Floods, Fires and Bugs
But the events of the last few weeks brought to light some interesting topics and some that I had not previously given much thought to.
With the terrible flooding that has occurred in both the Charleston and Columbia areas, people are quickly realizing the importance of having their valuables documented and for having flood insurance whether you think you need it or not. When I was in Biloxi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I saw numerous examples of how people either didn’t think that needed flood insurance (or hurricane / wind driven storm) and lost everything. Unfortunately, that is also being realized in South Carolina. People didn’t think that would ever need flood insurance because they lived so far from the coast and those with and without flood insurance are realizing that the insurance companies have set standards of what they will cover unless you have some sort of documentation that you actually owned the items. A friend that lost everything in a fire lost around 10 or 12 suits. He was in the construction business so he wore mostly jeans to work. Since it did not sound plausible that a contractor would own that many suits and he had no documentation otherwise, the insurance company paid him for just 2 suits. The same would apply if you have a really expensive item like a Rolex or if you have an abnormal amount of an item like shoes, jewelry or fishing rods.
My family on Columbia is not out of the woods yet. As it happened with me, they didn’t have water coming in horizontally. However, the water table in their area rose so high that water came up through the floor. My aunt got 4 feet of water in her basement and after the third day was able to get some pumps to get rid of the water. She got down to the last 8 inches and realized that at that point, the water was continuing to come in faster than the pumps could keep up with. So now she has to not only worry about the lost contents of the basement, she has to consider damage to the foundation with the softening ground, black mold inside the walls and floors not to mention all of the disease, smells and insects that typically reside in stagnant water. A week and a half later and she has just now gotten water clear enough to wash with but has been cautioned to boil anything and everything she will drink or even brush her teeth with. I cannot imagine what she is going through, but maybe having several gallons per day, per person to last for three days would have made a difference. While I have a generator and a couple of small pumps, I don’t have anything that could keep up with that sort of intrusion. But I do have a video record of everything I own that is stored in a safe and a copy stored on a cloud server in case I lose the entire house.
Such video documentation is critically important when dealing with police or insurance companies. It will not only prove that you owned the items in question but in the event of a theft, will give police a much better description and possibly some unique cosmetic characteristics that you either do not remember at the time or that you did not realize existed. It may show a deep scratch in the wood of a stolen shotgun or a bent shaft on a stolen weed- eater. Anything that can better describe your property can tremendously assist law enforcement in their investigation and greatly increase your chances of getting the stolen property back. “A 1 carat diamond ring with two emeralds” will describe hundreds of thousands of rings, but a picture is worth a 1000 words. Having that video documentation stored on a separate back up and a remote server will allow you to access it in the event of a loss. Had I only stored my video on my computer, when it crashed I would have lost the very large file size video as well.
As I mentioned, my family has a farm with a house that was built in about 1840. The house is amazing and everything in it, down to the nails that hold it all together, was all hand made. Power was added to the house in the late 70s but since no one lives on the property full time, we constantly worry about the threat of fire. 175-year-old cypress has a great deal of time to dry out and once lit, will be very hard to put out. The driveway is a mile and a half long and starts on a lonely rural highway that is not well traveled. It is wonderfully peaceful property with no land lines, spotty cell service, no TV and no internet. But in the event of a fire, those same benefits could mean disaster. With even with the best fire department, a fire may be well underway before anyone even sees that the house is burning. I have advised my family to consider putting in a sprinkler system and a monitored fire alarm system that uses cellular with an antenna amplifier to communicate to the monitoring center. That way you do not have to rely on several miles of rural phone lines to communicate your emergency. Additionally, we have fire extinguishers throughout the house and make sure that all pilot lights are out, power turned off and water tanks drained before we ever leave.
Speaking of fire extinguishers, I was recently very surprised to learn that it seems that very few people seem to have them. I took some relatives out on my boat and as I always do before we get underway, I told them the location of the life jackets, the throw cushion, the anchor and the fire extinguisher, most all of which is mandatory on a recreational boat. Both of my guests were impressed that I had a fire extinguisher on board and both commented that they have never owned one and should probably get one. On guest was in her 40s and the other in his 70s so these were seasoned home owners. I keep one under my kitchen sink because many house fires start in the kitchen. I also keep one in the garage because I may do some welding or put away a hot lawn mower that is stored next to the gas tanks for it.
While at the farm, I went down into the woods to help my uncle cut up and split a downed tree for firewood. I wore long pants, a long sleeved shirt, high socks, boots and sprayed them all with bug repellant. Even with all that protection, I still managed to get bitten by some horrid little bugs known as chiggers. A chigger is a very small red bug that is almost invisible. Because they are so small, you will almost never feel or notice them on you. They bite like a tick might and their bite is completely painless. The aftermath of their bite is quite the opposite. They swell like a mosquito bite and itch like there is no tomorrow for days and possibly weeks. My best guess is that I have close to 200 bites up and down my legs and chest. The point of this story is that I thought that I had a plan and that I was well prepared for a trip into the woods with bugs and poison ivy. But without my knowing it, I was getting ready to find out how bad it can be when you are not as prepared as you thought you were. Just like flooding, rising water tables and fires, you can never be too prepared and the results of not having the right protection can be disastrous.