Be Prepared if Disaster Strikes

Wednesday, June 05 at 11:40 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Home is where most people feel safe and comfortable. But sometimes before a hurricane, flood, tornado, fire or other disaster strikes it's safest to pack up and go to another location.

When it comes to preparing for situations like weather emergencies, financial readiness is as important as a flashlight with fully charged batteries. Leaving your home can be stressful, but knowing your financial documents are up-to-date, in one place and portable can make a big difference at a difficult time.

Here are some tips for financial readiness in case of an emergency:

Conduct a household inventory. Make a list of your possessions and document it with photos or a video. This could help if you are filing insurance claims. Keep one copy of your inventory in your home on a shelf in a lockable, fireproof file box; keep another in a safe deposit box or other secure location.

Buy a lockable, fireproof file box. Place important documents in the box; keep the box in a secure, accessible location on a shelf in your home so you can "grab it and go" if the need arises. Include the following:

  • Household inventory
  • List of emergency contacts, including family members who live outside your area
  • Health insurance cards or information, and copies of current prescriptions
  • Policy numbers for auto, flood, renter's or homeowner's insurance, and a list of telephone numbers of your insurance companies
  • Copies of other important financial and family records (or notes about where they are) including deeds, titles, wills, birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, and relevant employee benefit and retirement documents. Except for wills, keep originals in a safe deposit box or some other location. If you have a will, then ask your attorney to keep the original document.
  • List of phone numbers or email addresses of your creditors, financial institutions, landlords and utility companies (sewer, water, gas, electric, telephone, cable)
  • List of bank, loan, credit card, mortgage, lease, and investment account numbers, as well as backups of financial data you keep on your computer
  • Social Security cards
  • Extra set of keys for your house and car, and a key to your safe deposit box
  • Small amount of cash or traveler's checks

Consider renting a safe deposit box for storage of important documents. Original documents to store in a safe deposit box might include:

  • Deeds, titles and other ownership records for your home, autos, RVs or boats
  • Credit, lease and other financial and payment agreements
  • Birth certificates, naturalization papers and Social Security cards
  • Marriage license/divorce papers and child custody papers
  • Passports and military papers (if you need these regularly, you could place the originals in your fireproof box and a copy in your safe deposit box)
  • Appraisals of expensive jewelry and heirlooms
  • Certificates for stocks, bonds and other investments and retirement accounts, trust agreements,
  • A copy of your will, living wills, powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney, insurance policies
  • Home improvement records and household inventory documentation

Choose an out-of-town contact. Ask an out-of-town friend or relative to be the point of contact for your family, and make sure everyone in your family has the information. After some emergencies, it can be easier to make a long-distance call than a local one.

Update all your information. Review the contents of your household inventory, your fireproof box, safe deposit box and the information for your out-of-town contact at least once a year.

You may not be able to prevent a natural disaster or fire destroying your home. However, having your financial and personal information safe and accessible can make the recovery much easier.

The views of this article are for general information use only. Please contact and speak with a subject expert when specific advice is needed.

Tags: Consumer Protection, Financial Education
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