is very similar to our preparation for tornadoes. And, it is wonderful to see the Chattanooga community (and other communities across the U.S.) pull together, like the Bermudians, during a disaster and help their neighbors.
So, what is the most important thing you can do to prepare for hurricanes, tornadoes, or other catastrophic events? The best tip I have is to PLAN AHEAD!
Our Chambliss Estate Planning team is constantly having strategic conversations with clients about planning – for their own future and for their loved ones and generations to come. Estate planning tools like a will, power of attorney, advance directive for health care, trust, care plan, etc. are all vital to protect your health wishes, assets, and life plan. They are especially important should a catastrophic or unexpected event happen. However, we also know the importance of keeping yourself and your family safe. This article shares what I have learned from personal experience, and our team hopes it will be helpful to you in some way.
17 Tips to Prepare Yourself and Your Family Against the Toughest Storms
- Have a plan, and discuss the plan with all family members. Have alternate escape routes and a meeting place; if you have children, actually practice your plan. Be sure to discuss with children the importance of responding immediately and quickly following instructions.
- Select a “safe space” in your home or around your property. This can be a cellar, basement, or room on the lowest level of the home/building, preferably with no windows. This safe space can even be a bathroom or closet.
- Annually review your property insurance ensuring your insurance coverage is accurate, and make sure you understand what damage is and is not covered by your homeowner’s insurance. Make a list of house contents, or walk around your house and take a videos of the contents as a record. Save the photos and video you made in a secure location.
- Protect important documents and records. Make copies of important records, videos of home content, and files in case your house gets destroyed. You will likely need access to insurance and rental/mortgage agreements to file claims or request government assistance. Store copies of important documents and records either secured electronically, or place copies in a locked fireproof/waterproof box at a family member’s home.
- Have a NOAA weather radio which acts as an in-house siren and is not reliant on a cell phone carrier service. A warning of even a few minutes saves lives. Cell phone alert apps are helpful, but many people turn off their phones at night. Also, phones may not be reliable. Of course, it does not hurt to have both, especially when away from home. Cell phone apps such as Red Cross-Emergency Alerts (for iPhones) or Emergency Red Cross (for Android) are two prominent examples.
Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.
Source: Do It for Don – Emergency Preparedness and Safety Information
When a TORNADO WATCH is issued, it is time to “batten down the hatches.”
6 – If winds have not picked up too much, secure outdoor items that could be turned into dangerous projectiles by high winds.
7 – Have a bin of critical items ready to go if you need them, and keep it with you in your safe space. Consider the following:
- Ensure your cell phone and electronics are fully charged.
- Ensure flashlights are handy and spare batteries are available.
- Keep a blanket or sleeping bag in case you need to cover yourself and family from debris.
- Have drinking water and snacks in case you are confined for an extended period.
- Have a radio with spare batteries for listening to weather reports. If needed, use batteries from TV remotes or video game controllers.
- Have a first aid kit and fire extinguisher.
- Set out a pet carrier with the cage door open and ready. Pets will be frightened and hide if a storm hits. When a tornado warning is issued, put your pet in the carrier for its own safety.
- For children, include a comfort item for them to hold or entertain themselves if you are confined for an extended period.
- Have sturdy closed-toe shoes for everyone.
8 – I highly recommend you pack a “go bag” when there is a tornado watch. You can print the checklist below and have it ready to use if the time comes so you don’t forget anything. I don’t recommend a suitcase for the go bag; a gym-sized duffel bag, backpack, or smaller bag would be easy to grab and go. Keep the go bag nearby with your shoes until the tornado watch is dismissed.
Go Bag Checklist:
- Birth certificates, passports, and other important identification documents
- 7-day supply of important medications
- Insurance policy, deeds, mortgage documents, lease information, key medical records, and other important documents
- Car keys, car title, and car insurance documents
- Wallet with cash
- A change of clothes
- Contact information including for family, friends, insurance representative, etc. in case your cell phone is lost or damaged
- Cell phone chargers (you can charge your phone in the car if needed)
- A whistle which you can hang around your neck to alert rescuers if you are trapped by debris
- Valuable and sentimental jewelry
9 – You may want to contact family and friends in your area to make sure they are aware of the tornado watch and keep an eye on the weather.
10 – Do not stay in a mobile home. Take shelter in a secure building or home if possible.
If a TORNADO WARNING is issued, wear your sturdy close-toe shoes, get your go bag, and TAKE COVER in your designated safe space. Put the whistle around your neck, have your flashlight handy, and turn on the radio to monitor the situation. Do not leave your safe space until you are certain the tornado has passed. Listen to the radio for instruction.
If your area has been hit by a tornado or has severe damage:
11 – Do not leave your safe space until radio instructions confirm it is safe to leave.
12 – Check for yourself and loved ones for injuries. Follow first aid procedures if injured.
13 – Wear closed-toe shoes, and watch for sharp objects and downed electrical wires.
14 – Proceed with caution. Damage may not be visible right away. Do not enter damaged buildings.
15 – Notify family and friends you are safe.
16 – Emergency personnel may have trouble reaching people in damaged structures. Safely, check on your neighbors, and take your medical kit with you in case you need it.
17 – Take photos and videos of damage to your property, and contact your insurance agent.
Remember, tornadoes can occur any time of the year, and in the South, they are more likely in spring and fall months. Tornadoes change direction quickly and without warning; watch weather forecasts and be prepared. No one regrets being prepared when disaster strikes.
Photo taken 800 feet from my home in Bermuda after Hurricane Emily 1987 (Source: The Royal Gazette)
We hope these tips for preparing for disastrous weather are helpful to you and your loved ones. Again, we want to share a friendly reminder that it’s also important to protect your assets and health preferences legally the best you can. We help our clients preserve their wealth and plans far into the future.
If you have questions about protecting your future, whether it be for your own situation or for a loved one who has special needs or may need elder care, please reach out to us. We’ll be glad to talk.
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The material in this publication was created as of the date set forth above and is based on laws, court decisions, administrative rulings, and congressional materials that existed at that time, and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. In some cases, the underlying legal information is changing quickly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The information in this publication is not intended to create, and the transmission and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Please contact your legal counsel for advice regarding specific situations.