Be your own Disaster Manager…
On August 21, Treasury Health & Safety Coordinator Brian Rush reminded employees about National Preparedness Month and the importance of being ready for emergencies and disasters.
Three days later, Michigan was struck by a line of storms that generated seven tornadoes and killed five people. For most of the 700,000 Michiganders affected, flooding, downed trees and power outages were an annoyance — but for others, the storms meant personal tragedy, housing instability, and loss of income.
Weather is becoming increasingly unpredictable. A tornado isn’t a preventable incident, but as Brian pointed out, “by promoting preparedness, we can minimize the impact of emergencies, save lives, and reduce the strain on emergency response systems.”
Let’s take a deeper dive on how you and your family can increase your “readiness and resilience” when facing the unexpected. We’ll cover Brian’s preparedness BASICS, DISASTER RELIEF assistance provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), INSURANCE help via Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS), and emergency PET PROTECTION tips from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Animal Welfare Institute.
We can take our “one chance to be prepared” seriously, flex our disaster management skills and be in a better position to recover from a life-changing disaster.
THE BASICS: Helpful preparedness tips
1. Create an emergency plan. Develop an emergency plan that includes evacuation routes, communication strategies, and designated meeting points. Ensure that all family members are aware of the plan and practice it regularly.
2. Build an emergency kit. Have a well-stocked emergency kit that includes essential supplies such as non-perishable food, water, medications, first aid items, flashlights, batteries, and important documents. Remember to consider the specific needs of each family member, including pets.
3. Stay informed. Stay updated on potential hazards and emergency situations in your area. Sign up for local emergency alerts and follow reliable sources of information. Understanding the risks and being aware of warnings can help you make informed decisions during a crisis.
4. Prepare for disruptions. Prepare for potential disruptions in utilities such as power, water, and communication services. Have alternative sources of power, such as generators or solar chargers, and consider storing extra water and non-perishable food items. Review Preparing for and Responding to Power Outages.
5. Support community preparedness: Engage with your community and participate in preparedness initiatives. Encourage your neighbors, friends, and colleagues to also prioritize preparedness. Together, we can build a stronger and more resilient community.
DISASTER RELIEF: Secure and duplicate essential documents
In the aftermath of a disaster, having updated documents and other information readily available can help you apply for the relief available from the IRS and other agencies. Disaster assistance and emergency relief may help taxpayers and businesses recover financially from the impact of a disaster, especially when the federal government declares your location to be a major disaster area.
1. Secure key documents and make copies. Keep critical original documents inside water and fireproof containers in a secure space. These include tax returns, birth certificates, social security cards, deeds, titles, insurance policies and other similarly important items. In addition, consider having a relative, friend or other trusted person keep duplicate copies of these documents at a location outside the potentially impacted disaster area. If original documents are available on paper, they should be scanned into a digital file format and stored in a secure digital location. This can provide added security and portability.
2. Document valuables. Maintain a detailed inventory of the contents in your property and business. Take photos or videos to record your possessions and also write down descriptions that include year and make and model numbers where appropriate. The IRS disaster loss workbooks can help individuals and businesses compile lists of belongings or business equipment. After a disaster hits, this kind of documentation can help support claims for insurance or tax benefits.
3. Rebuild records. Reconstructing records after a disaster may be required for tax purposes, getting federal assistance, or insurance reimbursement. Most financial institutions can provide statements and documents electronically, an option that can aid the reconstruction process. For tips on reconstructing records, visit the IRS’ Reconstructing Records.
4. Be aware of IRS post-disaster tax help. Following a federal disaster declaration, the IRS may postpone various tax filing and tax payment deadlines or provide other relief. For a list of localities qualifying for relief and details on relief available, visit the IRS Tax Relief in Disaster Situations webpage or Around the Nation on IRS.gov. The IRS identifies taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and automatically applies filing and payment relief. This means taxpayers whose IRS address of record is located in the disaster area don’t need to contact the IRS to get disaster tax relief.
- Many taxpayers living outside the disaster area may also qualify for relief. This includes those assisting with disaster relief and taxpayers whose records necessary to meet a filing or payment deadline postponed during the relief period are located in the disaster area. Eligible individuals and businesses located outside the disaster area can request relief by calling the IRS disaster hotline at 866–562–5227.
- In addition, a special rule allows both individuals and businesses to choose to deduct uninsured or unreimbursed disaster losses on either the tax return for the year the disaster occurred or the return for the previous year. For more information, see Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts, available on IRS.gov.
INSURANCE: Keep Your Coverage Up to Date
DIFS urges Michiganders to prioritize a plan to pay insurance policy deductibles in the event of an emergency to ensure they can take advantage of their insurance coverage.
In addition to having a plan to pay your insurance deductible, National Preparedness Month is a good time for Michiganders to:
1. Review insurance policies to understand their coverage and responsibilities. Flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. There are certain insurance policies, including federal flood insurance, that homeowners would need to purchase to have coverage for flooding or water and sewer back-up resulting from storms or other natural disasters. It is important to discuss these options with your insurance agent or your insurance company well before flooding or damage occurs.
2. Prepare a detailed inventory of personal property. [See ‘Document valuables’ under Disaster Relief section, above]
3. Make a list of important telephone numbers. Include family members, insurance agents, and your insurance companies.
4. Questions or concerns about your insurance coverage? Contact DIFS Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 877–999–6442, or file a complaint online at Michigan.gov/DIFScomplaints.
PET PROTECTION: Take your best friend with you!
If you had to leave your home in a hurry, would you be able to get your pets out, too? The Animal Welfare Institute suggests building a waterproof emergency to-go kit that includes:
- Food, water and pet meds for 10+ days
- A sheet of care instructions and proof of vaccinations (in case you must temporarily board your pet at a shelter or with your vet)
- Microchip registration and recent photos
- Leash, collar, tags, toys, crate, and a blanket
- Cat litter supplies and/or poop bags
- List of pet-friendly hotels (check bringfido.com or tripswithpets.com) so you have immediate back-up
If you and your pet become separated during the emergency, you can be ready to take immediate action with the following:
- Distribute missing pet flyers (print these in ADVANCE with a photo of your pet and a blank space for the date and location your pet was last seen)
- Post your pet’s info and image on social media, particularly on Facebook sites like For the Love of Louie * Michigan Lost Pet Lookers* or on your own neighborhood NextDoor site
- Contact animal control and your city/county pet shelters and Humane Society
- Alert your pet’s microchip company (*Make microchipping your pet a priority!)
The CDC recommends designating each of your pets to a specific family member and practicing an evacuation with everyone involved.
We all know what it takes to get an angry cat into a travel carrier, but let’s remember Brian Rush’s wisdom: “Being prepared today can make all the difference tomorrow.” ~