Natural Disaster Crime Prevention Tips
Most people who live in areas that are prone to natural disasters are familiar with emergency preparedness plans and are wise enough to have taken precautions to be ready in case disaster strikes. Here we are going to take a look at crime prevention in the face of natural disasters – something that most people don’t think about.
The last thing on the mind of homeowners is crime prevention in the face of a flood, fire, tornado or other natural disaster. The best example we can think of is Hurricane Katrina, where the Dist. Atty.’s office in New Orleans, LA reported nearly 1,000 cases of identity theft, fraud, theft, white-collar crimes, price gouging and other violent crimes not to mention home burglary-yes home burglary!
My friend who lives out in Colorado Springs told me that during the Waldo Canyon fire-while the fire was still burning-the Police Department reported 42 home burglaries and 43 burglaries to motor vehicles that belonged to evacuation victims in a 10 day stretch. At that time, the fire was the biggest natural disaster in Colorado history. It struck an area-Colorado Springs-that is the biggest city in the state in geographic terms.
Criminals by their very nature, have no compunction and no moral values so it doesn’t bother them to commit crimes against people who are weak and vulnerable. Natural disasters such as floods, wildfires, tornadoes and others rip the very heart and soul out of people because they are forced to evacuate their homes on short notice in most cases. This forces them to leave behind possessions that in many cases are irreplaceable not to mention the possible loss of life. Their lives are disrupted, at least temporarily, in a way that is difficult to explain.
In our article entitled How Is Your Emergency Preparedness? we draw your attention to several factors that you should consider when it comes to disaster planning
One of the first items that you should consider protecting in a natural disaster are your important documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, passports, financial information, vehicle titles and so on. You should make copies of all these important documents and store the originals and copies in separate places in multiple locations in case one set is destroyed.
You should also have an emergency communications plan. When disaster strikes it is likely that people will become separated from their friends, family members and others with whom it is important to maintain contact. Have several alternative methods of communication in mind in case one or more methods are down. Facebook and Twitter are often overlooked as a means of communication.
Protection against burglary in the face of a natural disaster is something that needs to be considered. In many natural disasters, home evacuation is not optional and unfortunately many burglars capitalize on criminal activity when disaster strikes. To protect yourself, take the most valuable possessions with you if possible and secure the others in a safe or secure location in your house. Turn your security cameras on and make sure you lock all your doors and windows. You should make an inventory, including photos and video if possible, of all your possessions for insurance purposes and possible documentation for police in case of a burglary.
Criminals often prey on the empathy that people have for victims of a natural disaster and capitalize on this by setting up fake charities asking for donations to help disaster victims. Before you give your hard-earned money away, take a minute to investigate the organization you are considering donating to and make sure that they are legitimate. Avoid donating online.
Price gouging is a common occurrence in many natural disasters. It is highly unethical, but it may not be illegal where you live. If you suspect that you are being overcharged for anything you should find another vendor and contact your state’s District Atty. Office to file a complaint.
One of the more common problems in natural disasters is phony insurance agents or adjusters. If property damage has occurred in a flood or fire, your insurance company will provide an adjuster so make sure that you are actually dealing with somebody from your insurance company. Ask to see identification or if there is any doubt, call your insurance company.
Another common scam is home repair fraud. It seems whenever there is roof damage, lowlife scam artists come out of the woodwork. If you are having any kind of home repairs done to your house, make sure you use only licensed contractors and have a written contract with no blank spaces in it. The biggest way to avoid getting ripped off is to never pay in advance: only pay on completion of the project.
In our article called ‘Are You Ready For A Natural Disaster?’ we highlight three factors to help you prepare for a natural disaster. They are: be informed, make a plan and build a “bug out” kit.
When a natural disaster occurs is not the time to do any of these things because there is no time. It requires significant planning. The plan should include what to do, where to go and what to carry with you such as a go bag that has emergency supplies in it. You cannot wait till a natural disaster happens to be prepared. You must be ready in advance.
And last but not least is personal and family safety. Avoid being alone or living in your car. Avoid accepting rides from a stranger or anyone who is not acting in an official capacity. Do not openly display valuables or money when you are displaced from your home. If you are attacked, do everything you can to get away. Make sure you have a self-defense product with you such as one of our close to 200 different pepper sprays. You might even consider carrying a self-defense stun flashlight in your car like this Diablo Stun Flashlight that is a 160 lumen flashlight and a 4.5 million volt stun device.
Have you taken any steps to protect yourself or your home in a natural disaster? We want to hear your thoughts.