Extreme weather events have been on the rise in recent years. So it’s important that you and your family take steps to prepare. Last year, for example, there were 14 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events across the United States, with a total cost of $91 billion. These included devastating hurricanes, like Florence and Michael, baseball-sized hail storms, and California’s Campfire — the costliest, deadliest, and largest wildfire in a century.

Prepare now so you’re ready later

The widespread threat of disastrous weather stretches from coast to coast, so even if you don’t think you’re in an area prone to a threat, it’s important to be prepared. Non-perishable food and bottled water should be stocked for a three-day supply for each family member.

Here’s what else to assemble before a storm hits:

• Flashlight and extra batteries
• First aid kit and manual (make sure nothing is expired)
• Sanitation and hygiene items (moist towelettes and toilet paper)
• A battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio, which will allow you to get weather alerts even without power or cell phone service
• A manually operated can opener
• Cash and coins (if power is out, you may not be able to get cash out of the ATM)
• Special items, like prescription medications, eye glasses, or hearing aid batteries
• Items for infants, such as formula, diapers, etc.
• Copies of personal documents stored in waterproof containers (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)

Speaking of insurance, make sure your policies are up-to-date and cover not only your home but also your car from weather-related damage. And while you’re at, take a quick inventory of your home. It’s simple: just snap a few pictures or videos of every room in your house as well as the exterior. This’ll come in handy if you ever have to file an insurance claim.

Go over a plan with your loved ones

A family disaster plan is also something you can coordinate in advance. This means taking the time to discuss and practice what to do with every family member in the event of a weather disaster. FEMA also advises:

• Identify an out-of-town contact for families to touch base with if they are separated.
• Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.
• Teach all family members how to use text messaging. Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through. 
• Subscribe to alert services. Many communities now have systems that’ll send instant text alerts or emails to let you know about bad weather, road closings, local emergencies, etc. 

In the worst-case scenario, also consider where you’d go if you had to evacuate. Choose a destination as close to home as you can to minimize drive time. If a motel or hotel is your evacuation destination, call ahead to make reservations. They may be booked by the time you arrive. If you can’t find a place to stay, go to a shelter. 

Don’t forget your pets! 

In my book, Extreme Weather, I interviewed Dr. Charlotte Krugler, an Emergency Preparedness Veterinarian of Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health, in Columbia, South Carolina. She has experience dealing with animals impacted by hurricanes. 

“Any change from their normal environment could be a stressor for pets. Make sure each pet is identified or wearing identification. A microchip is the best insurance against getting your pet lost.”

This might sound like common sense but she also advises not to leave animals behind. Horses, chickens, cattle—they’re as vulnerable to a storm as any dog or cat. So be sure to include them in your evacuation plan.

For more ideas on how to prepare for extreme weather, check out the Esurance Guide to Disaster Prep.

Bonnie Schneider is a national television meteorologist, and author of the book Extreme Weather, published by Macmillan. Bonnie has over 260k followers on social networking sitesFacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Safe and smart | Home safety