Your Survival

Book Excerpt

Disasters don't need to devastate your family. Especially not if you have the right type of insurance, organize your most vital possessions, and prep with the rest of the quick and easy info outlined in Your Survival.

Excerpt. © All rights reserved.


You never think a disaster will happen to you. Kathy Hebert, a 46-year-old physician and public health analyst certainly didn't. The longtime New Orleans resident always thought that keeping supplies and extra cash on hand, making copies of vital records, and buying supplemental insurance for rare events like earthquakes or floods were things that only "worrywarts" did.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit. Now, more than a year after the disaster, Hebert and her husband are camping out with a toaster on the second floor of what used to be their house. The first floor, which was inundated by five feet of water from the 17th Street Canal, had to be taken down clear to the studs; Hebert spends hours each week searching for a contractor who's not too busy to put up walls - which for now the Heberts must pay for out of their own savings.

"When the order came to evacuate we only had a couple of hours to get out," she recalls. "We had two big plastic totes stuffed with our important papers and other valuables, like our wedding video, and we put them up on our kitchen counters. So we figured at least those things would stay dry. Unfortunately, we didn't count on the fact that in five feet of water plastic totes slide off counters and topple open! That was really hard. My father died eight years ago, and that was the only video I had of him. Now I just want to grab people by the neck and tell them, 'Don't put your faith in plastic totes!' You have to make sure stuff like that is in order and in one place so you can take it with you."

Kathy's story is exactly the point of the Your Survival Disaster Planning, Response, and Recovery Program. You might call it our attempt to "grab you by the neck" (in the nicest possible way of course), to get you thinking about all the things that thousands of people never do. To help, we enlisted the country's leading disaster preparedness experts, including emergency management officials, weather forecasters, physicians, engineers, accountants, insurance analysts, and grief counselors. We also interviewed dozens of survivors from all across the country. Smart, hardworking people just like you, who are still drying out from Hurricane Katrina and the recent flooding in the Northeast, people who have watched their houses slide down cliffs during earthquakes in Los Angeles, run from wildfires in San Diego, and cowered inside closets as F5 tornadoes ripped apart their Oklahoma homes. They all agreed to tell their stories because they have some hard lessons to share, and because they understand two important truths about disasters: First, these catastrophes can, and do, happen to anyone, regardless of income or geography. Second, at a time when it's increasingly clear that government is overmatched by the cost and coordination of recovery efforts, it's a big mistake to count on someone else to take care of these issues for you.

"A lot of people in this country have this idea that Bruce Willis is going to jump out of a tank, and suddenly all these supplies are going to start pouring in to help them put their lives back together," says Hebert. "Well, it doesn't exist. It's a fantasy that only lives in Hollywood. When something like this happens, every family better have it together and know how to take responsibility for themselves."

We're not trying to scare you with statements like these or get you to take up residence with your spouse and children in a bunker somewhere with a two-year supply of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs). We just think it makes sense to do a little advance planning now that can save you plenty of stress and heartache later.

With advice from survivors and experts alike, Your Survival is a vital investment in the safety of your family.