April Eaton, corporate relations manager for Allstate Insurance, talked about emergency preparedness. | Home Front

May 23, 2013

April Eaton, corporate relations manager for Allstate talked about emergency preparedness. Eaton is responsible for managing communications during natural disasters and is an expert on what families can do before, during and after a disaster to stay safe and protect their property.

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April Eaton, a member of Allstate Insurance's National Catastrophe Team, is joining us today to discuss emergency preparedness for summer. Memorial Day brings the official start of the season of  outdoor cookouts and many storms that can produce power outages, flooding, wind damage and tree disasters. We need to prepare for this. Read the article today that Mari-Jane Williams and I wrote that might be called the Guide to Summer Disaster Preparation. April has lots of experience with what to do before, during and after a storm. Let's get her expertise on those issues that are bothering us before the storms strike. 

Hurricane season is upon us and in light of the destruction we’ve seen in the Midwest area of the country, this is a timely opportunity to talk about preparedness. On behalf of Allstate and our local agents, I’m looking forward to answering your questions and providing you with information to help your family stay safe.

What is the number 1 emergency preparedness tip you give homeowners?

Thanks for the question. The first thing to think about is the safety of your family. Then you'll want to start thinking about completing a home inventory, stocking your emergency supply kit, and refining your evacuation plans.

Hi April. I've contemplated getting a generator for years but never have. Do you think its a good idea? I worry I wont need it enough to make the investment. Thanks!!!!!

A power outage in warm or cold weather can present serious challenges to you and your family. However, the purchase of a generator is an individual choice. If you get one, be sure to observe the manufacturer’s operating instructions and safety warnings.

Jura - I saw your story today about shopping in Leesburg at the outlet center. Do you think all the prices are really good?

Here is my story for those of you who haven't read it - Destination Design: Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets. Prices at many of the stores may change every few days, depending on specials and coupons. The most important thing is to get the center coupon booklet as well as to print the additional specials from their website before you leave home. Also sign up for emai lists from all the outlets of the brands that you particularly enjoy. It's a lot of fun to go out there and see how much you can save. But it is true that you need to be aware of prices at other stores and online retailers before you go, if you are going to purchase a specific item.


We have home insurance, but have not done anything else to prepare for an emergency. Should we take a video of our valuables? Keep some documents in a safe? Thank you for your help!

Absolutely. Take some picture, shoot some video or get out a pen and paper to put together a home inventory list…  Having a room-by-room inventory, as well as photographs or video of personal belongings can save a lot of headaches – or heartaches – should a catastrophe strike. The list can also help make the process of filing an insurance claim easier. 

Allstate also offers home inventory software called Digital Locker, available to help document your belongings and complete a home inventory. You don't have to be an Allstate customer to use it. Here a link to the digital locker: http://www.allstate.com/digital-locker.aspx].

Can you please address tree damage to a home- if the tree is on your own property and comes down on your deck or home - how is that handled by insurance? Should this motivate us to really take down trees that could be a threat to a home.

Every claim is unique and has to be assessed on its own merits. However, good pruning can prevent problems and removal of diseased, damaged or dead plant parts helps limit the spread of harmful insects and disease, and may help reduce storm damage. Always use sound judgment and we recommend checking with local municipalities and consult experts as needed.

What are easy ways to weather-proof our home?

There are so many facets to weather-proofing your home and important steps that you can take. A lot of great resources can be found on allstate.com under the Tools & Resources, Be Aware and Prepare.

Thanks for the info on disaster prevention/preparation for your houses. We just moved into a new home and are currently assessing our trees to make sure nothing is primed to fall into bedrooms or onto the roof. We have some work ahead of us! On a purely "decor" note, is there a rule of thumb to size area rugs? We have a HUGE living room (14x16, I think) and have no idea how big of a rug to get for the very hard hardwood floor.

Good for you for doing the tree assessment now. Also, have you checked out our Summer Storm Survival Kit listing? Access the list here.

As for your rug, I would go with a 10 by 12 and get a really good quality pad to go with it.

I rent an apartment and plan to for a while. Should I have renters insurance? Most of my friends do not. Thanks!

Landlord policies normally do not extend coverage to renters, therefore we highly recommend that you purchase renters insurance to protect your valuables and belongings. You can buy this coverage for as little as a few dollars a month.

There's been a lot of talk about safe rooms in the aftermath of Oklahoma ... what's your take?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages residents who live in tornado- or hurricane-prone areas to consider adding a safe room to their home. For residential usage, a safe room often doubles as master bedroom, bathroom, or utility closet, with construction costs starting at approximately $6,500 to $8,500. If you're thinking about a safe room—especially a pre-fabricated model—be sure it meets FEMA safe room design and protection criteria.


When designed to FEMA specifications, a safe room offers "near absolute protection"—a very high probability that occupants will avoid injury or death during a tornado—to up to 16 people. 

We also have some good information on our blog: http://blog.allstate.com/safe-room-the-ultimate-secure-shelter-infographic/ 

In light of the head injuries we're seeing from Oklahoma, I'm thinking about adding helmets to our emergency supplies. Any other suggestions on actually surviving the storm before relying on our food and water supplies?

Having an emergency kit is a very good idea.   Take some time before disaster season to shop and put together an emergency kit… Families should consider putting together a well-stocked first-aid kit as well as a disaster-supply kit and keep them in easy-to-access places. The disaster-supply kit should contain a supply of water and ready-to-eat, non-perishable foods, a weather radio, traveler’s checks or cash, important papers, personal hygiene items, blankets, extra clothes and shoes.

I want to prep my kids for thinks something like a house fire or hurricane without scaring them. What should I tell them?

Great question! It’s highly recommended that you speak with your children about emergency preparedness planning. Here are a few tips:


  • Talk to your children about natural disasters. The recent tornadoes are a good example to begin a conversation about natural disasters and what to do in an emergency.
  • Understand your children’s fears. Natural disasters can leave children feeling like the world is a hostile, uncaring place. The potential loss of beloved toys, pets or other personal items can feel incredibly overwhelming. Talking about disasters as a family creates a safe environment for addressing your child’s fears. Remind him or her that while an emergency is very unlikely, creating and practicing an emergency preparedness plan is the best way to be prepared.
  •  Create a family plan. As a family, sit down and create an emergency plan. Make this a fun event for children by talking about the plan over pizza, snacks or before playing a family game. Discuss with your children what they should do if an emergency strikes when they are at school, visiting a friend, or at home by themselves. Ready.gov has great resources for creating a personalized “Just-in-case” family plan.
  • Know who to call. Pick one relative or close friend that each family member will call when the emergency is over. Discuss what to do if this person is not available. For example, if your kids can’t reach Uncle Joe, they should know to call Aunt Heidi. Oftentimes it is easiest to pick a family member who does not live in the same community as you do, and who will not be experiencing the same emergency. Add emergency contact information to your children’s cell phones, laminate a small emergency contact card for your kids to keep in their backpacks and place phone numbers on the fridge.
  • Know where to meet. Pick a safe location in the neighborhood, like a neighbor’s house or a park, and practice going to this meeting point from different places in your home and neighborhood.
  • Rehearse safety measures. Practice makes perfect. Many emergencies, like tornadoes or fires, can strike with little to no warning. Rehearsing safety measures presents children with a comfortable, known routine. If a child is home alone in the event of an emergency or an adult is not close by, it is easy to return to this routine. If an emergency strikes when your children are at school, sports practice, or another after-school activity, remind them to follow the instructions of their teachers, coaches or friend’s parents. 

A colleague has just told me about the Virginia May 25-31, 2013: Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness Equipment Sales Tax Holiday. Check to see if there are items here you plan to purchase, such as generators, and save money now. Also check to see if your state is having such savings anytime soon.

We live in Kansas now and II have been wondering, are basements the safest place to be? We have a view out basement, so we have windows all along one side, does that change the safety of the basement? Should we invest in a storm shelter? Will a tornado suck us out of our basement? Which part of a basement is the safest?

All very valid questions.  One way to think about the safest place in your home is, the more walls between you and outside the safer you will be.

Great advice here and we thank April for taking the time to be with us today. Get prepared everyone.

I appreciate the questions that have been asked, now I have a question: When is the last time you’ve dusted off your insurance policy and reviewed your coverages or even called to talk to your agent? With the events in Oklahoma and the weather activity happening most everywhere, now is the time to make sure you have the protection in place to keep your family safe. I enjoyed the chat. Thank you for logging in.

Maybe most folks know this but I did not. For long term water storage you need to get thicker plastic bottles. I, at one point, purchased a bunch of the larger water bottles they sell at the grocery store and they leaked fairly quickly when stored untouched in my basement. So now I've got on my list to seek out the larger thicker plastic bottles (like a home water delivery service uses). Hope it helps.

To include your pets. Food, meds, bowls, leashes etc. And dont forget to know the shleters that accept pets or motels. All shelters should accept pets. No exceptions in emergencies. You should also have a radio capable of getting NOAA weather radio. Also think about how you are going to charge phone, tablet etc if the pwoer goes out.

I appreciate the questions that have been asked, now I have a question: When is the last time you've dusted off your insurance policy and reviewed your coverages or even called to talk to your agent? With the events in Oklahoma and the weather activity happening most everywhere, now is the time to make sure you have the protection in place to keep your family safe. I enjoyed the chat. Thank you for logging in.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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April Eaton
April Eaton is a Corporate Relations Manager for Allstate Insurance Company. She is responsible for managing communications during natural disasters.She is responsible for getting the word out to customers and consumers on what they can do before, during and after a disaster to keep their families safe and protect their property.
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