Severe weather might soon be upon us again. Are you prepared to take action if a disaster strikes? To be ready, you should have a household inventory, check your insurance coverage and prepare and grab-and-go box.

A household inventory involves an itemized list of the contents of your home, including your basement, attic and garage. It also could include a list of the contents of storage areas, such as sheds or other small buildings on your property. An accurate inventory is a necessity whether you are a homeowner or a renter. An inventory of your belongings helps set an approximate value of items owned to determine needed insurance coverage.

In case of a loss, your insurance company will require a listing of all items lost or destroyed to settle the insurance claim. It often is difficult to reconstruct a list of belongings from memory because it is easy to overlook items that are out of season or hidden away, such as Christmas decorations, winter clothing, blankets, etc., as well as those items that are used everyday. When making an inventory, photograph or videotape every wall in each room of your home and storage areas. Photograph open closets, cabinets, cupboards and drawers. Take close-ups of unique or expensive items to document their existence and condition. Date the photographs and use them to show all furniture, furnishings, accessories and other items large and small in the room. When videotaping, verbally describe the contents as you move around the room. Photos or video accompanying your written inventory will be useful.

Be as specific and accurate as possible when describing your furnishings and equipment. For furniture, include the color, wood type and size. For appliances, record the manufacturer, model, serial number and size. When listing items, include the original cost, the date purchased, any alterations or repairs done on the item and the corresponding cost. Include this information in your written inventory or scan a copy to keep this information electronically.

To store your household inventory, keep a working copy (paper or electronic) in the home file. Also, keep one copy of your household inventory away from the insured dwelling, such as in a safe-deposit box, with a trusted person, or stored online, so that it can be accessed from any computer. Remember to keep all copies up-to-date and review them on a semi-annual basis. Add newly acquired items to your inventory and include a new photo or video. Also update the inventory when items are discarded.

The purpose of insurance is to cover major losses. Review your insurance coverage at least annually. You might want to conduct a face-to-face review with your insurance agent every other year. Make sure you have adequate coverage on your home, vehicles and possessions. If possible, set aside emergency funds to cover the policy deductibles. Keep the name of your agent or agents and policy number or numbers in your grab-and-go box. Consider purchasing other types of insurance, such as disability and/or life insurance for the wage earner.

In two weeks, my next column will provide more information about what you should put in your grab-and-go box and what to do after a disaster.

Rebecca McFarland is the family and consumer sciences extension agent for Frontier Extension District No. 11, which serves Franklin County. For more information or questions about food safety, call her at (785) 229-3520 or email