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The Importance of Personal Preparedness

Man in water with Helicpoter behind

I recently took a vacation to Japan. On our last day, my group chartered a boat to snorkel, hike and enjoy a beautiful chain of islands off the coast of Okinawa. On our way back, our boat was overcome by rough seas and capsized – everyone on board had to abandon ship.

Words cannot express what it feels like to literally fight for your life.

I’m sharing this story for a few reasons. By no means did I do everything right, nor was I a hero. Everyone I was with had their own strengths and by working together we ultimately made it out alive. But as I look back, I realize this event was the perfect example of why it’s important to be prepared. I want to share some important preparedness actions we took. 

Make a Go-Bag: Preparing a modified and quick go-bag for myself each time we went on an excursion was the best decision I’ve ever made. It was a “just-in-case” bag. I’m thankful I was already wearing my lifejacket, so I didn’t have to spend time searching for one and was able to use the few seconds I had to grab my go-bag. In my go-bag I had two large canteens of water, protein bars, a small first aid kit and my water proof cell phone. I grabbed my bag because it was the only thing I had onboard and it was quickly accessible - a key part of having a go-bag. The water proof cell phone in my go-bag was used to call the Japanese Coast Guard. My go-bag wasn’t originally intended to keep me alive in the middle of the ocean, but that day it did. Having a go-bag saved my life.

Wear a Lifejacket: The U.S. Coast Guard says, “The best lifejacket is the one you will wear.” It doesn’t matter if you’re an Olympic swimmer - lifejackets save lives. It saved ours. The boat capsized in a matter of seconds. That’s not enough time to find out where the captain has stored them. If you want to survive, not wearing a lifejacket isn’t an option. You can exhaust yourself swimming and eventually your body will fail you. A lifejacket to give you buoyancy, so you can focus on saving yourself.  It is also important to make sure your lifejacket is functioning appropriately before you set sail. I didn’t do that and mine would not zip shut. It made paddling very difficult. In the future, I will ensure my lifejacket zips before setting sail. In addition to the lifejackets, we also used a large floating seat cushion from the boat for extra buoyancy.

Have a Plan: I always identify emergency exits and mentally develop my own personal emergency plan. Whether it’s a concert, a sporting event or a trip to the mall, I am constantly thinking through my next move if something happens. Visualizing actions to take in an emergency is critical in helping mentally train your mind and body to be calm during an incident. I can honestly say that my many years in various emergency management capacities helped me navigate the hectic situation and stay in the right head space - it helped save me.

Emergencies don’t just happen where you live or work, they can happen anywhere. Did you know that emergency services contact numbers are not universal? Japan’s standard emergency number is 119 for land emergency services (ambulance, fire department) and 118 for sea emergencies. More than familiarizing yourself with emergency contact information, make sure you do research on the place you’re visiting beyond the attractions you want to see. Can you use your insurance abroad? Where are the hospitals? Do you need vaccinations? Do you have the appropriate documentation to travel with medical items? Certain items aren’t permitted and could be confiscated at customs in foreign counties.
I walked away and returned safely home with a story to tell: I lived through a shipwreck. This incident will not stop me from loving the ocean or getting on a boat, but it did remind me that nature is a powerful force I cannot control. I’ll continue to be prepared as I can be.

We Meet You Where You Are: Disaster Preparedness


When it comes to disasters, mother nature does not discriminate. People from all income levels and backgrounds have experienced the challenges of rebuilding their lives after a natural disaster or an emergency.
FEMA’s 2018 National Preparedness Report found, that while federal agencies have made efforts to streamline disaster recovery assistance:

  • Businesses continue to face challenges navigating post-disaster economic recovery programs;
  • Communities often struggle to effectively communicate and coordinate with the private sector; and,
  • Financial disruptions from disasters can disproportionately affect less-resourced communities, prolonging their return to economic viability.

Value of an AFC® (Accredited Financial Counselor®)
We are thrilled to partner with FEMA to support the development of training that will help not only our financial professionals, but also ALL financial professionals better serve their clients, while also reaching individuals and families who otherwise may not have access to this critical information.
AFC® professionals are as diverse as the communities in which they serve.

  • They work in military/government, private practice, nonprofit organizations, banks/credit unions, research, and higher education.
  • They work in every state and even worldwide at military installations across the world.
  • They serve individuals both young and old, people with disabilities, those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and minorities across gender, race, and ethnicity.

Together with a membership community that includes financial counselors, coaches, planners, therapists, and educators, our professionals span the full continuum of financial care.

AFC® professionals have the knowledge, skills, and experience to help individuals and families build a strong financial foundation – a foundation that is critical to helping more people be prepared to effectively respond to financial emergencies and get back on their feet faster following a disaster. 

Affecting Change. Creating Impact.
In 2017, FEMA took important steps to enhance disaster preparedness. They worked with federal partners from the Financial Literacy Education Commission (FLEC) and other community partners to compile resources that help you strengthen your home, your job, and your communities’ ability to be financially prepared. In March of 2018, they announced the updated Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK), a joint publication from Operation Hope and the FEMA Citizen Corps; you can use it to identify important documents, medical records, and household contracts in preparation for a disaster.

AFC® professionals work with individuals and families every day – helping them create a strong foundation to weather life’s storms. Through our partnership with FEMA, we are excited to expand our reach to aid in FEMA’s efforts to improve disaster preparedness. If you are a financial professional, we invite you to join us in these efforts! Visit afcpe.org and sign up for our mailing list to be notified as training opportunities become available. Financial professionals should go to ready.gov/financial-preparedness for more information. Together we can create tremendous impact in communities nationwide, because “preparedness is the calm before, during, and after the storm.

Rebecca Wiggins, Executive Director of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education® (AFCPE®)

Financial Preparedness Pays

Forty-four percent of Americans do not have $400 on hand to cover an emergency expense. These Americans will be ill-prepared to care for themselves and their families in the wake of a disaster.

I was pleased to join Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Acting Director Mick Mulvaney recently at a public meeting of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC). I shared FEMA’s vision for financial preparedness, specifically discussing our efforts to close the insurance gap (the difference between what is currently insured and what is insurable) and individual preparedness activities we are supporting. 

You might be surprised to learn that the U.S. currently has the largest insurance gap among all countries globally. Of the total estimated natural catastrophe losses in the U.S. of $55 billion annually, the annual expected uninsured losses total more than $30 billion according to the global reinsurer Swiss Re. This means that more than half of these losses won’t be covered by insurance.

For flood insurance specifically, the insurance gap is even worse. In North Carolina where Hurricane Florence caused catastrophic flooding throughout the state, only three percent of households have flood insurance. FEMA and other federal agencies may provide assistance to those without insurance, but these programs were never intended to replace insurance coverage. FEMA’s average disaster payment is only a few thousand dollars. This is far short of what most homeowners would need to rebuild, yet few understand the limited scope of FEMA’s assistance programs.

We at FEMA have made closing the insurance gap a top priority in our strategic plan. We’re working to simplify flood insurance policies and educate the public on the role all types of insurance play in disaster preparedness. Spend two minutes to watch our video and see why you might need to rethink insurance.  I also encourage you to check out my friend, Sean Kevelighan’s PrepTalk on Understanding the Value of Insurance – just released today.

To support financial preparedness actions, we have partnered with a nonprofit organization, Operation HOPE, to develop the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit. It’s a toolkit that helps individuals and families organize critical financial, medical, and household information and includes a checklist of important documents and forms to compile your relevant information.

As part of Financial Capability Month in April, FEMA, in partnership with FLEC, led a social media campaign to reach the public with practical and actionable tips and resources to improve their financial future. This reached over 28 million Americans.

As a result, orders for our financial toolkit have doubled, showing people want and need this information. It’s now the most requested item in the FEMA library—more requested than our preparedness materials on hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes.

Prepare for Hurricane Florence


View in FEMA Multimedia Library

The time to prepare for Hurricane Florence is now. This powerful storm is expected to bring powerful winds, flooding, storm surge, and dangerous rip currents. Storm tracks can change swiftly, so it’s important to prepare now.

Basic services, such as cell service, power, and water, may be disrupted for an extended period of time.

Here are some steps you can take:

  • Fill up your gas tank and stock your vehicle with supplies with food that does not need to be stored in a refrigerator and drinking water. Get refills of your medications now for any needed prescriptions.
  • Banks may be closed and ATMS may not work after the hurricane. Make sure you have cash on hand for basic needs.
  • If you are told to evacuate by local officials, do so immediately. If you are sheltering in place, move to a small, interior, windowless room for the best protection.
  • Know your evacuation route and shelter locations. To locate the nearest open emergency shelter, text SHELTER and your zip code (i.e. SHELTER 12345) to 4FEMA (43362). Message & data rates may apply.
  • Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio both provide emergency alerts, as does the FEMA app. (www.fema.gov/mobile-app)
  • Keep important documents in a safe, water-proof place or create password-protected digital copies that can be accessed remotely.
  • Before the storm, take pictures the inside and outside of your home to provide proof that your home and property was undamaged prior to the disaster.

Be sure to visit www.Ready.gov/hurricanes and download the FEMA App to get more information and safety tips.

Collaborating to Make Stronger Emergency Managers.


7 representatives from the two agencies discuss training and education.
FEMA and Mexico’s National Center for Disaster Prevention (CENAPRED) conducted a 3-day summit on emergency management training and education on the EMI campus.  With support from USNORTHCOM, FEMA and CENAPRED will be entering into a long-term collaboration to strengthen emergency management training and education in both countries.  Download Original

Building a “Culture of Preparedness” and readying a nation for disaster isn’t limited to the United States.

A three-day summit at the Emergency Management Institute that focused on emergency management training and education continues the collaboration between FEMA and Mexico’s National Center for Disaster Prevention.

Supported by the U.S. Northern Command’s Humanitarian Assistance Branch, the two agencies agreed to a six to 10 year project that will strengthen emergency management training and education in both countries. They committed to sharing knowledge in emergency management training, exercises, and education to support and enhance the capacities of the each nation.

These bilateral engagements will support the development of civil preparedness/emergency management career roadmaps, standards, certifications, and resource typing in Mexico and provide expanded training materials and opportunities in the United States.

This will prepare officials in civil preparedness and emergency management, and related professions to be capable of leading disaster preparedness, risk reduction, and response operations at the federal, state, and municipal level in Mexico and the United States.

The United States and Mexico have collaborated on a wide variety of emergency management issues since 1980.  U.S. Northern Command has often served as a vital enabler of these engagements, bringing resources and expertise to bear on common problems.

Recent meetings in Mexico City provided our leadership with an awareness and understanding of many of the highly advanced systems that Mexico has developed over the past eight years.

Mexico has one of the most advanced earthquake early warning systems in the world, and developed a web-based national risk assessment system, the Disaster Risk Atlas, to help emergency managers understand the risks and vulnerabilities in a specific community.  It is also public-facing, allowing the general public to better understand the risk specific to their communities.

In a joint final statement, Center for Domestic Preparedness Superintendent Tony Russell and Mexico’s National Center for Disaster Prevention Director Dr. Carlos Valdes said, 

“We view this inaugural meeting as the beginning of a lasting relationship that will foster great benefit for both nations and the region in emergency management and civil preparedness training, education and exercise preparedness.”

50 Years of Helping Survivors & Communities


On Aug. 1, 1968, the U.S. Congress implemented the National Flood Insurance Act that created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the Federal Insurance Administration within the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide flood insurance in communities that voluntarily adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances, which meet minimum NFIP requirements.

A lot has happened since the inception of the NFIP.

Durin  National Flood Insurance Program.  The home in the center is elevated above the flood water and the homes to the left and right are not.g the last 50 years, the program has identified flood hazards by mapping over 1 million miles of riverine and coastal areas; provided over $1 billion dollars in mitigation assistance grants, paid over $64 billion dollars in claims losses, and assisted states and territories to help their communities lower flood risks, increase resilience, and build capability through grants of more than $10 million annually.  In addition, over this time, 1,466 communities have taken actions and achieved higher than minimum standards for flood protection by participating in the Community Rating System.

The NFIP supports 5 million policies in over 22,300 communities, providing $1.27 trillion dollars in coverage. Last year, in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the NFIP received more than 125,000 flood insurance claims and paid out more than $9.1 billion dollars. That’s real money in the hands of survivors, allowing them to stay in their communities, repair their homes, and get back to work.

Over the past 50 years, the NFIP has been and continues to be committed to building a culture of preparedness by providing insurance coverage to close the insurance gap across the nation. Simply put, flood insurance is the best way for homeowners, renters, and businesses, to financially protect themselves from losses caused by floods.

As we celebrate the NFIP for its accomplishments, we also look forward to reaching FEMA’s Moonshots of doubling insurance coverage across the nation and quadrupling mitigation investments by 2022. This is an ambitious goal, and lots of works still needs to be done, but we are up for the challenge.  More insured survivors, means individuals and communities can recover faster.

Congratulations, NFIP, on 50 years of service to the American people!

Looking Back: The History of the National Flood Insurance Program


View in FEMA Multimedia Library

August 1st marks the 50th anniversary of the National Flood Insurance Act, the guiding legislation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The program provides flood insurance coverage to millions of households and small businesses in over 22,000 communities and also provides floodplain management and building codes to protect those communities from future flooding. We talk to David Maurstad, FEMA’s chief executive for the National Flood Insurance Program, about the history of the program and reflect on the public service of federal employees and private sector support that the program depends upon to support the American people. 

How to Safely Enjoy Your Summer Barbecues

Some of the most memorable summer moments occur when friends and family gather in the backyard for a barbecue.  These gatherings can make for a great summer; however, it is important to remember safety when barbecuing.

At Thorp and Trainer, we want to ensure this is your best and safest summer.  Please review the following safety tips to help keep everyone and everything safe at your next barbecue.

  • Clean the grill – The NFPA reported that 22% of structure fires were due to the grill not being cleaned. The 10 minutes it takes to clean the grill before use will not only make the food you’re grilling taste better, it will also protect you, your family, and your home.
  • Never abandon it – One in six backyard grilling fires begin when someone turns their back on the grill. Fire can spread quickly, but you can avoid this from happening by keeping your eye on the grill.
  • Keep the grill at a distance – An alarming 17% of grill-based home fires start because of the grill being placed too close to flammable material. Keep your grill away from walls, low overhangs, fences, dry grass, or anything else that is flammable.
  • Be cautious of whether it’s a gas or charcoal grill – It is important to inspect the propane tanks of gas grills before use. A spray bottle of soapy water can help spot tiny leaks – douse the suspect area with several sprays of soapy water and look for bubbles forming after the spray settles. Soap increases the surface tension of the water, making the bubbles formed by escaping propane gas persist for a few seconds and stack on each other, making it easier to spot leaks.
  • Trim excess fat – While fat is needed to keep the meat juicy and flavorful, if it is too fatty it can cause flare ups and fires. Keeping a spray bottle near your grill is a good idea to stop flare ups immediately, while they are still controllable.
  • Keep children away from the grill – Children under the age of five account for 35% of contact-type burns each year. While kids are playing in the backyard, they can easily forget to be cautious around a hot grill. Make sure your children are kept at a safe distance and that hot coals are disposed of properly and away from areas of play.

We are dedicated to helping you protect what matters most. Contact us at 596.0146 to discuss additional ways to safeguard your family and property.  At Thorp & Trainer, “Your Security Is Our Concern.”

Building a Culture of Preparedness with Reinsurance


After every disaster, no matter where or what size, there is a marked difference between insured disaster survivors and disaster survivors without adequate insurance. The insured survivor can begin to repair and rebuild their home or business. The survivor without a flood insurance policy may face a far more uncertain future. While FEMA or other government or non-profit agencies may provide some assistance, it is typically geared toward immediate survival needs. The uninsured survivor may use up their savings, incur debt, or even lose their home or business.

Simply put, flood insurance is the best way for homeowners, renters, and businesses to financially protect themselves from losses caused by floods. However, across the nation many homes remain underinsured. For example, during Hurricane Harvey, nearly half of all flood insurance claims in the Houston area came from homes outside of the high-risk flood area. Approximately 80 percent of households impacted by the storm did not have flood insurance. This is why the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is laser focused on building a culture of preparedness across the nation.

 Reinsurance Backed by Capital Markets FEMA secured reinsurance that for the first time engages the capital markets, complemeting the NFIP’s existing traditional reinsurance coverage. Effective on August 1, 2018, FEMA entered into a three-year reinsurance agreement with reinsurance company, Hannover Re (Ireland) Designated Activity Company (DAC). Hannover Re acted as a “transformer,” transferring $500 million of the NFIP’s financial risk to capital markets investors by sponsoring the issuance of a catastrophe bond through a special purpose reinsurer. FEMA will pay $62 million in premium for the first year of coverage.









As part of our risk management strategy, earlier this year, we secured $1.46 billion in traditional reinsurance coverage from 28 companies to cover any qualifying NFIP flood losses that occur in 2018. Reinsurance provides payouts when powerful storms like Hurricane Harvey strike. This reduces FEMA’s need to borrow from the U.S. Treasury to pay flood insurance claims.

In theory, this business decision is similar to an individual taking the responsible step of purchasing homeowner’s and auto insurance to manage their financial risk. They do not plan to experience a fire or car accident, and they probably won’t, but purchasing insurance meaningfully improves their financial security.

To complement the NFIP’s existing reinsurance coverage, FEMA recently secured additional reinsurance through a transaction that, for the first time, engages the capital markets. FEMA obtained this reinsurance coverage from Hannover Re, which transferred $500 million in NFIP risk to capital markets investors.

Combined with the January 2018 traditional reinsurance placement, FEMA has transferred $1.96 billion of the NFIP’s flood risk for the 2018 hurricane season to the private sector. This additional coverage is effective on August 1, for a period of three years. FEMA will pay $62 million in premium for the first year of coverage.

Whether or not a catastrophic flood event happens in a given year, purchasing reinsurance transfers NFIP risk to the private sector, improving long-term financial outcomes for FEMA, the U.S. Treasury, and federal taxpayers.

Ultimately, we are building a culture of preparedness. We are making all of our communities and nation more resilient. In securing reinsurance, FEMA is strengthening the NFIP’s financial framework so that the program can continue helping Americans take the critical step of securing flood insurance. Our ambitious goal is to double the number of properties covered by flood insurance by 2022. As Administrator Brock Long says: “Insurance is the first line of defense for disaster recovery.”

5 Common Flood Insurance Myths




The National Flood Insurance Program has worked to protect the life you’ve built for the past 50 years and will continue to do so into the future.  Don’t let rumors and myths drive your decisions. 


Here are the five most common myths about flood insurance.


MYTH: I receive flood insurance through my homeowner's insurance.
FACT: Homeowner insurance policies do not normally cover flood damage. That is why the federal government backs the NFIP. You can purchase Federal flood insurance through an insurance agent or company. The average cost of a flood policy is about $700 per year.

MYTH: Even if my property did flood, it wouldn’t be by much.
FACT: Just five inches of water can cause at over $25,000 worth of damage.

MYTH: Flood insurance is only available for homeowners.
FACT: Flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, condos and businesses.  The best way to learn more is call your insurance agent or go to floodsmart.gov. 

MYTH: Only those who live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) can buy flood insurance.
FACT: If it rains in your community, it can flood in your community.  Anyone can buy flood insurance if you live in the more than 22,000 participating communities. A community voluntarily joins the NFIP by agreeing to adopt the NFIP’s minimum floodplain management criteria into its local ordinance. In exchange, flood insurance and other disaster assistance is made available to the community.  If your community does not participate in the NFIP, you can make a request for it to do so through your mayor, city council or county commissioner’s office.

MYTH: I don’t need flood insurance if I can get disaster assistance from FEMA.
FACT: A flood insurance policy responds to flood events that may not be severe enough to result in a Presidential disaster declaration. Before FEMA’s non-NFIP individual assistance becomes available, the flooding incident must be severe enough declared a federal disaster by the President. Federal disaster declarations are issued in less than 50 percent of flooding events. If a declaration is made, federal disaster assistance typically is in the form of a low-interest disaster loan, which must be repaid. Any grants that may be provided are not enough to cover all losses. For example, in Hurricane Harvey an average Individual Assistance grant from FEMA was $7,000, while the average NFIP claim was over $100,000. 

To get more flood insurance facts, visit floodsmart.gov or call your insurance agent.