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Take these steps to protect family, possessions from disasters

Emily Valla: BBB Alert
Emily Valla: BBB Alert

When you think of places where natural disasters occur, odds are Idaho isn’t high on the list. We don’t have hurricanes, tornadoes are few, and we aren’t known for massive earthquakes.

Let’s hope I haven’t jinxed us.

But emergencies can come in many forms, and that’s why we are acknowledging National Preparedness Month this September.

We reached out to other BBBs for advice on how best to prepare for emergencies in their areas. Some basic protective actions are common:

Plan to leave. Depending on the specific emergency, you and your family should have plans for sheltering or evacuating your home. Developing a family communication plan and making an emergency supply kit are great first steps. has resources to get you started.

Create and maintain an inventory of your personal possessions. Use a camera to take pictures or video of both the interior and exterior of your home as well as your property, including items stored on your property such as vehicles or lawn and farm equipment. Keep receipts for all major items. This documentation should be saved in a safe place outside your home, such as in a safe deposit box at your bank or an online cloud-storage service. This is important when dealing with insurance post-disaster.

Keep your insurance policies organized and in an easily accessible spot. Review your coverage each year to make sure it is adequate should you have storm damage to your home, vehicle or property. Discuss with your insurance agent what liabilities you might have, if any, should any of your personal items or trees cause damage to neighboring homes or properties during a storm.

Tricia Carney with the Idaho Department of Insurance points out that flooding and earthquake insurance might not be covered in your homeowner’s policy. If you’re renting, consider getting renter’s insurance, as your personal belongings aren’t covered under the landlord’s policy.

In the event you need insurance assistance, note deadlines for filing claims.

“Make a list of insurance policy numbers, your insurance company and insurance agent’s contact information,” Carney said, “Then send an electronic copy to someone you trust in the event you must evacuate your home.”

Don’t feel rushed to make hasty decisions about paying for home repairs or other goods and services. Scammers see opportunity in others’ misfortune. Check BBB-accredited businesses and reviews at

Be vigilant in deciding how and to whom to donate after an emergency. Natural disasters can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, crises also bring out people who take advantage.

Emily Valla,, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to or call (208) 342-4649.