LISTENING TO KATRINA
PAGES IN THIS BLOG ARE RATED 'R' AND DO CONTAIN
PROFANITY, VULGARITY, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE, NUDITY,
SCENES OF HUMAN EMOTION, DEATH, DESTRUCTION, MAYHEM, AND VARIOUS
PLAN - ACTION Plan SAFE
Let's go ahead and put an ACTION plan into our Workbook. We're going to call this one ACTION Plan SAFE, and we'll have another one later called ACTION Plan DANGER. Since in the context of Listening to Katrina, we are in the context of SAFE, we're going to do the SAFE one first.
There are two sub-sets of the SAFE and DANGER plans as well - Home and Away. In our context, I am Away, but some of this crosses over to the Home sub-set as well. Stick with me, it's actually very easy.
Go ahead and open or print the workbook page linked at the top of this screen. Like all the other Workbook pages, you will want to print these out and have hard copies on hand in your binder. Feel free to make changes and additions to suit your needs. Let's cover the elements of the ACTION Plan SAFE, and you can fill in the blanks on your worksheet.
I will admit that ACTION Plan SAFE is kind of dry and nowhere near as exciting as ACTION Plan DANGER, but you've got to start somewhere...
You have had an emergency or a disaster, and one of several scenarios has played out. The fire department has put out the fire, or you've made it to your BOL (Bug Out Location), or you're camped at your in-laws. Remember that ACTION plans are essentially plans for 'the day after' - or even two days after. If your house is still on fire, or you're sitting on your roof, then it's not time to work on your ACTION plan yet.
A very major portion of ASSESS at this point is going to be trying to answer the question, "Are we ever going back to live on our property?" The forked path of that yes/no decision will be seminal in deciding the course you take toward Home. Sometimes the answer to that question is not readily apparent, but you will still need to do certain things while you work on having enough information to make that decision.
If you have followed the preparations I have outlined so far, then you will have protected a tremendous amount of wealth - both material and emotional. As odd as it may seem, if you have done that then it shouldn't really matter if you go back to your property or not because you should be carrying everything you need to go Home - even if home isn't where it used to be.
Once the immediate emergency is over - no matter what has happened or where you are - you should think clearly about your current situation. It may help to make notes at this point - but you aren't honestly likely to get out your workbook just yet in this scenario.
What is the situation? Is there anything that you need to do immediately to safeguard Health or Wealth? Do you need rescue? Does anybody else need rescue? Are all members of your family accounted for? Rescue doesn't necessarily mean being lifted off your roof by helicopter. There are many other kinds of rescue which you may have never considered before. A person about to commit suicide, for instance, is in desperate need of emotional or psychological rescue. You may be in need of financial rescue. Persons of faith may suddenly have a crisis of faith and be in need of spiritual rescue - whatever that means for them.
The ASSESS phase is about gathering information and thinking about that information wisely. You cannot make good choices past this point if you do not have a CLUE - a Clear and Lucid Understanding of Everything. There may be some things that you do not and cannot know at this point. I did not, for instance, know if my house was standing or destroyed, flooded or dry.
There is a very important rule at this point: VERIFY ALL FACTS. Do not make assumptions or guesses. Do not listen to rumors.
Keep all the information you gather in diary format. Make notes every day about what you know, where you learned it, and how to verify it. This does not need to be tedious. A few lines is all it takes.
Get out your phone book, your documents, your notebook, and a sharp pencil. This will take awhile...
There are different groups of people and different kinds of organizations that you will need or want to communicate with. Family comes first. Your mom worries about you, and you know that, so call her and tell her that you're OK, OK? If your house burns down, nobody may know except you. You'll want to let friends and family know that you are having a crisis because they may be in a position to help you in some way. Perhaps someone can watch the kids while you deal with the insurance company, for instance. Maybe someone will make you a meal. Perhaps someone has something extra that they can give you or lend you in the short term. Maybe someone will give you a shoulder to cry on. This isn't a reaching out for charity, it's a reaching out for Community.
If your best friend's house burns down tonight, aren't you going to want to help them? How can you help if you don't find out about it for a few days? COMMUNICATE!
This is the point where you break out your workbook, turn to Section Six - CONTACTS - and start calling people. Depending on the size and nature of the emergency or disaster will determine who you call. You don't have to call everyone in the book to tell them that you have a hangnail. In our case, we let immediate family know that we were safely evacuated, and then let that word spread through the grapevine. Every family has one, and if your family is like mine, the whole world will know that you are safely out of the danger zone before ten minutes passes.
Past this point you should use a single page in your notebook for each of the following contacts. That way you can make follow up notes on the same page. In all of your communications, remember to have conversations and not confrontations. Getting frustrated or abusive with people on the phone will not help you. The people who are answering your phone call probably deal with shitty people all day. Try to be one of the good callers, and you'll get special help and treatment just from that. Such a strategy has worked for me time and time again.
You should also avoid all emotion on the phone. Employers, landlords, and lenders are not interested in your emotion. Do business with these people. If you need a shoulder to cry on, find someone who cares.
The second person you want to immediately contact is your employer. If your house has just burned down, you really don't want to go to work tomorrow. If it's too late (or too early) to call, then put your employer first on the list in the morning. If your office is affected by the disaster or emergency you will want to find out what the protocol is for returning to work. If your house has burned down, ask for 48 hours off. You'll need at least two days to stabilize your living conditions. If you call your boss and tell him (or her) that your house just burned down and they don't give you the 48 hours, then you should find a new job. If you are self employed, then give yourself three days off. We'll talk about returning to work in subsequent pages. Depending on the size of your company and the nature of the business, there may be various human resources programs to help you recover from a disaster or emergency. After you talk to your supervisor, call human resources and ask.
If you are employed as a policeman, fireman, or other critical service personnel, then you may be required to report to work - in which case you *really* need to Have Your Shit Together in all of this before SHTF.
Who you communicate with from here will depend on the nature and scope of your emergency or disaster. If you have had a house fire, then the American Red Cross has probably already spoken to you and offered you some short-term assistance. You should maintain communications with the Red Cross. They can give you information that may be helpful to your condition. The Red Cross responds to residential house fires - but many people are not aware of this important work until they need the assistance. Most of my charitable giving is directed to the American Red Cross for this purpose.
If you are in a declared disaster area, then FEMA should be first on the list after your employer because FEMA works on a first-come-first-served basis. See the previous page for detailed information on registering with FEMA.
After you have registered with FEMA - or if you aren't in a declared disaster - the next organization you will want to contact is your insurance company. If you do not have homeowners, renters, or flood insurance of some kind, then you are really behind the curve on the insurance game. I'll devote an entire page to that in the near future. Even if you do not know the condition of your house, you should contact your insurance company and open a claim. Many times homeowners policies will give you short term housing benefits and sometimes living expenses. If your area is under an evacuation order, that helps. This is usually noted on your policy as Loss of Use. If you have registered with FEMA, give the insurance company the disaster number. Document everything that you tell them, and make sure they give you a claim number. Nothing much will happen with insurance until an adjuster comes out to your home. If you have a very local emergency - like a house fire - that may be the next day. In a widespread disaster, it may take several weeks. We will talk about all the hurdles of dealing with insurance companies and adjusters as we come to them in context. For now, as part of your ACTION plan, contact them and open a claim. If you end up without any damage to your home, you can always close the claim with no loss.
When you call them, know that insurance companies are evil in all their parts. Calling to open the claim is the first step in what can become a kind of warfare that is horrific and cruel. In subsequent pages I am going to teach you how to win the insurance game. Well, maybe not win. You can never truly win the insurance game. You can, however, come away from the game without losing any major body parts.
After a disaster or emergency you may not be able to return to work for some time. That makes you unemployed. Rather than make a cardboard sign and stand on a street corner pan-handling, you should immediately file for unemployment benefits with the appropriate agency of your state of residence - even if you have evacuated to a different state. Find the contact information for the agency and write it into your ACTION plan. When you file for unemployment benefits, be sure to write all the details down in your notebook. If you are unemployed, then the rest of this list is for you - and the word of the day is 'deferment'. If you are suddenly unemployed for any reason, you can ask for deferments.
If you own your home, then you should contact your mortgage company (assuming you haven't paid the house off). If your home is in a declared disaster area, you will have different rights that vary from state to state. Ask the mortgage company for a deferment on your mortgage payments. They will usually be more than happy to defer your payments for several months because they will continue to charge you interest. If the deferment period comes up and you still are not employed, they may defer you again - but there will be some limit in their rules. The deferment process may even be written into your mortgage contract.
If you rent, you should attempt to contact your landlord or building super. He (or she) may be able to tell you the condition of your apartment if you are evacuated. Depending on the terms of your lease, you may get some rent relief - or you may not. Dealing with landlords varies from landlord to landlord. Renters after Katrina did not fare well - but that's a story for another page. If you rent, have renters insurance on 100% of your contents. The only thing any landlord is interested in is collecting his rent. That's just a simple fact. Be prepared for your landlord to tell you that if you do not continue to pay rent on your unlivable apartment that he will put all your shit out on the street with no warning. Part of surviving this part of the game is to have some kind of disaster agreement with your landlord ahead of time - but no landlord in his right mind will give you that. If you read your lease, the lease is all about what *you* are supposed to do for *him*. That's just the way the rental business works - which is one of the reasons it's better to own your own home.
The next step is to contact other lenders. Car loans, credit card companies, loan sharks, and whoever else you owe money to. Start with secured credit first (like car loans) and work down to unsecured loans (like credit cards). If your residence is in a declared disaster area, mention that first. Ask for deferments.
If you aren't going to be going home for awhile, the last part of Communicate at this stage is to contact the United States Post Office and change your address. You can do this online at http://www.usps.com/. Type 'Change of Address' into the search box to find the page. You should notify everyone you can reach about your change of address. Doing this online or through email is very convenient in many cases. In other cases you should write or fax.
The last part of Communication is to speak to your spouse and children in a plain and factual manner. Talk about what you accomplished today. Focus on the positive, and talk about problems with an attitude towards solving them. We used (and still use) our evening meal for those kinds of discussions.
Once we have communicated, we need to follow up and follow through on that communication. If you need to provide supporting documentation to someone, do so in a timely manner. Keep appointments. Meet deadlines. You should do something every day to keep moving forward.
Create a section in your notebook - or keep a document on your laptop - and make a list of all your current assets. Again, if you HYST to begin with, then you should be able to do this very easily.
Inventory also means keeping track of everything that is going on so that nothing falls through the cracks. Our flood insurance was due to expire on June 1, for instance - just two days after Katrina. While I was pretty sure my house hadn't flooded, I really wanted to keep that insurance in place just in case any more levees gave way.
Keep your head up and your eyes open. Gather as much information as you can from as many sources as you can. Is what you are doing working? Do you need to do something different? Is someone offering assistance that you can use? Is someone in need of assistance that you can provide?
Avoid getting too caught up in one aspect of the disaster and recovery. Continually monitor the mental and emotional condition of yourself and those around you.
Remember that our end goal is Home, so we need to Navigate and KEEP MOVING FORWARD. You should refer to the appropriate ACTION plan every day and follow the steps every day. When you get to Navigate, do something. Sitting on your ass in your BOL watching your TIVO recordings of Oprah re-runs isn't going to get you Home.
On the other hand, you and your family will need a break from time to time.
You should pace yourself so that you do not exhaust yourself.
Recovering from a disaster can be physically, mentally, emotionally, and
spiritually draining. Take care of yourself and your family before you
take care of anything or anyone else. It is important to have some
relaxing fun sometimes, and it needn't cost a lot. Many fun things
free - parks, strolls, window shopping - the list is endless.
Even more-so than the Escape and Emergency Plans, this ACTION Plan SAFE is a bare-bones outline to develop your own, more detailed ACTION Plan SAFE. When you actually put it into effect, it will start to grow. Follow the ACTION Plan every day. Doing so will frequently take less than an hour, and you will find that you make a lot of progress in that hour. At first, the key focus of your ACTION plan is the stabilization of your situation. As time goes on, the ACTION Plan will become a Recovery Plan and eventually lead you Home.
Work on it.
LAZY PEOPLE DO NOT PROSPER!