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Protecting Your Finances if a Disaster Strikes: Are You Prepared?

Ferocious blizzards, fires, and other disasters rarely give warning and can happen anytime. Whether a natural catastrophe strikes an entire community or a fire destroys a single home, the consequences for the survivors can be traumatic, including severe financial losses from the uninsured property, the destruction of vital documents, and temporary disruptions in the ability to work or conduct essential transactions.

It's important to have a plan for what you would do if a tragedy strikes and you couldn't live in your home or go to work for quite a while. What is your plan? Are your most important possessions insured and your financial documents protected from ruin? And if you had only a few moments to evacuate your home and could not return for several days or even weeks, would you have access to cash, banking services, and the personal identification you need to conduct your day-to-day financial life? Here are tips on how to protect your finances.

Anticipate What Could Go Wrong

  • Think about the most likely hazards and plan accordingly.
  • Periodically review all your insurance coverage.
  • Keep records of your personal property and the estimated value; check with your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate coverage.
  • Take advantage of direct deposit.
  • Consider establishing computer or smartphone access to your banking account.
  • Build or maintain an emergency savings fund.

What To Have Ready

Consider keeping the following items in a secure place and readily available.

  • Identification and other key documents that may be needed to restore your financial records.
  • ATM/debit cards and credit cards.
  • Phone numbers and account information at your financial services providers.

What To Keep Where

Here is a strategy that works well for many people:

  • Make backup copies of important documents.
  • Decide what should or should not be kept in your bank’s safe deposit box.
  • Consider preparing one or more emergency evacuation bags or boxes.
  • Take precautions against identity theft by the debit and credit cards and IDs (or copies) in your evacuation kit.