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September is National Preparedness Month. With wildfires burning throughout Washington this is a great opportunity to review your preparedness plans. Wildfires can change quickly prompting neighborhood evacuations. It’s important that you are prepared when evacuation orders are in place. This means make a plan, prepare your pets, and create a personal support network. Being aware of scammers following a disaster also protects you financially.
Make a Plan
Make a plan today. Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect your area. Know how you’ll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find. Learn more about the four steps to making and testing your plan.
Prepare Your Pets for Disasters
Your pets are an important member of your family, so they need to be included in your family’s emergency plan. If you have a plan in place for you and your pets, you will likely encounter less difficulty, stress and worry when you need to make a decision during an emergency. If local officials ask you to evacuate, that means your pet should evacuate too. If you leave your pets behind, they may end up lost, injured or worse.
Create a Personal Support Network
If you anticipate needing assistance during a disaster, make a list of family, friends and others who will be part of your plan. Talk to these people and ask them to be part of your support network. Share each aspect of your emergency plan with everyone in your group, including a friend or relative in another area who would not be impacted by the same emergency who can help if necessary. Make sure everyone knows how you plan to evacuate your home or workplace and where you will go in case of a disaster. Make sure that someone in your personal support network has an extra key to your home and knows where you keep your emergency supplies. Practice your plan with those who have agreed to be part of your personal support network.
Every time there is a major natural disaster somewhere in the country, scammers come out of the woodwork sending emails to raise money for the survivors of the disaster. You think the money is going to help survivors, but it is really going to line the pockets of a criminal. If you choose to give a donation, choose wisely. Regrettably, criminals chase headlines, set up bogus charities and take the money and run. That’s true even if there’s not a disaster in the news. The Federal Trade Commission, a consumer protection agency, offers guidance on how to donate wisely and avoid charity scams.
Also, watch out for disaster fraud that preys directly on those struggling to recover from extreme weather. Dubious contractors descend on affected communities, offering quick, cheap fixes for battered homes and businesses or rapid removal of debris, for payment up front. Some of these “storm chasers” are merely shady and overcharge for shoddy work. Others are outright scammers who take your money and run. There’s more on avoiding home repair scams elsewhere in AARP’s Fraud Resource Center.
Take time today for personal preparedness. Visit our wildfire resources page for additional resources to assist you with personal preparedness and wildfire information. Learn more about protecting yourself and your family by visiting AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.