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Disaster planning highlighted during National Preparedness Month

Disasters often occur with very few signs of warning or time to prepare. Emergency service agencies across North Dakota are actively coordinating with FEMA on a project aimed at raising awareness and providing best practices in preparation agains...

Disasters often occur with very few signs of warning or time to prepare. Emergency service agencies across North Dakota are actively coordinating with FEMA on a project aimed at raising awareness and providing best practices in preparation against disaster.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, stated in a message published online that National Preparedness Month is "an opportunity for us to remind our families, friends, and communities to get ready for disasters and emergencies before they strike. Thinking ahead can save lives.''

In Stark County, Bill Fahlsing, director of emergency management, said, "Preparedness is key for everybody. Emergency planning consists of a lot of information.''

As the winter, then spring months approach, Stark County Emergency Services wants people to be aware of the assortment of weather and emergency challenges facing the region from tornadoes, blizzards and home fires to flooding and power outages. Knowing what disasters and hazards could affect your area and planning for them are hallmarks of National Preparedness Month.

Fahlsing said his agency has sought to increase awareness through their social media pages by providing vital information on how people can help emergency services through their own personal planning in drafting a household blueprint for disaster.

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"It's important for everyone to have a general emergency plan and go-bag with supplies, cash and documents," Brian Hvinden, a spokesperson with FEMA Region 8, said, "but locally people should get to know their neighbors who will be the initial point of mutual support in a disaster."

According to a recent study by J.D. Power, the average cost of homeowner's or renter's insurance in the U.S. is $707 per year, and in Stark County the prices range from $1,136 to $1,772 per year.

Reviewing insurance policies with consideration for rebuilding after a disaster is an important initial step.

"Proper coverage is essential for your belongings. I would encourage everyone to speak with their insurance provider to ensure coverage is current and appropriate for their covered items," Fahlsing said.

Following a disaster, a host of documents will be needed to begin the process of rebuilding. Car registrations, birth certificates, insurance policies and health insurance cards are vital documents that should be safeguarded.

"Compile physical and virtual copies of all your vital paperwork. Make sure you have the title to your house, if possible." Hvinden said. "Double-check your credit cards and bank cards and keep them handy."

Placing documents in a waterproof bag or portable waterproof container are one method of securing your first step toward recovery. Another method, more in keeping with modern technology, would be to scan documents and upload them to a secure, password-protected online storage space for easy access from a public computer.

"Before a disaster hits, check all your online passwords and codes to ensure that you'll be able to access your accounts from a public computer. While it's great to save your passwords in a secure place, it pays to memorize them-after all, you don't want to be stranded if you get separated from your phone." Hvinden said.

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Disasters are expensive, both as it occurs and in the first few months thereafter. According to the Red Cross, the average family should maintain $2,400 in an emergency fund account.

Building an emergency savings fund require a few dollars from every paycheck but can go a long way toward reducing the stress of a disaster.

"Carefully consider the costs of preparing for storm, including boarding up your windows and nonperishable food, toiletries, and medicine supplies. Consider the budget you may need to evacuate to a hotel and pay for gas." Hvinden said.

Following Hurricane Florence, which hit the Carolinas this month, experts predict that it will take weeks to fully restore electricity to many communities. For this reason, Stark County Emergency Services have recommended to keep a cash or traveler's checks on hand to ease the hardships faced in the event of an outage separating you from your money.

As you prepare your plan, it is important to tailor them to your family and your specific daily living needs and responsibilities. Most importantly, practice your plan with your family or household once a month.

"Certainly, North Dakotans are known for knowing their neighbors and that advantage really helps during a time of need following a disaster," Hvinden said. "Including neighbors in a disaster plan, especially elderly neighbors, is a great inclusion I'd recommend."

For more information on how to prepare for a disaster, visit Stark County Emergency Services' social media page or www.starkcountynd.gov/des .

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