Attorney General Josh Stein
While we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to forget that hurricane season began in June. But Hurricane Dorian hit North Carolina last year, and parts of our state are still recovering from the damage. As the peak of hurricane season approaches and while cases of coronavirus continue to spread, now is the time to prepare. Here are some steps you can take now to be ready if a storm hits.
While you’re at home, make sure that you have an emergency plan in place. Take the time to go over this plan with your family. The plan may be different because of the pandemic – evacuation routes may have changed, and other precautions may be in place to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus. Check your local government’s website as you develop this plan, and get tips from North Carolina Emergency Management at readync.org. Many shelters may not operate at capacity during this pandemic because people won’t be able to safely socially distance – have a backup location where you can stay safe and socially distant, perhaps with family or friends who live further inland.
Put together your disaster supply kit. Don’t forget to include items that will help keep you safe during this pandemic. That includes masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfectant wipes and sprays. You may also consider packing sleeping bags or bedding from your home to further reduce the spread of the virus.
Gather all of your important documents and store them in a waterproof and fireproof container or in your disaster supply kit. If you evacuate, you’ll want your driver’s license information, mortgage and insurance documents, bank account information, Social Security and health insurance cards, and passports. Consider making a set of copies of all of these documents and storing them in your bank safety deposit box. Don’t forget to take your bills, too – to the extent that these payments aren’t affected by executive orders or legislation aimed at helping people navigate financial hardships caused by the pandemic, creditors will still expect on-time payments.
Include a battery-powered radio so you can stay updated in case you lose power during a storm. If you hear that a storm is on the way, fuel up beforehand and withdraw some emergency cash. We’ve largely been cashless because of this pandemic, but debit and credit cards may be difficult to use during power outages.
Make a list of important phone numbers, including contact information for loved ones and your bank, insurance company, and health insurer. Add our office’s Consumer Protection Division phone number to the list: 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. In the event of a hurricane, we can help you navigate potential scams and take steps to protect your finances. Keep this list in an easily accessible place.
Take inventory of your home and car through videos and photos, and email them to yourself. If you need to submit an insurance claim, having an accurate record of the condition of your house and car before a hurricane hits will make the claims process easier.
North Carolina’s price gouging law is already in effect because of the coronavirus, but it applies to hurricanes as well. This law makes it illegal to raise prices or charge too much during a crisis. After Hurricanes Michael and Florence devastated North Carolina in 2018, I brought seven lawsuits against 22 defendants under North Carolina’s price gouging statute, and we won more than $725,000 in judgments. Our office is committed to holding price gougers accountable and you can report concerns at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or http://ncdoj.gov/compaint.
Hurricanes can be devastating to people and their communities. We can never know for sure how they will affect us or the damage they will cause. Preparation can save you money, time, and stress. You can find more information about storm preparedness at readync.org or by calling my office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.