If Star Wars has taught us anything, it’s that disaster can strike at any moment, whether you’re strolling the Tatooine deserts, enjoying the forest glens of Endor or taking your Death Star for a spin.
It’s much the same in our local universe, with thousands of Australian families hit by bushfires, hailstorms, flooding and cyclones each and every year.
Indeed, disasters are not rare, with the Insurance Council of Australia listing them as among the most common home and contents insurance claims made. And they are not small: the recent Queensland floods cost an estimated $14.1 billion while the tragic 2009 Victorian bushfires cost more than $4.4 billion.
We've put together these 6 tips to help you recover if you’re ever caught in a disaster:
1. Be prepared for disaster, but avoid months sweating in a swampLuke sweated in a Dagobah swamp for months to ensure he was ready for the worst. Thankfully, we don’t need to go that far.
When a disaster strikes, it’s often too late to address the danger, so it is crucial you have adequate insurance in place early, People’s Choice Credit Union Spokesperson Stuart Symons said.
“Most people’s homes are their largest and most important investments, so good insurance is vital,” Mr Symons said. “Take the time to ensure your home and contents insurance covers you for disastrous outcomes. It’s easy to get distracted by smaller issues like glass replacement or stolen bikes, but keep in mind those losses are counted in hundreds of dollars while a lost house will cost hundreds of thousands.
“It’s also a good idea to keep copies of your insurance details at a different location so you will be able to access them if the worst happens.”
2. Learn from R2-D2 and keep records of important detailsThe Rebellion would be lost if R2-D2 hadn’t carried a copy of the Death Star’s single weakness.
When confronting your own disaster, it is important – once the danger has passed – to inspect the damage and record everything.
“First make sure it’s safe to be on the property,” Mr Symons said. “Think carefully first – what about power lines? Is it structurally sound? What about sewage or snakes or broken glass?
“If it is safe, make a comprehensive photographic record. Mobile phones are great for this. You can also use your phone to start making a list of what has been lost or destroyed. This will make it much easier when dealing with your insurance company.”
3. Report in to your Rebel Council when the storm troopers hitJust like the Rebel Council gathered to regroup after every disaster, it is a good idea to talk to your financial institution as soon as possible after a disaster hits.
“The last thing you want to be doing when recovering from a disaster is worrying about mortgage repayments,” Mr Symons said. “In these situations most banks and credit unions will be able to help with mortgage relief but they need to know – so contact them as soon as possible and let them know the details, especially if the disaster has affected your ability to work from home or the tools or transport you need to work.”
4. Don’t rush to make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecsWhen faced with a disaster, you don’t have to get the fastest ship in the Galaxy to run from the Empire. While it’s natural to want to get repair work underway as quickly as possible, Mr Symons said it’s better to take things slowly to ensure you won’t be left holding the bill.
“There can be a huge difference between what’s covered under various insurance policies,” Mr Symons said. “For example, some services might be capped financially. You don’t want to sign off on a $10,000 clean-up or repair contract only to be told the limit was $2000. Insurance companies put on additional staff after disasters so always call them and check. Then make a note of when you called, who you spoke to and what was said in case there are questions afterwards.”
5. Watch out for bounty huntersNot every bad guy is as obvious as Jabba the Hutt – and unfortunately, disasters can bring out the worst in some people who want to try to take advantage of a terrible situation.
“Sadly, it’s not uncommon for the unscrupulous to try to pray on people struggling in the wake of a disaster,” Mr Symons said. “Before hiring anyone, check they have an office, a website, phones, and that they are appropriately qualified and licensed to do the work.
“It can be frustrating and time consuming but see if you can get other quotes to be confident you’re not paying over and above market price – and never agree to pay anyone in cash. People will try to pressure you into making a quick decision but don’t sign until you’re sure.”
6. If it feels you are in a trash compactor on the detention level, call for helpLuke, Leia and Han had it right – when the walls are closing in, it’s time to call for help.
“The shock of the loss, the disruption to lives, temporary accommodation, the complexities of insurance and the extended process of rebuilding can all take their toll,” Mr Symons said. “It is vital that people are aware of their physical and mental health, and be willing to put up their hand and get the help they need. People want to help, so please ask.”