Preparing for Disaster
I remember we were all amused by her statements back then. Of course, we were young and felt invulnerable. Reminiscing today, however, I realize she was probably smarter than the lot of us – even if for the wrong reasons.
That’s the funny thing about facing a disaster (either natural or man-made). You need to be organized and able to access those things necessary to restore your life to pre-disaster quality, but unfortunately, you get very little warning to prepare. Every summer hundreds of American families must deal with the upheaval of disaster: tornados, floods, fires, or hurricanes. Adding in unexpected death or injury makes taking the time to be prepared one of the most loving things you can do for yourself and your family.
First make a list of items your family may need to have access to in the event of an emergency. For example:
- Health: copies of health records including immunizations, procedures, doctor contact information, a list of all current medications being taken, advanced medical care directive (living will), and health care proxy information
- Insurance: life, health, auto, home, and umbrella policies
- Legal: titles, deeds, registrations, estate-planning documents, and birth, marriage, and death certificates
- Financial: income-tax returns, bank statements, mortgage and loan information, credit card statements, investment records, and social security records
- Personal: driver’s licenses, photos, and memorabilia
Once you have made your list and created copies of all important documentation you must determine what storage methods will make the most sense for you. Many folks create electronic files to store this information sending the electronic files to trusted friends or family to save, or place in a safe or safe deposit box. If you choose this method don’t forget to create a hard copy file for access during power outages. For protection and easy identification, place your important original documents in acid-free plastic covers available at office supply stores. While photographs of your personal property can be convenient and downloaded to an electronic file for safe keeping – videos allow you to add verbal descriptions of your property for better identification.
Once you have your list, remember to:
- Review adequacy of insurance coverage and verify named beneficiaries.
- Create a next of kin list and notify family or trusted individuals where important documents are kept in case you are not able to assist in retrieving them. You might also consider discussing special circumstances ahead of time to alleviate surprises – such as any special instructions you have included in your living will or who you have appointed as your health care proxy.
- Keep a list of names and contact numbers of people who would be important in rebuilding your life. This list should also include account and policy numbers etc.
Special hard copy or software organization kits are available (from the American Red Cross, for example) that can help make this process straightforward and stress free as possible. Get one and be prepared.