September is National Preparedness Month — the perfect time to make sure you’re ready to handle a disaster. Previously, we’ve given you pointers on preparing for wildfires, tornadoes, power outages, hurricanes, and thunderstorms.

But despite growing concern over extreme weather events, an Esurance survey found that the vast majority of us are ill-prepared for them.

So here we’ve compiled a list of steps that are important for everyone, no matter where you live or what potential hazards you might face.

8 Ways to Celebrate National Preparedness Month

1. Replenish your emergency kit

Every home and car should have a kit stocked with emergency supplies (drinking water, snacks, a flashlight, a blanket, and a first-aid kit, to name a few). Now’s the time to add fresh water, check the expiration dates on your food items, and see if your batteries are still charged. If you live in a cold climate, you’ll also want to add winter-specific items like kitty litter, chains, and an ice scraper to your kit.

2. Go over your emergency plan

Do you know what to do in a disaster? Should you evacuate or stay where you are and seek shelter indoors? And if you do have to evacuate, what’s the best route? Make sure you know the right actions to take and share those steps with your family. It’s also a good idea to do a practice run, so you know exactly what you’d grab if you only had a few minutes. Did you waste time digging through drawers for your passport or unearthing your pet carrier from the back of the closet? Gather your essentials together and store them in easy-to-access places so you can collect them quickly.

3. Have your pets vaccinated and microchipped

Pets often get separated from their owners in natural disasters. To protect them — and to make it easier to reunite with them if they get lost — make sure their IDs and vaccinations are up to date.

4. Get your car ready for winter

It may be balmy now, but the days of snow, rain, and salted roads aren’t far in the future. Prep your ride before the cold weather arrives: check your tire pressure, change your oil, replace your wiper blades, make sure your belts and hoses are in good condition, and top off your antifreeze. It’s also wise to wax your car to help protect it from the elements.

5. Get your house ready too

A burst pipe, collapsed roof, or chimney fire will make this the winter of your discontent, big-time. Keep those disasters at bay by insulating your pipes, clearing your rain gutters of debris, and having your fireplace inspected. While you’re at it, change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

6. Install those home-safety features

Been meaning to put a deadbolt on the back door or install a burglar alarm? There’s no time like the present. Summer may be the worst season for home thefts, but burglars also love long, dark nights and winter holidays. (Bonus: check out these smart home devices that take preparation to the next level!)

7. Review your insurance coverage

Take a quick look around your home — have you made any big purchases or gotten any expensive gifts lately? Have you made any improvements to your house or yard? Now’s a good time to review your homeowners or renters policy to make sure you have adequate coverage. Never done an inventory of your possessions before? These apps will make it much easier.

And if you’ve had any major life events in the last year (like getting married, moving in with your partner, or getting divorced), be sure to let your insurer know. You’ll want to add your new spouse or partner to your car, renters, and/or homeowners insurance policy (or remove a former spouse).

8. Breathe easier

No one knows what the future holds, but when you’re prepared for emergencies, you can minimize the dangers or often avoid them completely.

For more tips on how to prepare for (and recover from) Mother Nature’s ire, check out our disaster prep guide. Happy National Preparedness Month!

Safe and smart | Around the nation


about Ellen

Ellen has spent many years as a professional wordsmith, helping to shed light on such topics as world travel, cargo pants, and the porosity of bath tiles. As a freelance copywriter for Esurance, she brings her boundless curiosity to the world of insurance. Outside work, she can be found cheering on the San Francisco Giants, hiking in the Oakland hills, and (barely) resisting smuggling penguins home from Antarctica.