As you collect W2s, 1099s and other tax documents, take a few extra steps to prepare an emergency financial first-aid kit. You never know when a pandemic, blackout, superstorm, fire or cyberattack will come.
The waterproof kit should contain essential documents you will need to reconstruct your financial life after a disaster — and also to help you get through one.
“Some docs you’ll need right away, and others you might not need right away but are difficult to replace,” said Neal Stern, a certified public accountant. “Some you have to have the original; some, a copy will suffice.”
Keep originals of identification: driver’s and marriage licenses, birth certificates, passports and Social Security cards, he said.
After a disaster, you may have to re-establish your ID, replace credit cards, complete a change-of-address form or apply for government assistance. Copies of those items could be kept in a secure cloud storage service, he added.
“If you can’t document who you are, it’ll be hard to get help,” said Stern, who is a member of the AICPA National CPA Financial Literacy Commission.
When people do get prepared for a disaster, said Jim Judge, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council, “oftentimes the financial side is not what people pay attention to.”
Judge keeps his important documents in a small plastic bin under his bed. He also stores money. “Cash is king,” he said, especially if the power is out and ATMs are not working.
Adam Levin, the ex-director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs who lost a house to Superstorm Sandy, recommended also creating a digital file of documents.
He suggests keeping digital copies of key financial documents on an encrypted waterproof USB flash drive. “If your bug-out kit gets into the wrong hands, it could be a nightmare,” he cautioned.
Adapted from the New York Post.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.
Before the Storm:
During the Storm:
After the Storm:
LA Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, Tips for Power Outages, Emergency Preparedness for Pets, NOAA Hurricane Center, Prepare Your Business for Catastrophic Storms, Ready.gov Hurricane Resources, American Red Cross.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has documented tornado activity in every state in America and on every continent in the world, excluding Antarctica.
Given the proper atmospheric conditions, a tornado can strike anywhere. Wherever you live, keep your home and family safe by executing the proper preparedness strategies before a severe storm strikes. Use these simple tips to learn how to prepare for tornadoes to keep your people and property protected this season.
Tornadoes can form without much of a warning. Stay alert and pay attention when a tornado watch or warning is issued in your area. If you see any of the following danger signs, take shelter immediately:
Properly preparing your home for disaster is one of the easiest ways to keep your family safe in case of a tornado. You’ll be more likely to know where to go for shelter, have the supplies you need to survive, and experience less risk of property damage during and after the tornado passes your area. Follow these key safety tips to make your property as safe as possible:
1. Designate a safe room. This area can either be a storm cellar, a basement or a room on the lowest level of your home or building without any windows, like a closet. This room should be reinforced by a professional to provide extra protection during severe storms.
2. Put essentials in your safe room. An emergency kit full of food, water, important documents and life-saving supplies should always be readily available in your safe room. Keep extra clothing, blankets, a battery-powered radio, medication, a first aid kit, pet supplies and any other essentials in your safe room in the event you need to wait out the tornado for long periods of time.
3. Remove outdoor items. Debris, dead trees and furniture are likely to get picked up by the wind and thrown into your home. Secure or remove as many outdoor items on your property as possible.
4. Reinforce your home. Call a professional to reinforce any masonry walls or other structures that provide support to your home. If you have a chimney, have the professionals secure it with reinforced steel to prevent it from falling off during high winds. Professionals can also assess your home and make recommendations to add additional strength and stability.
5. Contact your insurance agent. It’s important to understand what kind of damage is and isn’t covered under your homeowner’s insurance. If you need to add any extra items to your policy, do so before a tornado has a chance to hit your area.
There are serval items which are often overlooked when preparing for storm season. In addition to developing a plan of action and photographing your home and valuables, consider taking the following measures:
1. Prescription medications (2-4 week supply).
2. Non-prescription drugs (aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever).
3. Extra pair of prescription glasses or contacts.
4. Mosquito repellent / sunscreen.
5. Pet medications (2-4 week supply).
6. Pet cage (if traveling with pet).
7. Emergency phone numbers.
8. Important documents (insurance/passports/Soc. Security card, medical records)
9. Home PC backup disks/drive
10. Antibacterial wipes/wet wipes.
11. $100-$300 in extra cash (small bills)
12. Extra set of car/house keys
13. Disposable diapers
14. Feminine supplies
15. Personal hygiene items (toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap)
16. Toys/games for kids (deck of cards or a roll of construction paper and crayons).
Food / Water/Cooking:
1. Water – 1-2 gal/person for 7 days
2. Nonperishable food – enough for 7 days (peanut butter, bread, canned goods, protein bars)
3. Camp stove and extra fuel
4. Ice chest(s)
5. Extra charcoal/propane for BBQ pit
6. Disposable plates/cups/utensils/napkins
8. Aluminum foil
9. Garbage bags
Other Preparedness Tips:
1. Sit down with your family and develop a plan in case of a hurricane.
2. Take pictures or video of your house and valuables for insurance claims.
3. Prepare shutters or other coverings for doors and windows
4. Reinforce roof trusses
5. Examine and repair roof shingles
6. Caulk openings, flashings and soffits
7. Reinforce entry doors and collect exterior covering as required.
8. Replace hard mulch with soft material
9. Buy and install a backflow-prevention device in your sewer line
10. Trim trees and shrubs
11. Purchase a generator, gas cans, CO detectors and extension cords
12. Decide how to tie down large outdoor equipment
13. Reinforce or replace your garage door. Garage door bracing hardware: www.securedoor.com.
14. Purchase supplies for cleanup and repair
15. Purchase a road atlas. In times of evacuation you will need to develop plans on how to escape depending on advice from your local Emergency Management. Knowing the routes out of town and beyond is very important. Also don’t rely solely on a GPS, if everybody follows the same set of standardized directions on their GPS systems then there is going to be mass congestion. Instead plan a route, and a set of alternate routes by hand ahead of time and save yourself a lot of trouble.
16. A solar powered charging device for electronic products such as phones and tablets may be handy to have. A source to purchase these: www.solio.com.
Finally, take the following points into consideration:
1. Prepare now. You are at risk of some form of disaster. Keep a “Go Bag” of key items (clothes, meds, docs, digital backups).
2. Pet food, medications and crates should readily available should you need to evacuate quickly.
3. Establish out-of-area contact for your family. This reduces phone calls, streamlines check-ins and eases fears of your family members.
4. Make a plan for when you’re at home, at work, at school, in transit. Make sure you have access to “Go Bag”.
5. Educate yourself with your specific local hazards. These will vary greatly in different parts of the country and even from community to community.
6. Is one form of communications down? Try another. Text messages often get out, however, they will likely be delayed due to cell towers being overloaded or down. So, if your phone call fails, try sending a text. Add backup charging sources & cords to your “Go Bag” .
7. Once your area is under an Evacuation Order, leave and do not go back. You’re not just risking your life, but also rescue staff if you need to be rescued. In fact, rescue companies will likely not respond to your rescue call during the worst part of the hurricane due to their own safety and standard operation procedures.