How to financially prepare for a natural disaster


by New Day Producers

Posted on November 5, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 5 at 1:58 PM

Over the past week, severe weather has taken its toll on millions of people. Emergencies often strike when we least expect it, and although we may have emergency kits at home, many people haven’t considered an emergency. Suzanne Klenk from Washington State Employees Credit Union was here to help us gather the crucial elements we need to prepare our finances for a natural disaster.

For more information about putting together an Emergency Financial Aid Kit for yourself and your family, please click here for a wonderful page of resources at the Washington State Employees Credit Union website. You can also download your own checklist by clicking here.

Find WSECU on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter: @WSECU

Email Suzanne with your financial questions or to request a free workshop about a number of financial topics for your business or organization:

Here's more information from Suzanne's segment today:

Your Emergency Financial First Aid Kit

An Emergency Financial First Aid Kit, sounds like a great idea! 

Suzanne:  It is a great idea and one that has been around for a while, but doesn’t get much attention until after an impactful event, such as Hurricane Sandy.  With winter on its way here, we thought this would be a good time to begin talking to folks about getting prepared for the unexpected.

We’ve all heard that we need to be prepared to be on our own for at least three days, and in the event of a larger event, up to two weeks!  Wow, two weeks…

Suzanne:  I know, that seems like such a long time and it will seem even longer if we are not prepared to do so.  Along with the standard drinking water, batteries and granola bars, there are so many more things you would need.  There is a great list from the Department of Health on line.  It includes the standard items, food, water, toilet paper, etc…but it also includes things that I didn’t think about…such as gloves, tools, garbage bags, change of clothes, etc…

So what is the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit?

Suzanne:  The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit available through FEMA and the Hope Organization is a tool to help you get prepared financially for an unplanned event.  It is an actual document that takes you step by step toward being prepared with all the documents you need to recover your financial life and therefore make overall recovery a smoother path.

So let’s go through the components of this kit and explain why they are important.  You would be surprised what documents you need to have to move forward or to get assistance from government agencies.  The first item on this list is personal household information. 

Suzanne:  Personal Household Information.  Names and descriptions, including pictures of family members and pets. This is especially important for children to have access too.  Often in times of emotional or physical trauma, we are unable to describe our family well.  We also recommend that you write a letter of comfort to your child that they will have in case you are separated from them for any length of time.

Next is a list Professional Advisors and Health Care Providers.  That seems like an odd thing to need.

Suzanne:  It does, but when you consider that you are not able to keep all your important information handy such as medical records, prescription history, etc…it is important to have these contacts to get that information quickly if needed. Also, you may be able to get an electronic copy to save on your thumb drive.

Ok, next is  Important Legal Documents and Financial Statements.

Suzanne:  This list is long and very important.  Birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage licenses, divorce papers, parenting plans, deeds of trust, financial statements.  Make sure to include passwords and access codes..  A full list is available on line.

Insurance Papers would be important as well.

Suzanne:  Home, Auto and Health.  With contact numbers of your agent and the claims department phone number! 

Should these documents be copies or originals? 

Suzanne:  With all of these documents that you do not want to carry your originals and you need to keep them in a secure place.  I recommend scanning the documents you can and keeping them on a thumb drive.  Those that cannot be scanned, should be kept in a protective type sleeve.  I use my food saver!  Originals should be kept in a safe deposit box or your home safe…but again the protective over is important to guard against water damage. 

And how often should you update them?

Suzanne:  You should update these documents at least on an annual basis…or when you have a major change such as a death, birth, marriage, divorce, etc….

You also recommend keeping cash on hand.

Suzanne:  Cash is so very important.  Debit and Credit may not be available for a period of time due to power outages or limited travel.  A stash of cash, in small bills….1’s and 5’s in highly recommended, since making change will not be a priority for folks selling items that you need.  Begin how by placing 5 $1’s in your safe…add to it each month.  It is an easy way to make sure you have the resources you will need for a period of time before other resources kick in.

You also suggest talking with your financial institution about their plan for keeping your personal information secure during a natural disaster.

Suzanne:  Again, this is your relationship with your financial institution.  Find out what the plan of action is and how your information is protected.  Knowledge is power.  Understanding the process will better prepare you for if or when the time comes.