On July 17th, 2017 USA Today reported the number of natural disasters so far this year in the U.S. was leading to the most disaster-laden season on record. At the time, the U.S. had endured 49 separate weather, climate and flood disasters, according to data from Munich Re, a global reinsurance firm (whose data goes back to 1980) – and this was all before Hurricanes Harvey and Irma battered our coasts.
Emergencies do not just include natural disasters – an evacuation, a fire, or even an injury can happen at any moment. We shouldn’t live in fear, but we should live prepared. Read on for tips on how you and your family can be proactive in planning for an emergency.
Keep an emergency cash stash
Have cash on hand. During emergencies, specifically natural disasters, power lines and electricity could be down for days, possibly even weeks. Credit cards and ATMs may not work. Having cash stored in a safe, water-proof, fire-proof place in your home for these types of emergencies will ensure that you are able to buy necessities such as food and water. Three to five days worth of spending money in smaller bills is recommended. Also, consider the possibility of being forced to evacuate immediately and include gas and hotel costs in your emergency fund. There is no way to estimate a perfect number, but it is always better to save something rather than nothing.
Stock up when you can
Take into account that during a national emergency, price gouging, supply shortages, and inflation can take place. If you can, consider purchasing emergency supplies in preparation for such events. Research the recommended items for emergency preparedness kits that you can have ready to go at home, at work, and in your car. The Red Cross sells a pre-packed emergency kit in an easy to grab backpack that includes a flashlight, food and water, a breathing mask, hygiene and first aid kits, and other essential items. Emergency kits do not have to be extensive, and should the need arise, you will be relieved you took the time to get these items when you could.
Organize your personal information and consider going electronic
Collect and organize your important financial, insurance, and medical records to ensure you have the necessary documentation needed to start the recovery process should an emergency take place. Store the original documents in a fire-proof safe in a hidden area of your home. Make copies to store in a portable, water-proof, fire-proof container to take with your emergency kit in case of an immediate evacuation. You can also store copies in a safety deposit box or online. Venturi Wealth Management offers a client portal with a document vault allowing you to securely access your documents online. Cloud service storage services such as Sync.com, Dropbox, SpiderOakONE, CertainSafe Digital Safety Deposit Box, and more encrypt your personal information and protect against data loss and privacy intrusions. When researching cloud storage, it may also be beneficial to sign up for electronic banking. A disaster can disrupt the mail service for weeks. If you receive payments or federal benefits in the mail, consider switching to electronic payments and help mitigate the risk of your checks being lost or stolen.
When you are collecting your personal documents, review your current insurance policies. Note that homeowner’s coverage does not typically cover flood damage. You may need to purchase flood insurance separately; The National Flood Insurance Program is a good place to start.
Use technology to your advantage
During disasters, phone lines can be overloaded and it can be extremely difficult to connect with your loved ones. Text messaging and social media platforms can be effective tools to reach people quickly during an emergency. Facebook has Safety Check where you can mark yourself as safe and check on others in your area. The Red Cross has Safe & Well where you can do the same. Download the FEMA app for up-to-date weather alerts, safety tips, shelter locations and tools to submit disaster photos.
To be able to utilize technology when you need it most, have emergency charging options on hand at home and in your car.
What would you save?
When your family is at risk, your number one priority is your loved ones. Communicate with them now about a safety plan during a potential emergency. Talk through scenarios, have designated meeting locations for various situations, and review how to turn off water, gas, and electricity at the main shut off locations with the adult members of your home. Show those who are able to operate the fire extinguisher where it is and how to use it. Write down important contact numbers and have family members carry these on them as these days most people have very few, if any, telephone numbers memorized. Click here for a wallet sized emergency communication template card.
To save family memorabilia, plan ahead now and utilize websites like Facebook or Shutterfly where you can store and organize your photos in online albums. Each site has setting modifications that allow you to keep these photos private if you wish.
FEMA Emergency Financial Kit Checklists: A comprehensive list of the documents you should have copies of in an emergency
Stealth Angel Survival Family Preparedness Package: A complete family emergency kit for both your home and car
PC Mag – The Best Cloud Storage Providers and File Syncing Services: A comparison of the features of the top cloud storage services for your sensitive personal information