Personal Finance

Chennai Rains: Of floods and other disasters

Radhika Merwin | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on December 06, 2015





Watch out, stock up, and go for a full cover. Disaster may strike any time

Last week, Chennai reeled under heavy floods following record-breaking rainfall and overflowing lakes. Many were stranded in their homes without food and power while others were left homeless. For the more fortunate ones, who still had a roof above their heads, scarcity of essential commodities and zero connectivity brought daily life to a standstill.

It is true that preparing for such extreme crisis situations — like Chennai’s unprecedented rains — that strike swiftly, out of the blue, is difficult. But you may still have a few days or hours to plan for such events.

Here are few things you can prepare yourself with.

Have a game plan

When we see disasters such as tornadoes, floods and cyclones playing havoc in other cities we never imagine that it may happen to us. But thanks to the changing climate conditions across the globe, these disasters are now becoming more common and also occurring in places least expected. So, for starters, be on the watch for such disasters. Tune into TV and radio stations for weather forecasts, because they do often come true!

Next, have a game plan in place. During the earlier phase of heavy rain last month in Chennai, some low-lying areas got inundated quickly.

For people in these areas, knee-deep water levels were clear early warnings bells. Since there is unlikely to be a detailed disaster management plan as in other countries, get in touch with your local authorities beforehand to understand evacuation plans, if any.

If not, have your own escape plan ready. Pick your choice of alternative residence, be it a relative or friend’s place or a hotel.

It will also help if you are able to organise community response teams with the help of various organisations. At the national level we have the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) which has its nodal branches in various cities like Chennai, that handle issues related to disaster preparedness and disaster management.

Stock up

Remember how huge bags of rice, wheat and grains were kept under lock and key in your grandma’s house. Well, in hindsight they were more prepared for crisis situations and could feed a whole village if need be.

With a shop and grocery store in every nook and corner and rampant home delivery options, we have certainly learnt the art of living hand to mouth.

So the first thing that obviously hits you in a crisis situation — if you are stranded in your house — is the scarcity of food essentials like milk and vegetables.

So along with your monthly provisions, do make a list of non-perishable food items that can last for months and help you weather calamities with less stress. But do remember to replenish your stockpile every now and then and check for expiration. Nuts, cereals, power bars, canned fruits and vegetables, instant foods, and canned soup are some of the items that have long expiration dates.

Since all dairy foods need refrigeration, go for substitutes such as milk powder.

Build a war chest

Most of us do not find the need to carry large dollops of cash anymore, thanks to the growing use of plastic. But in times of crisis, good old paper money can make life much easier.

During the Chennai floods, for instance, ATMs quickly ran out of cash and banks were forced to shut shop. And if you are banking on your card to get you through, think again.

Even as people queued up in front of big supermarkets, they were unable to make purchases because weak network connectivity made card transactions impossible. It is hence imperative that you tuck away some cash for emergency situations. Aside from stocking up essentials and cash, it is also important that you are mobile. With public transport like buses and trains coming to a standstill your personal vehicle can save you a great deal of trouble if you have to evacuate in a hurry.

But it is important that you tank up before an inkling of a major disaster.


As the sun shone after days in Chennai, there was some respite, but also a looming problem for people whose home and all its contents were destroyed by the floods. They now have to rebuild their homes.

Having a comprehensive home insurance policy that covers both the structure and contents in the event of a fire, flood or any other peril is critical.

There are a range of products now offered by insurance companies and you can choose a policy that suits you. For instance, in re-instatement value-based cover, the property will be covered for the cost of rebuilding the house. In indemnity value-based cover, the insurer will also take into account the age of the building. Some policies cover total loss ifa you have to relocate and buy a new home.

While many of the above tips may seem as stating the obvious, chances are you may be caught off guard when a crisis strikes. Just as planning your investments helps you meet your life goals, planning for disaster can ensure the survival of you and your family.

Published on December 06, 2015
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