Are You Prepared for an Emergency? (27:00)
According to Game Plan Experts, there are, on average, 76,000 people killed and 174 billion dollars in average annual losses because of natural disasters every year. These numbers are so high because many people are not prepared for emergency situations like hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes and other extreme weather. Shawn Tipping shares his insights and speaks to how his company helps people get prepared.
Brian Leitner: Welcome to Your Life, Simplified. My name is Brian Leitner, and I’ll be the host of this podcast. Today’s episode is going to be focused on preparing for emergencies, specifically natural disasters. In recent years, there’s been no shortage of natural disasters, whether that’s been the hurricanes in Houston or the wildfires in California, and so it’s really important to make sure that we have a plan. We have a plan as it relates to your financial situation. You need to have a plan as it relates to natural disasters, should something take place in your neck of the woods. So joining us today, I have Shawn Tipping here, an expert in this area and want to welcome him to the show. So Sean, thanks for coming on the show today.
Shawn Tipping: Thanks Brian for having me.
Brian: So before we get started, tell us a little bit about your background, how you got involved in planning for natural disasters and being a consultant to others.
Shawn: Absolutely. I had been a financial planner for about 20 years and came to the conclusion that, when you’re doing financial planning, it’s very similar to planning for anything. So you plan for emergencies, job losses and those types of things. So it’s a step-by-step process that we go through in the financial planning world, and we take that into the emergency preparedness world. So we built a step-by-step plan for people that they can use to better prepare themselves for floods, fires, tornadoes and the kinds of emergencies that occur. I got the experience from Hurricane Katrina. My brother, sister-in-law and three nieces were living in New Orleans at the time. They got the evacuation order, they got out of town, and my dad and I drove down to visit them to see if we could help him out. Shortly thereafter, they opened the city back up for one day. We were able to go back into their home, to see what was left and to try to get the things that are important—the pictures, the family albums, the clothes, you know, back then it was all still family albums. So, we went back in to get that and what I saw was, like a third-world country almost, and it was pretty bad. There were looted stores, I could see them on the corner of where my brother lived, there was a CVS that had been looted and you could see it. Trash strewn all over the parking lot. We got to their home and basically everything was great for them, but their neighbor’s house had a tree that had just cut the house in half. So I mean, it was just pretty random, the things that you saw and it was interesting to see all of the help that came in. And a lot of people hear all the bad stuff, but you know, the Salvation Army was in there. The Red Cross was in there. So you saw all these places and even insurance companies such as the property and casualty companies. They had their big vans set up, and they were handing cash out to people who had policies with them to help them out. And just that out point of help was amazing to see. So it kind of really got me into the thought process of, you know, someday I wouldn’t mind doing something that helped other people like that.
Brian: So after seeing what happened with your family, I mean, did you just wake up the next day and say, I want to do something different? I want to help people like this. I want to help people prepare and then did you start the business right then and there?
Shawn: No, not at all. I took some time to think about it. You know, as a planner, you think ahead, and you really have to put the steps in place to do that. So I spent some time thinking about how I would approach it and, you know, it took about 10 years before I decided to kick it off.
Brian: I read a couple of statistics on your website. So right from your website, on average, a statistic states over 76,000 people are killed by natural disasters every year. If we look at the losses, the global average annual loss from disasters is about $175 billion dollars. I mean, those numbers are astounding. As I sit back and think about the fact that we have, again, national disasters across the country, I think about myself, friends, family, and we don’t have a plan in place. So, where do you even start? What does that look like?
Shawn: Well, we start operating under the premise that you’ve got your emergency personnel, the police, the fire department, EMT and those people during a mass event where you have a large number of people who need help, and they can’t help everyone. So you have to operate under the premise that, for the first 72 hours to a week, you’re on your own. You can choose to be prepared and have a plan in place, or you can choose to be a burden on your neighbors. That’s how I end every presentation that I do, we talk about being a burden versus not being a burden and being able to take care of your own family for as long as you need to. And so we operate under that thought process that you kind of are on your own for a little while. Eventually, help comes in from America, so be very conservative. So we start there, and we help people determine what it is that they should be worried about. You know, there’s not a big need to worry about hurricanes here in Kansas, but in Florida and on coastal states, it’s a very big concern. So we try to help people figure out, what’s the best way to find out what, what should I be really worried about? And then moving into, what steps do I take to be prepared for those types of events? Always if you look at what the government will tell you, FEMA, the national weather service, the Red Cross, they all have really good information on how to set up a kit or set up a preparedness, store of goods, things that you might need in the event of an emergency. So we have taken that planning process and help people to determine what they should be worried about and then what they should do about it. So we kind of operate under the whole, educate somebody first and then you build out the things that you need and then you learn how to use those things. So you build it, you plan it, then you learn the steps and then you actually learn how to do those things.
Brian: So Sean, I know you said that there are resources available, whether that be through FEMA or the Red Cross in terms of, Hey, where do I get started? What kit do I build? But for our listeners, can you maybe outline what we should have sort of ready to go regardless of whether it’s going to be a hurricane or tornado? What is that kit? What does that prep plan look like?
Shawn: As far as the planning and what you might want to do? A good first step is on our website at gameplanexperts.com. There’s a button you can click that says take your preparedness score, that takes about two minutes to fill out. Once you fill it out, we give you a grade and tell you where your weak spots are and things that you might want to focus on. Now it’s high level, it’s not deep down into the consulting stuff that we do. But it gives you a place to start. Almost everybody you ask, “Why haven’t you done anything?” And the answer is almost always, “I didn’t know where to start.” So this is a great place to start. And from that, we actually give you a scorecard and it’s a four-page document that gives you tips and hints of things that you can do to be better prepared on your weaknesses.
Brian: That sounds like an excellent place to start. And to your point, it’s inertia, right? It’s like anything else. You take that first step, you get the ball rolling and all of a sudden, it evolves.
Shawn: Yes, it gets complex the deeper you go into it. But on the surface, a good communication plan is very important. Knowing who you’re going to call and who you need to call in the event of an emergency, we always recommend that you select somebody that lives outside of your region to be a point of contact. So that, unfortunately, disasters don’t always happen when you’re all together. So you might not be all at home. You know, you might be at two different job sites, at the kids’ school, daycare, and everybody’s separated. Where do you meet up? And then who do you inform is very important, so that you all know that everybody’s safe and cared for. So that’s one thing. The actual kit type items that you would want to have or things that would include food, being able to get to clean water, I use the Houston example is a great one. Here recently you see all of the flooding and it’s literally water all around, but not a drop to drink. There’s nothing for you to drink out of that water. So everything’s contaminated, and you have to take care of it, or you can get sick and die from that. So water filtration is very important and first aid, being able to do those things. We recommend people go to a Red Cross class and learn how to do CPR and learn how to take care of short-term things that you might be able to help somebody actually live in a short period of time before health gets there. So those are three of the most important things. You should consider a shelter that you know if your home is destroyed, you might need to find a place to keep warm. So when I started our company, the idea was we wanted to make emergency preparedness easy, accessible and affordable. This stuff’s not inexpensive, we don’t sell a lot of the junk things that you might see – I use Amazon all the time. Yeah, there’s kits, hundreds of kits available on Amazon, you go through them, and you start looking at what’s in them and you know, they call them the 72-hour kit. They might last you seven minutes if you’re lucky with the quality of the goods in them. So we started with our kids, and we built some really good, quality ones. We have ones that range anywhere from $150 all the way up to $3,000 depending on the purpose, and your intent with them.
Brian: So Sean, great points on what you should have in the kit. Obviously, you need the food, you need the water – I was living in New York when 9/11 took place. We had some blackout some years after that and getting access to cash was very, very difficult. Let’s face it, most of us do not keep cash on us, and live in sort of a cashless world today. So even to this day, I keep cash on me, just in case a situation might arise. What do you guys suggest as it relates to that, the financial side of being prepared in these kits?
Shawn: Well, you actually nailed it right on the head there, Brian. The concept of when the power goes out, you can’t use your credit cards, you can’t use your debit cards – there’s no access to anything. So just like any other merchant, they’re not just going to hand stuff out.
Brian: You’re back in a barter system type of work.
Shawn: Exactly. And so, not to get too scary, but when the power goes out, and the cards don’t work, you need cash, so caring enough cash on you, to get the essential things that you might need. Now the reality is the majority of people have some stored in their homes. So, if it’s just the power going out, or a blizzard or whatever’s coming your way, most people have a few days of food or more in their pantries. We always recommend that you keep your car at least half full of fuel – always. So just know that when you get half a tank, that’s the time to go fill up. But carrying cash so you can pay for those things where you need gas and food, water, those types of things, you’re going to want to be able to do it. So you know, there’s really not an amount that I necessarily would recommend, but obviously having enough to cover your family’s needs for even a week would be a good idea.
Brian: Hey, just a quick note to our listeners, if you have a topic that you want to hear on this podcast, or you have a question about your own personal financial situation, please don’t hesitate. Go ahead and send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll have an advisor reach out to you directly. And now back to the episode.
Brian: So having the cash is an excellent point for all the obvious reasons. But when you’re dealing with these natural disasters and you don’t have electricity, other, a lot of people that have generators, do you have any thoughts on generators or things that we should be thinking about? Because if you’re looking at these, whether it be online or in the stores, I mean, there’s countless generators that are out there. What should people be thinking about?
Shawn: All right, well, you need to think about what your needs are for that generator. You know, just because the lights are out doesn’t necessarily mean you need a generator. You use candles, obviously be safe with fire. So definitely, I have a generator, I’ve got two kinds, I have one that’s gas-powered, and it’s the bigger one. It’s a 9,000 watt generator, which I can run my refrigerator and keep my food from spoiling and that kind of stuff and keep the lights on. But I also have a 1,100 watt solar generator that’s a big lithium ion battery, doesn’t run on gas, it makes no noise, and it will keep a lot of things running for me as well, so that I don’t always have to be using up gas. And then I can recharge that with the solar panels that we have. So, just little things like that get to be expensive. And so, keeping budget in mind, I usually tell people budget for these things. You might not have the cash laying out right now for a good solar generator and a good gas power generator. But you can certainly save up for one over time.
Brian: Potentially these, again, in the event of a natural disaster, we’ll pay for themselves 10 times over.
Shawn: Absolutely, perfect example – When we got to my brother’s house, they’d been gone for a week. The power had been out, their refrigerator wasn’t on, and so they lost, somewhere around $700- $800 dollars worth of food that was just in their refrigerator. And we buried it in the backyard, because the city said, don’t throw it out on the curb, because no one’s going to come pick it up for a long time. And so you have all of these dogs and animals running around digging out people’s trash. It just makes the problem worse.
Brian: Yeah, and just hearing stories like that, I mean, to your point earlier, you said it was almost a third-world country, you got there and, I mean, this really begins to tell that story. If you haven’t gone through that before, I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation unless you’re in it.
Shawn: I don’t think most people do. The reality is, I saw a police car in New Orleans on one of the corners – the tires were gone and it had been spray painted, and the windows were broken out. And if you visit our Facebook page: The Game Plan Experts, you can go into my Hurricane Katrina pictures, and you can see a lot of these images. There’s some really pretty scary stuff that you wouldn’t imagine would happen where you live, but it does.
Brian: Yes. So, Sean one of the other things I’ve seen on your website is the steps, or your mantra, which is how you educate, equip, and then ultimately execute, on what that looks like. So can you walk us through the execution piece now that we’ve talked about having that plan of what should be in those kits?
Shawn: Absolutely. Again, I’ll start off with a great story of how I found myself messing up. We have a fire ladder by my window and one in my daughter’s room so that she can get out of the house in case of a fire off the second floor. And I was looking at it, and it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t opened that box before and probably the best time to learn how to use it wouldn’t be during a fire. I brought everyone into the bedroom and said, all right, we’re going to do this and pop the window screen out and attach to the ladder to the window. I didn’t make everyone climb out at that moment, because I wanted to make sure it was safe. But we basically learned how to deploy the ladder and get it so that we could get access to it. And that really brought me into a whole lot of things that I had learned about fire during the last several years. And when it got to the experience to do it, it’s like a demo machine. Basically, it’s a large trailer that simulates fires and tornadoes. So you’re inside of it and there’s a bedroom, for example, and in that bedroom, you’re sitting there, and they shut the door and they go “wake up” and basically, what do you do? And there’s literally smoke coming up through the door, the doors hot. So all the things you learn in kindergarten, don’t open the hot door. So basically looking at that whole thing and asking what do you do? You know, the escape route is the window, right? In almost every fire situation. Sure. And then you really have to start thinking about, well, how do I get to my daughter who is five? That scares me more than anything. How do I not let my five-year-old die in a fire because I live in a two- story house and there may be a fire separating our room from hers. And so, our house is set up in a great way where you’ve got a Jack and Jill kind of room. So my 15- year old and my five-year-old are separated by a bathroom. So my 15-year old should be able to always get to my daughter and my other daughter and be able to help her get out the window. So that’s why we keep a fire ladder there and a ladder in our room. And it just makes you think about those things. So one of the things that the person that owns that simulator said after we freaked out, how do you get out of here, was that a lot of kids die in a fire because they don’t know how to get out of their window. They ended up under their bed or in their closet, and they didn’t get out of the house. And a lot of it is, thinking about what you say to your children. Children are very adaptable, and they will learn. If they know what to do, it takes the fear out, then just do it. And so knowing that you can break the window if you need to and open it and use a fire ladder. Show them how to do it so that they’re not afraid when the time comes. And that’s just the practice part, the execution. So my next step in that story was, well, let’s practice. Right? So, I had woken up one morning, I don’t know why three in the morning it happens to everybody, I’m sure. I went downstairs and got some water, and I thought, I think this might be a great time to practice getting out of the house and where we’re going to go. So everybody knows where we’re supposed to go in a mailbox that’s a across the street from our house. So what I did was I went down to the basement and I pushed the fire alarm button wired to the house, which I would recommend, most of the time, but also keep a few that are not wired in case your power goes out. Because of the fire, you still want to have them going off. So I pushed the button, and the alarm went off and it sounded every alarm in the house. So it woke everybody up in the house. The dogs were barking and it was chaos and exactly what you would probably experience being woken up in the middle of the night from a fire. It’s incredible. Everybody woke up and are looking around to see what’s up, and I made everybody tell me exactly what they would do. Like, what would you do right now? Then I threw out some scenarios such as, there’s a fire right here, and you can’t cross this threshold. What are you going to do?
Brian: So your wife was still talking to you at this point?
Shawn: Yes, she was mad at first, and then I said, “Honey, this is important, we need to do this.” And she said, I agree. My 15-year old, was not happy in any way, since then I’ve done this probably four or five times, because it’s really good practice. The reality is, if a fire starts in your home, you know, everybody thinks, “Oh, I’m just going to grab all the important stuff and throw them out the window and all that stuff.” With all the toxins that are in your house, as it starts to burn and that smoke gets there, you have about two minutes to get out of your house. To me, the most important things that I have are my family. So my priority is getting those people out of the house. So everything you have insurance for, hopefully, and everything can be replaced, except for your family. And the other thing would be that you have a meeting spot and teach your kids where that is. A lot of people die in fires, again, because they go back in trying to find somebody that’s already out of the house. So the kid ran over to the neighbor to say, Hey, I got a fire, call the fire department. And they just stayed there. Instead of going to the tree or the mailbox or wherever it is you’re supposed to meet. And as a parent, you get there, and they’re not there. Well where can they be? Well, a lot of times they think they’re still back in the house, and they go back in the house and that’s where they don’t come back out.
Brian: You bet. So Sean we talk about being prepared at home and having a plan, but for those that maybe travel or are in the car, thoughts on that?
Shawn: On one of our reviews on our Facebook page this guy was in North Carolina, dropping his son off to college when the hurricanes were happening down there and there were lines for gas where he couldn’t even get gas. And so he couldn’t leave. He just was going take the car and his son and get out of the area. He wanted to get back to the center of the country, just get away from the hurricane. But really, they couldn’t. And he said that he was in his wife’s car and the sense of comfort that he got when he saw our car safety kit that he knew he had put back there, was something that was very important to him. A lot of people, they go on these road trips, and they’re away from home, and you could get caught up in whatever happens in that area and, you’re going to struggle. We live in this whole society, in this world where we’re not a third-world country, right? So a lot of people don’t plan or prepare for anything, because they think they’re just going to write a check out of the problem. And the reality is, you can’t just do that because you go down to Puerto Rico, for example, and when the power’s out, it doesn’t really matter how much money you have. If you can’t get it there, you just can’t get it there. And so, there’s a lot of things that you have to think about when you travel that you really need to plan for, including being able to get yourself out of that area if you need to. And it may not be possible. If it’s not possible, then you probably need to have the means to take care of yourself.
Brian: So, Sean, you’ve given us a lot to think about. I think about my own situation or friends and family, and I don’t necessarily know that we’re prepared. In fact, I know we’re not. You know, you just mentioned the fire escape, the drills. I have young kids. I pretend that dad’s going to be Superman and just take care of the whole family and the reality is, that’s likely impossible. I know that I have a few things that I want to think about this weekend and begin to put a plan together, and not let this go, months if you will. I love the stories you gave, and I love the fact that when you saw the ladder by the window, you didn’t just say, “Hey, I’m gonna do that Sunday afternoon,” because that’s my MO. I am that Sunday afternoon guy. At least I say that. And generally, it doesn’t get done. So, I really appreciate you sharing your craft and your stories. Before I let you go, I have one more story to ask of you and that is the same question we ask everyone and it is, what is the worst financial decision you’ve ever made?
Shawn: Well, that’s a great question, and I’m glad you asked. I think that the answer to that is going to be, I’m probably not starting early enough. You know, I started fairly early, but you always look back and you go, man, if I could just put that $50 a month away that somebody was telling me to do and how much that would be worth now as I look back 30 years ago. You always go, man, I could have really saved quite a bit of money and been in an even better spot than I am now, you know? So starting early, that would be my number one thing that I’d say I wish I had done.
Brian: You know, it’s great advice. A lot of people know that, but again, there’s a lot to think about that, a delayed gratification. I just think as human beings, it’s difficult to learn.
Shawn: Well, and I think I’m not the only one. In 20 years of financial planning, I came across a lot of folks that would come in and say, “Hey, I’m retiring next year. I need to get started.”
Brian: Thank you very much for being on the show. I hope our listeners really take some action within their own situation to make sure that they’re prepared should something happen.
Shawn: Well, I truly appreciate you having me on your podcast, because the more people who are talking about this stuff, the more people will think about it and hopefully act, just get started. So I appreciate the time and letting let me talk to your good people.
Brian: Thanks again. So again, thank you for downloading this episode of Your Life, Simplified. If you have questions about your own situation, or you have ideas on topics that you’d like to hear on this podcast, please go ahead and email us at: email@example.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please go ahead and leave us a review. We know that your time is incredibly valuable, and we hope you find this podcast a worthwhile investment of your time. Thank you for listening.
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