After making landfall as a major hurricane, Hurricane Ian caused exceptional damage and serious impacts for residents in its path. This storm, like many before it, caused destruction that will require weeks, months and even years of recovery and rebuilding efforts.
These storms, like tornadoes, earthquakes and blizzards, are an unfortunate fact of life. You might not be able to prevent a storm from damaging your home or your community, but you can prepare your family so that when the time comes, you feel ready to take the necessary actions.
Natural Disaster Preparedness: Financial Prep
I’ve talked on the blog before about having an emergency fund, and why it matters. As a recap, an emergency fund is savings put aside that could cover your family’s expenses for about 3-6 months in case something happens. Whether you lose your job, deal with a health crisis or face some kind of disaster, that money is there to take care of your family while you get back on your feet.
But when we’re talking about storms and natural disasters, you need to take that one step further and think about accessibility. An emergency fund is great – if you can use it. But if you’re in the midst of a major storm or blackout, credit or debit cards might not work. If card readers are down at your local stores, you might not have access to your emergency fund.
That’s why some cash on hand can be crucial during a disaster. The number varies, but $1,000-$2,000 in cash is about the ballpark for covering travel costs, gas, food, etc. if you and your family need to survive without cards for a bit. (Note: Keep that cash somewhere safe! If you have a room you use to shelter some storms, keep the cash close by in a secure location.)
If you live in an area that frequently deals with hurricanes or other major storms, you might even want to set aside a special savings account for that purpose. Then, if you need to run to the store to stock up on storm essentials, you have a designated account to do so.
Have the Appropriate Insurance
Homeowners insurance covers many disasters, but it doesn’t always cover everything. You might need to purchase additional coveral for things like floods, earthquakes and even sewer problems. Make sure you know what your insurance policy covers, as well as what it doesn’t.
And don’t forget to take pictures of your belongings and valuables, so you can present them to your insurance in the event of a disaster. Keep these photos somewhere secure, and make sure you have both physical and digital copies.
Disaster Preparedness Financial Documents
On the topic of finances, don’t forget your important documents. No one wants to think about their home being destroyed or their birth certificates being washed away in a flood. But it happens. Even if you’ve digitized all of your important documents, you still might need physical copies as a backup.
Here are some documents to have ready to go if you need to evacuate or run to a storm shelter. And remember, you likely won’t have time to gather these before a storm, so try to keep them together somewhere safe and easy to find:
- Driver’s licenses and Social Security cards
- Birth certificates
- Debit and credit cards
- Titles and deeds
- Insurance policies
- Estate planning documents
If you keep just enough food on hand to cover the next week, you might want to think about building up more of a supply in case of emergencies. This can be thought of as a kind of food insurance, a backstock that can cover you if going to the store isn’t an option.
FEMA recommends having a two-week supply of food on hand just to be safe. But this is a smart idea for more than just emergency weather situations. If you’re the member of the household who typically plans the meals, cooks or grocery shops, it’s nice to have a backup supply ready in case you get sick or injured. It’s also helpful in the event of something like a job loss, or a surprise expense.
Make sure some of your supply is shelf-stable, and can still be eaten if you have a power outage.
In the days leading up to a hurricane, bottled water is always one of the first products to fly off the supermarket shelves. Whether you’re in a major disaster zone or there’s an inconvenient water line break near you, it’s smart to assume you might need backup water at some point. Waiting until you actually need more water is risky, so check on your water supply throughout the year to make sure you’re covered.
FEMA recommends one gallon of water per person per day, so use that to gauge how much you’ll need. And don’t forget your pets! Add some extra water for them too, based on your pet’s daily needs.
Disaster Preparedness Resources
If you’re looking for more tips on getting prepared, here are some additional sites and resources help you plan:
- Ready.gov for financial and disaster preparedness tips
- FEMA for emergency prep guidelines and disaster financial assistance
- FEMA pet page to make sure your pets’ needs are met during a disaster
- FEMA locations, to find information and resources specific to your state or city
- National Weather Service for weather-related disasters and updates
- National Hurricane Center for up-to-date information on tropical storms and hurricanes
About Your Richest Life
At Your Richest Life, Katie Brewer, CFP®, believes you too should have access to financial resources and fee-only financial planning. For more information on the services offered, contact Katie today.