Disasters Happen

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid


In Iowa, natural disasters happen every year. Ice storms and blizzards can occur in the winter. Tornadoes, severe storms, and flooding can materialize in the spring, summer, and fall. Often these disasters descend on us without any warning. In a matter of minutes, your house and belongings can be destroyed. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead for these disasters. The more you can prepare ahead for a disaster, the easier it will be for you to recover.

What steps should you take to get ready for a disaster?

  • Check your insurance coverage. It is important to have insurance coverage to replace or repair what has been damaged.
    • If you are a homeowner, you should have a homeowner’s insurance policy in place. Review your policy to make sure that you have coverage for the disasters that are likely to occur in Iowa. Homeowner’s insurance will not cover flood damage.
    • If you live in a flood plain or other area that is likely to flood, you should buy flood insurance. If you are a renter, you should have a renter’s insurance policy that covers your personal property if it is damaged in a disaster.
    • Your landlord’s insurance policy will not cover your belongings.
    • Renter’s insurance will also not cover flood damage.
    • If you live in a flood plain or an area that is likely to flood, you should buy flood insurance. You should speak with your insurance agent if you have questions.
  • Prepare a family disaster plan. It is important that your family knows how to find each other after a disaster.
    • You should talk with your family members ahead of time.
    • You should have a place to meet in the event of a disaster.
    • Make sure that each member has contact information for other family members.
    • Pick a relative or friend who lives in another town to be your emergency person.
    • Your family members can call that person to leave messages for each other in the event of a disaster.
  • Protect important identification documents. It will be important to prove your identity after a disaster. It can take a long time to get new cards.
    • Make sure that all your important documents are located together so you can grab them quickly.
    • You should protect documents as much as possible from fire and water.
    • Important documents include: drivers’ licenses, Social Security cards, passports, immigration papers, and insurance cards.
  • Protect important financial documents.
    • You will need to continue to pay your bills.
    • It will be important to have bank statements (checking and savings numbers), mortgage statements or lease, insurance cards (policy numbers), car loan statements, and credit card statements.
  • Prepare an emergency “Go Bag.” The American Red Cross recommends that everyone have a “Go Bag” with three days worth of supplies.
    • The goal is that when a disaster happens, you can just grab your bag and go.
    • The Red Cross suggests that your “Go Bag” contain clothes, medications, important papers, cell phone and charger, flashlight and batteries, and snacks and food.
  • Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans. 
  • To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:call 800-532-1275. 
  • Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or 
  • apply online at iowalegalaid.org
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website iowabar.org.   A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.
Last Review and Update: Oct 03, 2022
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