Consumer Watch: How to be prepared for the next storm


None of us Chattanoogans will forget Easter Sunday 2020, when terrible storms and tornadoes destroyed much of the East Brainerd area, as well as other parts of southeast Tennessee.

Certainly, summer brings frequent thunderstorms, some of which are quite damaging and can lead to extreme experiences like the ones we suffered recently. Although not theoretically a consumer problem, a Consumer Reports article on what to do before, during, and after negative storms had enough impact on me to share with readers an excellent checklist to better protect ourselves .


one) Make sure you have enough chargers for more than one device at a time, especially cell phones. Also, buy a hands-free flashlight.

2) In an emergency, it is essential to have a full gas tank. (I previously mentioned the need to never be below half a tank.)

3) Within your emergency “hideout”, be sure to keep a stock of small bills. After all, everyone accepts cash.

4) If you don’t have a generator, especially those that use propane or natural gas, consider buying one. We learned this lesson the hard way when we lived in Virginia and once we were without power for almost two weeks after a storm. Thereafter, in those snowy and stormy seasons, we were never caught in our proverbial pants until, unfortunately, last Easter night, when the generator didn’t start due to sticky mud. (Now we know how to check that fool at least every three months!)

5) Store enough food. While this sounds terribly obvious, Bread and Milk Syndrome can empty supermarket shelves in an instant, so it’s best to keep food in stock. Along these same lines, freeze water containers and gel packs to keep food cold or to use in refrigerators.


one) When you need to contact someone, send a text message instead of trying to call; text is more likely to be received. If you are low on battery and have no other reliable method in your home, charge your phone in the car or try a neighbor.

2) Don’t open the refrigerator doors. Although the Food Safety and Inspection Service says that after four hours without being able to throw away perishables, this is a good time to use a refrigerator with those ice packs to try and keep frozen food that hasn’t started to thaw. Of course, if you have a gas oven or grill, you can go ahead and cook some of the food to eat in a reasonably short time (or share with your neighbors). See more guidelines at


one) Heaven prohibits you from real damage to your home, but if so, the first item on the agenda is to take photos. Then file a claim right away. Do not throw away or repair a single item until the adjuster has seen the damage himself. (On the other hand, if you must pay to avoid additional loss, please save the receipt for delivery to the insurance company.)

2) Stay on guard with insurers. Some may try to save your company money and tell you that your policy does not cover certain damages or even offers too low a refund. Always ask to see the exclusions or limitations in writing, and if you have any questions, contact your state’s insurance department.

Keep these contacts away for safekeeping:

Tennessee Commissioner Hodgen Mainda (1-800-342-4029); Georgia Commissioner John F. King (1-800-656-2298); and Alabama Commissioner Jim L. Ridling (1-800-433-3966)

Contact Ellen Phillips at [email protected] or 423-757-6340.