With the increase in natural disasters impacting almost every corner of the U.S., it’s smart to prepare financially before disaster is on your doorstep. Here are five essentials to have in place before a hurricane or other natural disaster strikes.  

#1 Gather Important Documents 

Before trouble is on the way, gather and make copies of your essential documents. Invest in a waterproof, fireproof box that you can easily take with you in case of evacuation. It’s also wise to save a digital backup of these documents. Our clients have access to an online vault which can be used for this purpose. (Let us know if you need help setting it up.) Whether you store your documents physically or digitally, make sure they are in a safe and secure location.  Here is a sample list of documents that should be stored.

#2 Use your Smart Phone 

Use your phone to take a video of your home and its contents. Walk slowly through your home and narrate any details like the initial purchase price and model numbers of expensive items. Don’t forget to take a video of the garage, home exterior, and lanai/back yard.  

#3 Stock up on Cash 

Banks and ATM’s are often have limited cash before and after a natural disaster, or can be closed altogether. After a storm, stores may have trouble processing credit/debit transactions until electricity and internet connections are restored. Think about how much cash you may need for gas, food, and other necessities for at least a week. If you think you may need to evacuate, plan ahead for these expenses. Keep your emergency cash in a safe and easy to access place.  

#4 Check your Insurance Coverage 

Review your insurance coverage before a disaster strikes to ensure your policies are up to date and have the coverage appropriate for your area. Remember that homeowners and renters policies don’t cover damage from floods (including storm surge). It’s also important to note that homeowners insurance policies in some hurricane-prone states won’t pay for windstorm damage. Hurricane prone areas require additional insurance to address these issues. If you rent, consider purchasing renter’s insurance to cover the cost of replacing your personal property. Talk to your insurance agent before an emergency is looming to make sure you have the coverage you need.  

#5 Build your Emergency Fund 

If you don’t already have an emergency fund, now is a good time to start saving for three to six months of living expenses. During a disaster, many unexpected expenses can come up, including extra supplies, food, gas, hotel, and other expenses if you need to evacuate. If your home or property is damaged during the storm, repairs can be costly. Even if insured for your losses, insurance claims take time to process. In addition, your workplace may be closed temporarily resulting in a loss of income. Having an emergency fund will cushion some of these costs and allow you to focus on what is most important – the safety of your family.  

Additional resources for hurricane and natural disaster preparation can be found at the Red Cross site for emergency preparations and the Sarasota County Hurricane Preparedness site. Download FEMA’s Emergency Financial First Aid Kit here. 

Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information and educational purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, legal advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Angela Wentz, and all rights are reserved. See full disclosures.