After the wildfires in Northern California and the hurricanes racking Texas and Florida, it’s a better time than ever to take steps to ensure your safety during a natural disaster. While some disasters can be somewhat predictable, like hurricanes, others can happen out of nowhere.
Once you’ve made plans for your physical safety, it’s vitally important to protect your financial safety as well. Here are a few tips to ensuring your financial security during an unexpected natural disaster.
- Keep important documents both accessible and secure. It can be extremely expensive and time-consuming to replace items like a birth certificate, passport or Social Security card. You can store physical copies of your documents with your financial institution, but making copies online through a secured online storage space (or a password-protected flash drive) will keep them accessible in case of an emergency.
- Take pictures of your home. If anything should happen to your home during a natural disaster, having “before” pictures will help when filing an insurance claim. Don’t forget to take photos of the interior of your home as well – it can be used as an inventory of your personal items. Your inventory should include the item’s original cost, date of purchase, serial number, a photo and an original receipt, if possible.
- Double-check your insurance policy. Make sure you understand your homeowner’s insurance policy in advance of any disaster, if possible. You may not be able to change your policy’s terms in the event of an emergency, but reviewing it and understanding it will help you know what’s covered and what you’re owed.
- Set up autopay for your bills if you haven’t done so already. You don’t want to make a natural disaster worse for your finances by missing payments if you’re unable to make it to your credit union. Don’t let an emergency affect your credit!
- Always have an emergency fund that you contribute to every month. The difference between calm and panic after a natural disaster can lie in the savings you have on hand. It’s always a smart idea to keep an emergency savings account with regular deposits, and if you expect to evacuate, keep cash on hand as well.