If you’re in the path of a hurricane or another natural disaster, what’s the one thing you should always do? We asked survivors: Here’s what they said.

Know what flood insurance covers

the-one-thing-natural-disaster-survivors-wish-they-d-done-differently-to-preparecourtesy Paul Sprela

“Don’t assume that your flood insurance covers everything,” says Paul Sprela, of the insurance group JIl Agency, in Long Beach, New York. In 2012, Sprela himself was affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Sprela, whose company specializes in selling flood insurance, had his business and his home flooded. “Make sure that you have insurance that covers the contents as well.” Flood insurance typically covers structural damage, yet the rising waters do extensive damage to furniture, books, and electronics. Sprela also advises his clients not to panic, because he rushed and paid out-of-pocket for the repairs on his home. “I should have waited for the government grants I was entitled to,” he says.

Take photos, keep receipts

the-one-thing-natural-disaster-survivors-wish-they-d-done-differently-to-preparecourtesy Jane Bianchi

In prepping for Hurricane Irma, Jane Bianchi, of Tampa, Florida, and her husband were diligent in photographing their belongings and using bags of mulch to stave off flooding. “We also played it safe and flew out,” she says. “We didn’t want to be stuck on the highway and run out of gas with a toddler.” However, Bianchi was worried about a tree near her pool. “I should have chopped it down before the storm and learned how to drain my pool the right way,” she says. Although she didn’t have a lot of damage, the tree did come down on the pool, forcing her to replace the drain. Make sure you don’t fall for these common scams in the wake of a natural disaster.


Evacuate sooner

the-one-thing-natural-disaster-survivors-wish-they-d-done-differently-to-prepareCourtesy James Matthew

When Harvey hit Texas in 2017, some areas flooded due to the heavy and relentless rain: In Cedar Bayou, Texas, alone, the storm dumped 52 inches. Yet some of the flooding could have been prevented: “Our subdivision only flooded because a bunch of pallets were not secured at the substation across from my house,” says James Matthew of Galveston, Texas. The pallets blocked the drainage system and triggered extensive flooding. “I would go out there next time and check the drains myself to make sure everything is clear and OK,” says Matthew. If it seem like hurricanes are getting worse, here’s why.