Natural Disaster Preparedness

Preparedness Tips

Natural disasters can strike anywhere at any time. These resources may be helpful.

  • Make sure you have bottled water, a first aid kit, flashlights, a battery-powered radio, non-perishable food items, blankets, clothing, prescription drugs, eyeglasses, personal hygiene supplies, and a small amount of cash or traveler’s checks.
  • For personal safety, identify what storm shelter is available to your family and prepare an evacuation plan. Choose two meeting places: one right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire; and one outside your neighborhood in case you can’t return home.
  • If you need to evacuate your home, turn off all utilities and disconnect appliances to reduce the chance of additional damage and electrical shock when utilities are restored.
  • Mitigation – There are steps you can take to help mitigate – or lessen – some of the damage to your home caused by natural disasters. Generally a mitigation plan will begin with a survey of your home and the area around your home to identify objects like yard debris that could compound damage your home in high winds or under threat of wildfire. Your state insurance department or state department of emergency management can help you get started on a mitigation plan. Some states may even have programs to help pay for mitigation upgrades for homes in high threat areas.
  • Keep a readily available list of 24-hour contact information for your insurance agent and insurance company. Make a list that includes your policy numbers, your insurance company and insurance agent’s phone numbers, website addresses and mailing addresses. Also, check to see if the company or your agent has set up an emergency information hotline, in case of storm damage. It is a good idea to store this information, and a home inventory, in a waterproof/fireproof safe or a safe deposit box. Also consider sending an electronic copy to someone you trust. If you have to evacuate your home, you want this information to be easily available to you.
  • A home inventory can be invaluable when deciding how much insurance your life situation requires to adequately insure your home in the path of a natural disaster.


Returning to a Flooded Home

With flood waters begin slowly receding, anxious homeowners may soon be able to return home to check their property.

Homeowners are encouraged to consider the following safety guidelines when returning to assess damage from flood waters.

For manufactured or factory-built homes:

  • Examine the overall exterior appearance for any signs that flood waters may have caused movement or settlement to occur.
  • Look for obvious signs such as the building not level, the bottom skirting missing, block support piers missing, loose tie down straps, or the building completely off the foundation.
  • If any of these conditions are present DO NOT ENTER THE HOME.
  • Immediately contact a licensed installer in your area to assist with stabilizing your home.

For all types of housing:

  • If the fuel system (propane or natural gas) for your home was not removed prior to the flood and the fuel container or metering device appears to have been displaced by the flood waters, contact your fuel source provider to inspect and disconnect the tank or meter from the supply lines.
  • Flood in the interior of a home can cause issues with the heating/cooling systems, the plumbing systems and the electrical systems. It is essential that these systems be evaluated by licensed heating/cooling contractors, plumbers and electricians for possible damages before any utility service is restored.
  • Wildlife may have taken refuge in the home to escape flood waters. Use caution when entering rooms, opening doors and cabinets, and removing furniture from the home to prevent being bitten by small animals.
  • File a flood insurance claim as soon as possible. If you need further assistance call 1-800-621-3362 to register for FEMA Flood Disaster Assistance.

For further information and assistance contact the State Fire Marshal’s Office at 601-359-1061.

Questions About Flood Insurance:

  • How do I find an agent in my area who sells flood insurance?

FloodSmart maintains a list of agents who sell flood insurance in each state. To access this list, click on this link:

  • Which insurance companies in Mississippi sell flood insurance?

FloodSmart maintains a list of companies participating in the NFIP by state.For Mississippi, click on this link:

  • How do I purchase flood insurance?

For complete instructions on purchasing flood insurance click on this link:

  • What would flooding cost me?

Visit and click on the interactive “Why you need flood insurance

  • How do I file a flood insurance claim?

For complete instructions on filing a flood insurance claim click on this link:

  • If I have more questions regarding flood insurance?

You can call the Mississippi Insurance Department Consumer Division at: 1-800-562-2957 or you may call 1-800-427-4661 for general questions or 1-800-942-4242 for help locating the insurance company who handles your flood insurance policy.


Unlike other disasters such as hurricanes, there are no seasons or warnings for earthquakes. They can happen almost anywhere at anytime. Everyone, no matter, where they live should have a disaster recovery plan which includes securing the right type and amount of insurance.

A few simple steps can reduce property damage and help protect you and your family from disaster.

Inside the House

  • Anchor bookcases and filing cabinets to nearby walls.
  • Anchor large appliances, such as water heaters, to walls using straps.
  • Install ledge barriers on shelves; place heavy items on lower shelves.
  • Use closed screw-eyes and wire to securely attach pictures and mirrors to the walls.
  • Attach computers and small appliances to desks, tables or countertops.
  • Install latches on drawers and cabinet doors to keep contents from spilling.

The Structure of the House

If the structural elements of your home need reinforcing, you can consider investing in some of the most important and common retrofits:

  • Add anchor bolts or steel plates between your home and its foundation.
  • Brace the inside of your home’s cripple wall (the short wood-stud wall between the top of the foundation wall and the first floor) with sheathing.
  • Brace unreinforced chimneys, masonry and concrete walls and foundations.

Protecting yourself and your family

  • Be sure that all family members know how to turn off utilities (gas, water and electricity) in an emergency.
  • Make sure every family member knows where safe spots are in each room, such as under sturdy tables or desks or in strong doorways.
  • Identify danger zones in each room, such as windows, bookshelves and furniture, that may fall over and cause injuries.

Protecting your property

  • Check to see that your house has been properly “tied” to the foundation. Extensive damage is often done to homes that shift and slide on the foundation during an earthquake. A contractor can advise you about this and suggest whether lateral bracing of the house walls is necessary.
  • Be sure that water heaters and other gas appliances are properly bolted down or supported on the floor or wall.
  • Put the heavier, breakable items on lower shelves.
  • Search the ceiling and foundation for deep plaster cracks. Make the necessary repairs if there are signs of structural defects.
  • Make an inventory of your possessions and store it off the premises. If your belongings are damaged, this list will help facilitate the claim filing process.

Recovering from an Earthquake

Protecting Yourself and Your Family

  • First, check to be sure that no one in the family is injured. Start first aid immediately if injuries are found.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks which are normal following an earthquake.
  • Stay away from beach areas because of the danger of tsunamis (large seismic sea waves).

Protecting Your Property

  • Check utility lines and appliances for damage. If you smell gas, open the windows and turn off the main gas valve. Do not turn on electric lights or appliances until the gas has dissipated. They can cause sparks that might ignite the gas. If electric wires are shorting out, turn off the power.
  • Clean up flammable liquids inside buildings.
  • Check to see that sewage lines are intact and working before flushing toilets.
  • Check chimneys for cracks or other damage before using them.
  • Notify your insurance agent or company representative as soon as possible. If you have vacated the premises, make sure your representative knows where to contact you.
  • Take pictures of damaged property and keep notes. Use pictures and inventory lists to help your insurance agent and adjuster assess the damages.
  • Don’t be rushed into signing repair contracts. Deal with reputable contractors. If you’re unsure about a contractor’s credentials, contact your claims adjuster, Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce for referrals. Make sure the contractor you hire is experienced in repair work – not just new construction. Be sure of payment terms and consult your agent or adjuster before you sign any contracts.

Special Video – Protecting Your Home From an Earthquake

Making Repairs After Natural Disaster

Disaster victims who hire laborers and contractors to remove trees and debris from their damaged property are urged to save receipts so they may be properly reimbursed by their insurance company.

Follow these tips when considering hiring someone to help with the cleanup of your damaged property:

  • Insurance companies may not be obligated to pay the full amount on a receipt submitted for reimbursement for tree and debris removal. To make sure you get fully compensated, consider contacting your insurer ahead of time before employing someone to remove trees or debris or rebuilding.
  • When paying for tree and debris removal, you will typically be paying for hourly labor.
  • Ask the contractor up front how many hours will be required and how many men he will use for the job (A generally acceptable rate for tree removal for example is $50 -$60 per hour per person on the crew. ***Note that there can be special circumstances which would make that rate higher)
  • If you are being charged more ask questions as to why the rate is higher.
  • Get a written copy of the agreed upon amount before the work begins.
  • Always pay by check or money order and keep a receipt.
  • The charges must be a reasonable amount. Again if you have questions, contact your insurance company before employing a contractor.

If you have questions or problems with filing or completing your claim, call our Consumer Hotline at 1-800-562-2957.

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