We have seen our fair share of weather emergencies in the news lately and perhaps been a victim as well. When it comes to preparing for natural disasters many Americans might primarily think of stocking up on food and water. They may even consider getting a first-aid kit, batteries, a flashlight or even generators. As important as all these can be there are some things to consider in helping you deal with a natural disaster financially too.
Remember your important documents
- Originals and copies of your identification such as a driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, and birth certificate are important to keep safe if you must prove your identity. It is best to have originals, but copies are also useful if the originals are lost or destroyed.
- Contact information (including phone numbers and websites) for your banks, brokerage firms, and insurance companies. Have your current insurance policy information handy including homeowner/renter, auto and life insurance coverages. In addition, keep copies of credit and debit cards (front and back) and checks (front) in case payment authorizations are needed.
- Originals and copies of medical information, such as insurance cards, health records and medications.
- An inventory of valuable personal property. Document the value of the items by keeping receipts and/or written appraisals, and perhaps photos.
These items can be kept safely in several ways. Consider assembling an emergency evacuation bag. You can include the above documentation as well as keeping a small amount of cash to purchase food or supplies, in case ATMs and credit cards are not working temporarily. Make sure your evacuation bag is in a secure and accessible place for a quick exit. Another storage option for hard to replace items or documents is a safety deposit box at your bank. It is a good idea to keep your items in a waterproof bag or container inside your box for added protection against flooding. Finally, most documents can be kept electronically. When deciding which documents to keep digitally, consider how to access the documents using your smartphone or a computer. Encrypt sensitive documents and set your electronic device security to require a password, your thumbprint, or facial recognition for additional safety.
Handling property damage
Unfortunately, you may encounter some damage to your home, car or other important property when recovering from a natural disaster. Some things to consider include reporting property damage to your insurance company or agent as soon as you can. Don’t throw away damaged goods or make major repairs until a claims adjuster visits your residence. Also, keep receipts for emergency repairs and take photos of the damages if you can. Keep in mind there is available Federal assistance with natural disasters from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This may include special loans for homeowners, small business owners, or farmers that can be used to repair or replace damaged property. Besides dealing with property damage you may encounter some financial difficulties while recovering from a natural disaster. If you think you cannot make your loan payments or bills on time due to a natural disaster, immediately contact your lender. Paying your debts late or not at all can result in penalties, interest charges, and damage to your credit score. It is important to contact your lender as soon as possible to explain your situation. Your lender should be able to work with you on a solution.
Lastly natural disasters cause many issues that are difficult and regrettably fraudsters can make matters even worse. They will try to take advantage of these situations to steal money and valuable information. If you are a disaster victim, be careful about accepting unsolicited offers to make repairs or assistance. It is especially important to avoid offers that pressure you to act quickly. Sometimes fraudsters pretend to be representing a charitable organization, so be sure to only deal with charities you are familiar with or have researched thoroughly. Some fraudsters attempt to use the name of a reputable charity and then attempt to direct you to a fake website to steal money and financial information. Do not release your personal or financial information unless you are certain the lender, entity, or person you are dealing with is legitimate.
As you can see It is important to prepare yourself from the financial impact of a natural disaster. These steps can help ease the challenge of restoring or replacing your property after a catastrophic event.