Chief’s Corner: National Preparedness Month starts on Sept. 1 | SierraSun.com

Chief’s Corner: National Preparedness Month starts on Sept. 1

This year's National Preparedness Month theme is "Disasters Don't Plan Ahead. You Can." Be proactive and take the necessary steps to be prepared in the event of an emergency. Make a plan, assemble a kit and stay informed.

Part of the planning process includes putting together a home inventory.

What is a household inventory, and why take one?

A household inventory is an itemized list of your personal belongings. It provides a method of knowing exactly what personal property you own. An accurate household inventory is a necessity whether you are a homeowner or a renter. It gives a record of your personal belongings for insurance purposes, and is useful in planning replacements of furnishings and equipment.

In case of a loss due to burglary, vandalism, or wildfire, your insurance company requires a listing of all items lost or destroyed.

Where should inventory be stored?

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After saving the files on a flash drive to your hard drive, laptop or personal computer, complete the "My Household Inventory" form; keep flash drive with you, such as on your keychain, in your purse, or in the glove box of your car. Also keep an extra flash drive along with a printed copy at a location away from the insured dwelling, as in a safe deposit box. Keep all copies up to date.

How do I complete the inventory?

Photograph all walls in your home that have home furnishings. Photograph open closets, cabinets, cupboards, and drawers. For insurance purposes, take close-ups of unique or expensive items to show their existence and condition. Save photographs in the "Interior Photos" file and save to a flash drive.

Photograph your home, property, and any other structures. Save in the "Exterior Photos" file and save to flash drive. Consider recording a narrated tour of your home and property, describing the contents as you go room by room and around the exterior.

Gather your product manuals and use them to list furnishing or equipment details on your household inventory. Printed photographs should be kept with the printed household inventory in a location away from the premises. Include any personal items owned by family members, but not always stored at home. Print a copy of the inventory for storage away from the home in a secure location, and update annually.

What should be included?

When listing items include original cost, date purchased, alterations or repairs done, and corresponding cost, especially if that repair or alteration made the item go up in value. The cost should only include the charge for the item, not finance or shipping charges. Inventories can include the current cash value of the item. This is useful in determining your net worth or the amount of insurance coverage needed on personal property.

The current value of the item is an estimate of what the item is currently worth to others (not you). An estimate of worth could be computed by dividing the original cost of the item by its expected useful life, and then deducting that amount for each year of use.

When describing your furnishings and equipment, be as specific as possible. For appliances, record the manufacturer, model, serial number, and size. Any items that are worth more than they appear, such as antiques or original works of art, should be given special consideration. Get an expert's appraisal to determine their worth. These items could be covered by a "floater" to a property insurance policy.

Ryan Sommers is the fire chief for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.