Disaster victims at all levels face the same challenges when it’s time to rebuild after a disaster or emergency. Sooner or later the dealing with the issue of finances and managing your personal affairs will need to be addressed. Having your personal financial, medical, and insurance records organized before disaster strikes will take off a load of stress when you rebuild after the big event.
FEMA’s website, www.ready.gov, offers the following tips for dealing with the business end of a disaster:
Gather all your crucial financial, legal, personal and medical information. This can mean scanning copies of your insurance policies, vehicle titles, divorce or child custody papers and storing the copies electronically to a flash drive or on on the cloud in an environment you can access from a different computer. Sometimes it’s just important (and simple) to be able to provide a policy number.
Put aside some cash at home. Disasters routinely disable ATMs or any means of using a debit or credit card. Having cash on hand in the form of small bills can help make those necessary fuel, food or supply purchases. How much cash you tuck away depends on your personal situation. If you can manage more, tuck away more. Make sure you save small bills and (I shouldn’t have to mention this, but) keep it confidential.
If you don’t have it, get insurance. Homeowners, renters, health and life insurance will all help with the process of recovery. If you already have insurance, be sure to review your policies so you are comfortable with the amount and extent of coverage you have in place. If you have trouble understanding your policy, go see your insurance agent. It’s his job to make sure you understand your policies. That’s one reason you pay those premiums every month. Also note most homeowners policies do not cover flood damage, so you may need to purchase additional flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program if you live in a potential flood zone.
Here are a few random items you may want to consider. Veterans, make sure you have a copy (originals are better) of your DD214. Photos or scanned copies of social security cards, birth certificates, passports, car titles, photo IDs for family members and mortgage information. The list goes on and on. Just ask anyone who has lost everything in a house fire how many things there are to replace and you’ll understand your life will be so much easier if you have planned ahead and followed this advice.
If you receive retirement checks through the mail, now would be a good time to have those deposited directly. If the U.S. Mail isn’t running and you can’t get your check, at least it will be in your bank account on a hassle-free basis. If you are one of those that doesn’t trust direct deposit, get over it. I have been having my paychecks and now social security checks directly deposited for 35 years and I have never missed a beat. It makes things really simple when you’re out of town or can’t get to the bank for some reason. The deposit has already been made for you. I can remember delaying travel plans for the simple reason I had to wait for the check to come so I could get it in the bank. No more. The twenty-first century is upon us folks, might as well get updated.
Planning your financial well-being isn’t as exciting as buying supplies or even a new gun, but having your stuff together will make you a real hero when the time comes to rebuild after a disaster.
As always email your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Older columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.