Natural disasters are becoming increasingly frequent, but proper preparation can help prevent financial and physical loss.
Extreme weather events like hurricanes and wildfires are deadly, expensive, and becoming more common.
“There are weather risks in every part of the country, you can’t escape it,” said Stephanie Abrams, on-camera meteorologist and co-host of American Morning Head Quarters for The Weather Channel. “According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have been 285 billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. since 1980. 2020 had a record-setting 22 billion-dollar disasters. Unfortunately, with a changing climate these events have the potential to get more extreme!”
Aside from the financial costs — those 22 weather events in 2020 cost a combined $95 billion in damages, and the average cost of evacuating due to a weather emergency is $5,000 — there’s also the risk of injury or even death as a result of natural disasters. Abrams stressed that the key to surviving both the financial and physical dangers of extreme weather is being prepared.
“Disaster preparedness is essential for everyone because it can save your life,” Abrams noted. “When a storm is about to hit or you’re faced with an emergency situation, having your next steps in place can get you out of harm’s way and be the calm during chaos.”
Abrams said there are simple steps you can take to protect your family. “You should always have a comprehensive survival kit ready to go year-round,” she said. These kits should generally contain enough food and water for your family for several days, flashlights and batteries, first aid supplies, whistles, dust masks, phone chargers, can openers, and basic tools like pliers and wrenches. Abrams suggested checking to make sure nothing has expired if you haven’t used your emergency kit in a while. While this might seem obvious, it’s estimated that only about 25 percent of Americans have an emergency go-bag.
Abrams suggests being thoughtful about what’s in that bag, too. “It’s good to pack your kids’ favorite toy or stuffed animal,” she said. “And get waterproof and fireproof bags for important documents. Back up your computer and have enough supplies for your pets,” she added, noting that Ready.gov and The Red Cross have comprehensive lists that cover a wide range of needs.
Abrams said that being properly prepared requires knowing what to expect in your area of the country and having the right tools. The only universal is that everyone will see weather that’s more extreme more frequently.
“Hurricane season got off to an early start and this year’s forecast calls for yet another above-average season,” Abrams warned. “It’s always good to remember that these storms don’t just damage coastal cities, but many times travel well inland and can cause not only wind damage but also flooding.”
In addition to weather broadcasts that can keep you apprised of approaching storms, checking with the National Hurricane Center can ensure you’re not taken by surprise when one of these dangerous weather events approaches.
If hurricanes don’t worry you, chances are the opposite should. “With a worsening drought for the western half of the country there will be an increased risk for wildfires,” Abrams continued. “The temperature trend continues to look above-average for much of the country. This is not just the case for the summer, but it’s been the overall climate trend for the last several decades and if changes aren’t made the temperatures will continue to rise in this same direction.” Abrams suggests using a drought monitor to keep track of local conditions.
What connects all of these scenarios is the potential for serious injury or even death, and the need for proper preparation. Abrams noted that being prepared has benefits that extend beyond the actual emergency. “Good preparations also lead to a quicker recovery,” she pointed out. “It’s much easier to execute a plan in the aftermath rather than starting from scratch, which can be overwhelming.”