Preparing Your Financial Go-Bag in the Face of Disaster
You may have noticed lately the increased incidences of extreme weather — everything from hurricanes to wildfires to a polar vortex. Of course, in the event of a natural disaster, your first obligation is to protect your family.
In advance of these events, most people think immediately of non-negotiable musts like food , water and other supplies (as well they should). However, it’s also a sound idea to make sure that your savings, investments, and other financial obligations are kept safe from the elements and the possible ravages of nature.
As more of our financial lives go online and are stored in clouds, we may tend to dismiss the possibility that natural disasters can wreak havoc on our financial records.
Should an emergency happen in your area, you and your family and friends may need to hang tight for several days before things return to a relative normal.
In this post, we suggest ways to consider how to protect your finances and investments from the physical damage caused by forces of nature. Just like your overall survival plan, protecting your money and financial records takes preparation.
Be sure to make an emergency evacuation financial go-bag a part of your overall disaster survival plan. Here are a few ideas.
Where to Keep Your Financial Go-Bag
You never know where you are going to be in the event of an emergency, so it’s best to make some educated guesses. Store your emergency evacuation go-bag in the places you usually are, like home, at your job, and in your vehicles. Ready.gov recommends the following:
• Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
• Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your go-bag items in your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.
• Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep an emergency evacuation go-bag in your car .
Keep Your Printed Personal, Financial, Medical And Financial Information
A lot of your important personal stuff is online now, but you’re sure to have old-school paper documentation that needs to be rescued in the case of a disaster.
Now is the time to collect those records and to put them in a safe place. In the event of an emergency, you can quickly take them with you without having to search for them.
Your financial and legal documentation should include the following:
• Housing payments to identify financial records and obligations
• Insurance policies to re-establish financial accounts
• Sources of income to maintain payments and credit
• Tax statements to provide contact information for financial and legal providers & apply for FEMA disaster assistance
Your medical information should include the following:
• Physician information to provide doctors with health information if medical care is needed
• Copies of health insurance information to ensure existing care continues uninterrupted
• Immunization records
Be prepared to identify yourself
• Photo ID to prove identity of household members
• Birth certificate to maintain or re-establish contact with family members
• Social security card to apply for FEMA disaster assistance
• Military service
• Pet ID tags
Keep Emergency Cash on Hand
In the event of an emergency, you may not be able to make a quick stop at the ATM. Also, the Internet or power could be down, making it impossible to use an ATM anyway. Keep a small amount of cash at home, in a safe place. This money could help you purchase necessary supplies, fuel and food.
Check Your Insurance Status
How do you stand with your insurance policies? In advance of emergencies, check your homeowners/renters, health and life insurance. If you don’t have coverage, now is the time to look into getting it.
Know the extent of your coverage and what you need to do in order to qualify for compensation. Most homeowners insurance does not cover flooding, so you may need to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
The NFIP was created to reduce the financial impact of flooding on private and public properties. It provides insurance to property owners, renters and businesses and helps communities adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations. In 2018, the NFIP celebrated 50 years of protecting Americans against flood damage.
Another word on insurance coverage: every insurance company may look at disasters in a different way. Example: flash flood damage may be compensated differently from hurricane or fire damage. Make sure you have the right kind of coverage and the right amount of coverage.
Update Your Emergency Contacts on Your Financial Documents
In many cases, your financial information will require emergency contacts. Be sure to keep this updated and relevant. Also, notify your financial services companies of any address or phone number changes, including email.
Include a Detailed Inventory of Your Valuables and Personal Belongings
You’ll need this when you claim any losses with your insurance company. Having a list like this ready will more than likely speed along your claims process. The inventory list could be made of paper, photo or video, and should be included in your financial go-bag. Don’t forget to include warranty and serial numbers if applicable. If you make a video of your belongings, include a narrative description of each item, along with its relevant information.
Create an Emergency Evacuation Go Bag
Nationwide Insurance recommends keeping the following items in a large waterproof container near a door in your garage, in the case you need to grab it and find emergency shelter quickly:
• A three-day supply of drinking water (one gallon per person, per day)
• Nonperishable food, such as canned fruit and protein bars
• Manual can opener
• Flashlights or portable lanterns, and extra batteries
• Dry clothing and blankets
• First aid kit, with waterproof matches
• A crank- or battery-powered radio
• Sanitation supplies: toilet paper, moist towelettes, soap, trash bags and disinfectant
Depending on your life situation, you may also need to include:
• Baby food, bottles and diapers
• Pet food
• Prescription medications
• Extra eyeglasses or contact lens solution
• Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
Constantly Update Your Contacts List
In the old days, we used to memorize phone numbers, but those days are long gone. Be sure to keep a paper version of important phone numbers in case your cell phone loses them. Be sure to update the list regularly, and include your important financial contacts and customer service numbers.
Talk To Your Family
Natural disasters can make anyone panic or, at the very least, get very nervous. Events like these can be especially troubling for young children, and even pets. Be sure to talk to your family about the following well in advance of a possible natural disaster or emergency:
• Your family’s disaster plan: where should you meet in the case of an emergency?
• The best routes out of the house and out of the neighborhood.
• Emergency contacts: who should be the point person/people in the event of separation?
• What is the plan if the family is not together in the event of an emergency?
• Assign a role to family members: those who can take or take care of the pets, helping with young children, locking up the house, being the point person of contact.
The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK), a joint publication from Operation Hope and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help you prepare financially and provide tips to reduce the impact disasters can leave you with financially.
Keep in mind that when saving for an emergency fund, you may want to consider a higher-interest alternative than a traditional savings or checking account. This is especially true if you can only afford to deposit a little bit of cash at a time (the important thing is that you are saving in advance for an emergency). An account that pays higher interest will build your fund faster.
A good way to prepare an emergency fund for you and your family is to sign up online for a SoFi Money® cash management account. You can use any ATM in the world that accepts Mastercard® and get all of your ATM fees reimbursed (fee structure is subject to change).
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