Your 7-Step Natural Disaster Checklist for Financial Security

New York Financial Planner Insurance
The Island Packet, Jay Karr/AP Photo. Beach goers watch waves generated by Hurricane Sandy along a breezy Coligny Beach Park on Hilton Head Island, S.C., Saturday morning, Oct. 27, 2012.

Hurricane Sandy affected over 8 million people in the Tri-State area when it made landfall on October 29, 2012.  Millions in New York and New Jersey lost power, as well as access to food and hot water.

Before the unexpected hits your area, consider the following natural disaster checklist to build a firewall around your finances before a natural disaster occurs.

1.  Investigate Local Natural Disaster Risks

Do you live in a flood-prone area?  Could your area be at risk for wildfires?  Talk with your county or related representatives to find out.  Also, ask a local homeowners or renters insurance agent – they can quickly give you this information.

2.  Insure Yourself

Once you find out which natural disasters typically threaten your area, insure yourself.  In particular, against natural disasters with a high probability rate in your area.  Insurance exists for nearly every type of disaster – including floods and earthquakes.  Protect yourself before the unthinkable likely happens.

3.  Protect Your Property

Visit redcross.org or fema.gov for tips on protecting your physical property against common natural disasters in your area.  Their recommendations include sealing basements with waterproofing compounds and installing “check valves” to prevent floodwater from backing up your drains.

4.  Protect Your Valuables

Valuables range from costly jewelry to precious family pictures.  Consider purchasing a safe or other secure lockbox to store your valuables.  Also consider duplicating or scanning one of a kind items like family pictures, and storing the copy at another location.  Insurance may also be available for certain types of personal items.

5.  Scan Important Documents

Services such as Carbonite and Dropbox can be used to securely back up your computer and store documents online so that they’re accessible from another computer.  Seriously consider scanning insurance documents, personal identification documents, and banking information so that you can reach them if a natural disaster forces you to move to another location.

6.  Autopay Critical Bills

The last thing that you may think about after a natural disaster is paying your bills.  While companies like credit card companies try to waive late fees if a serious emergency hits, save yourself the worry and concern by setting up automatic payment for critical bills.  It’ll be one less thing to worry about as you pick up the pieces.

7.  Emergency Savings

Insurance companies won’t pay you immediately after a disaster hits.  As a result, you need money to pay for hotel and transportation costs plus other expenses until insurance pays you according to your policy terms.  4-6 months of savings stored in a money market or CD is generally recommended.

As the East coast picks up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy, remember that you can prepare yourself and hopefully prevent a natural disaster from becoming a financial disaster.

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