Plenty of people, especially those who live in fire-prone or hurricane-vulnerable areas, have emergency kits and “bug-out” bags: supplies to keep them going if they need to leave home in a hurry.
But in addition to items that can help you physically in an emergency, it’s a good idea to put together a “financial emergency kit”: information and documents that could help keep your life “running” and get you access to help you need even if you’re away from home for an extended period of time.
Most of us just need to do basic preparation. Many times when the moment of need comes, it will be far less dramatic than you might imagine — but still really disruptive to your life.
Important Financial Preparations to Make
- Insurance policies and related contact information
- Prescriptions and/or important medical records
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Mortgage information
- Car registration
- Drivers license or personal identification
- Social Security cards
- Recent tax returns
- Employment information
- Wills and deeds
- Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
- Bank, savings and retirement account numbers
- Copies of your pet’s medical records
- Any other identification/tags for your pets and/or pet carrier
- A paper copy of a recent utility bill, school registration records or any other recent government document to further prove residence
Having your documents in a safe place is really important. A portable, fireproof safe is a great place to start.
In addition, you’ll probably also want to consider using an external hard drive to back up your data. And to really have peace of mind when it comes to data, back it up twice by also uploading it to a free cloud service such as:
- Google Drive – Free account comes with 15GB of space
- Dropbox – Free account comes with 2GB of space
- iCloud – Free account comes with 5GB of space
- OneDrive – First tier with 5GB of free storage
Don’t Forget Emergency Essential Items
The Red Cross suggests you have the following 15 essential items for your emergency survival kit:
- Water: one gallon per person, per day (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home)
- Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (three-day supply for evacuation, two-week supply for home)
- Battery-powered radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Medications (seven-day supply minimum) and medical items
- Multi-purpose tool
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents (see list below)
- Cell phone with chargers
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash (money expert Clark Howard recommends $400)
- Emergency blanket
- Map(s) of the area
Think About the Best Ways To Get in Touch With Loved Ones
Communication with loved ones can be challenging during a natural disaster. Wired recommends the following:
- Text instead of calling. Leave the phone lines open for first responders. Try using text messages rather than voice calls to avoid getting blocked by any network congestion.
- Use apps. While cell networks and phone lines are generally limited to one communication protocol, apps such as Twitter or Facebook Messenger may be more likely to get your message through.
If people are trying to reach you:
- Get to a hardwired data connection. If you’re in an impacted area, a cable internet connection might be your best bet, they’re designed to handle larger surges of traffic.
- Think viral. Email a contact who’s most likely to be able and willing to disseminate information for you, update your Facebook status, tweet your condition and whereabouts. Whether you’re totally fine or in desperate need of help, let the viral nature of the internet work for you.
- Update your voicemail message. If you can make only one call, make it to your voicemail. Change your outgoing message, so when folks try to reach you and the call goes straight to voicemail, they still get updated on your status.
It’s no fun to be unprepared. These are simple things you can do that require minimal money and a minimal investment of time!