While you are preparing for disasters, make sure your insurance is up to date and adequate to meet your family's needs. Even if money is tight and you have very few material possessions, a little bit of renter's insurance may keep you from starving or living in your car long after the fire is out or the disaster relief organizations have moved on.

If you own your home and have a mortgage, the bank makes you take out homeowner's insurance to cover fire and other disasters. Don't assume that this is all you need. The bank doesn't care about anything but getting their mortgage money back. If you don't make sure that the insurance covers everything your family will need to recover, you may be left with a good credit rating and nothing else.

Pay particular attention to flood insurance. All flood insurance in the USA is underwritten by a federal government insurance system, but you buy it through your regular insurance company. You do not have to have flood insurance for your mortgage unless you are in a flood prone area designated by the government. This is based on the elevation of your house and the drainage patterns in the area. Developers and real estate agents work hard to keep from having houses designated as needing flood insurance because they want to sell the houses. There are subdivisions where the land is all below the level of the nearby river, but some houses are required to have flood insurance and others aren't.

If you live on the east or south coast of the United States, you need flood insurance. Hurricanes don't read topographic maps. They drop enormous amounts of rain in small areas and push the ocean up onto the land and flood wherever they want. If you live inland but near one of our great rivers, you also need flood insurance. We have a complicated system of levies along the Mississippi and its tributaries, but every few years we still have disastrous floods. You have to be high up and on rock to be sure you are safe. Don't let some real estate agent hoping to make a sale convince you that your house is not going to flood because it is above the 100-year flood line.

Regular insurance doesn't cover
 floods or earthquakes

The other special insurance to think about is earthquake insurance. If you live in an earthquake prone area, the question of insurance can be difficult. In these areas, earthquake insurance is very expensive and many people feel they just can't afford it. Think about what you can afford and what happens if you don't take out insurance. Remember that you still owe the bank the mortgage even if the house has been shaken to rubble and you have no place to live.

If you don't live in an earthquake zone, earthquake insurance is very cheap because the risk of earthquakes is low. You might want to take out earthquake insurance anyway. Earthquakes can happen almost anywhere. It is interesting that the worst earthquake in the history of the United States had its epicenter in New Madrid, Missouri. Depending on how it is written, earthquake insurance may also cover sinkholes and mud slides. Talk to your insurance agent.