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Monday, August 2, 2010

Take a Few Precautions this Season

With all of the recent stormy weather, how prepared are you in case of a natural disaster? While you should prepare an emergency kit in case you need to protect yourself or leave your home quickly, it's important to remember that natural disasters don't just affect people physically and emotionally, they also affect families financially. It is hard to imagine that something like a fire or tornado will destroy a person's property, but it's better to be prepared than surprised. Insurance will cover the loss of property, but it will not bring back precious memories or heirlooms. The following are a couple ways to make sure you are prepared financially should disaster strike.

Get a lock box at your bank or buy a safe. These are made to be indestructible, therefore, they should protect the things you need and cherish. Bank rental rates for lock boxes may range from $20-$200 per year for different sized boxes. Another option is to purchase a home safe, but may require you to remember a code or keep a key. Safes should be secured and stored out of sight. Things that should go in a lock box or safe include: financial and tax information, passports, family heirlooms, insurance policies, and information about home property.

Back everything up. Today it seems everything is stored on computers. However, if something happens to your computer, you may lose everything. Back up important information like taxes, bank account information, email and physical addresses and other sensitive or important information. You can do this by putting this information on a CD, memory card, or external hard drive. A good idea is to keep a copy of backed up information in a lock box or safe and send a copy to a trusted friend or family member, in case you need the information quickly.

Make copies of everything. It is good to know everything you have. If you just bought a big screen TV, you want to make sure it can be replaced. Take pictures of your possessions, include receipts if possible, and store that information in the safe or lock box and give a copy to a friend or family member. If your property is destroyed, you will have proof of what you owned, how much it cost and what it looked like, which may make dealing with an insurance company a whole lot easier. You will also want a copy of your driver's license, Social Security card, and other identification in case you have to prove your identity.

Make lists and lots of them. Keep a list of emergency contacts, including your bank, your doctor, your pharmacy, your insurance company, and other people who may provide needed assistance. Have their name, several phone numbers, email address, physical address and relationship on this list. Make sure people you trust and can get a hold of quickly also have a copy of this list. It is also a good idea to keep this contact list with you in case you are injured. If you or a family member is on medication, it is essential that you keep a list of the medication with you and let others know in case something should happen to you personally and you are not able to tell emergency personnel what medications you take regularly.

No one likes to think about the potential losses caused by a disaster. However, to get started, Ready.gov has a great list of items that can help you build your own emergency kit. These things include water, food and first aid items, along with a variety of other important personal items. You can find more information about making an emergency kit and a plan of action at www.ready.gov.