We hope that you and your family and friends were spared the wrath of Hurricane Ian. As fate would have it, September was National Preparedness Month, part of an effort by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to raise public awareness and inspire disaster readiness. Unfortunately, it’s likely that many of those affected by Ian had not prepared for such an event ahead of time.
The fact is, everyone’s financial planning should include making preparations for the unexpected—even if you live far outside the seasonal hurricane zone. Your area could still be impacted by some type of other natural disaster such as wildfires, tornados, earthquakes, or floods. This includes short-term challenges such as potential damage to important documents or valuables. But it should also consider longer-term threats to assets and even access to information. We hope this primer will help you prepare for something we all hope will never happen.
Having a plan in place, and not hesitating to take action, are the two key elements in making the safest decisions when time is of the essence. Here are some tips to help keep your family safe in an emergency and allow you to leave quickly with the items you need most.
Gather important documents that may be difficult or impossible to replace. These are some examples, but you may want other documents as well:
• Insurance policies, banking and financial account information, and account numbers
• Identification such as driver's licenses, passports, birth and marriage certificates, and Social Security and Medicare cards
• Contracts, wills, deeds, and recent tax returns
• An inventory of your household possessions
While electronic versions of documents are important, consider keeping as much of the above printed in a thick binder as well.
Electronic copies of critical documents can be stored in the cloud and/or on a USB hard drive or thumb drive. You might also want to keep the thumb drive or original documents in a fireproof safe or a safe deposit box. If you encrypt the information that’s in electronic form (recommended), make sure to keep any passwords separately but in a place you will easily remember.
Ready to Go
Assemble a home disaster kit with basic necessities for several days. Include nonperishable food, bottled water, first-aid supplies, flashlights, an emergency radio, extra batteries, a wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, and a whistle to signal for help. If you have advance warning of a likely weather threat, make sure to charge all phones, laptops, and other devices ahead of time. It’s a good idea to have a portable phone charger handy and keep that fully charged, too. Many local news stations have phone apps you can use to watch news updates even if your house, condo, or apartment loses power. If you’ve prepared everything as described above, you’ll still be able to check the news.
Have a list of items to take with you in case you need to evacuate. Start with your home disaster kit and critical documents. Remember to take prescription medications; clothing and bedding for each household member; computer hard drives, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and chargers; eyeglasses; photos; and special food or other items for children, disabled or elderly family members, and pets.
Have a Plan
Plan where you will go if you must evacuate. Will you stay with friends or family in another town, or head to a hotel or a community shelter? Area hotels often fill up days in advance of hurricanes, for instance, so don’t hesitate to book. Map out a route to your destination as well as an alternate route if roads are blocked or impassable. Choose a family member who lives elsewhere to serve as an alternate point of contact. Check the settings on your mobile phones to make sure emergency alerts and warnings are enabled. It’s also a good idea to practice packing up and leaving your home in ten minutes or less.
Be sure you have appropriate insurance. The coverage you need depends on the kinds of disasters most likely to affect your home and community. Damage from some natural disasters, such as wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes, is generally covered under your homeowners policy, up to policy limits. However, insurers are quite aware of their exposure to claims from natural disasters and have restricted or discontinued coverage in many regions. Contact your insurance agent to discuss appropriate coverage.
Most of these tips have to do with preparing for short-term actions in the face of natural disasters. For the long term, it’s also important to make sure your financial planning and even retirement planning considers the potential for such challenges. The average retirement now lasts 30 years. A lot can happen—expected and unexpected—in three decades. Be safe!
“Prepare for Future Emergencies,” Broadridge Advisor Solutions, September 13, 2022
Disclosure: This information is for educational and informative purposes and shall not be considered a specific recommendation. Readers are advised to speak with their advisor at JL Bainbridge to determine their specific recommendations that meet their investment objectives and to review their portfolios. The material being provided is thought to be accurate. However, the information is compiled from multiple resources and may become outdated or otherwise rendered incorrect by new research or corrections without notice. J.L. Bainbridge & Co., Inc., is not a broker dealer and does not offer tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax or legal advisor for assistance regarding your individual situation. It should neither be assumed that future results will be as profitable or that a loss could not be incurred. For more information related to our firm, please see our disclosure brochures at jlbainbridge.com and https://adviserinfo.sec.gov/firm/summary/108058.