Cromwell, CT - While the world focuses on hurricanes battering the Caribbean, U.S. and other land within their path, Connecticut Better Business Bureau says the storms offer some lessons for local residents and travelers.
The ongoing hurricane evacuations, rescue and recovery of victims offer simple take-home messages: Look ahead to the future and be prepared.
"When big storms approach, we are encouraged to be prepared for electricity blackouts, dangerous driving conditions and dwindling supplies of essentials such as food, water and gasoline," says Howard Schwartz, spokesman for Connecticut Better Business Bureau.
Meteorologists and their technology give us a heads up to prepare for big storms. However, despite weather warnings and bulletins from state agencies, some consumers tend to wait too long to react.
"It is not uncommon for consumers to wait several days to prepare, often when a storm is too close for comfort."
People who wait too long find themselves in lineups for gas and food, and are sometimes met with empty shelves at supermarkets. This is often accompanied by a run on generators and other emergency supplies.
While a forecast storm doesn't always materialize, it is still worth the effort to prepare in advance.
Plan vacations wiselyThe Atlantic hurricane season is a long one, from June 1st to November 30th.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't travel during that period, but it underscores the importance of buying travel insurance.
Once a tropical storm has been sighted and named, you won't be able to buy travel insurance for trips to destinations in its path, or a policy may have exclusions that make it less helpful.
There are many different types of policies and coverage limits. Make certain that you understand the terms, conditions, exclusions and limits of coverage. Call the issuer if you have any questions.
Prepare your home
Stockpiling certain emergency supplies too far in advance can present its own problems. There are limits as to how long you can store gasoline and water. The shelf life of water containers is limited because some plastic containers degrade over time and leech into the water. While there is no consensus on the issue, if drinking water is stored in a proper container, it may last as long as two years.
Experts recommend storage of at least one gallon per person, per day for food preparation, drinking and hygiene. Estimates on the useful life of stored gasoline range from three to eight months or longer if you add fuel stabilizer.
Another lesson from this hurricane season and other natural or man-made disasters involves donating to relief efforts in affected communities.
Better Business Bureau offers several tips to ensure your donations are collected by a reputable charity and get to people in need of help:
Choose a charity yourself
- Fake charity appeals, social media pages and websites appear within hours of a tragedy. Even if a friend sends you a link to what appears to be a charity, it is safer to type in the web address of the charity yourself to make sure you are going to the proper website.
Get the facts - Give.org is the home of BBB's charity arm, the Wise Giving Alliance (WGA). You can consult the WGA to see if a charity meets Better Business Bureau's 20 Standards of Charity Accountability. You will find a list of BBB Accredited Charities through this link.
Beware of look-alike or sound-alike names
- Charity cheats set up quickly after tragedy strikes, often using fake websites and social media profiles with names that are intended to make you think you are dealing with an established charity.
Be careful with crowdfunding - Crowdfunding sites house pages for people looking for investment capital or donations for various reasons. Not all of them are vetted, which is another reason to go with a charity you have researched and that has experience collecting and distributing donations.
Charity scammers also work the phones to get donations through deception. Avoid donating through email or over the telephone unless you initiate the call.