In August 2023, Hurricane Hilary (later downgraded to a tropical storm) hit Southern California and Mexico with unprecedented flooding, landslides and mudslides. The tropical storm warning was the region’s first-ever, and it left behind over $100 million in damage throughout Riverside County.
Research suggests there will be more frequent natural disasters in the coming years as a result of climate change. Whether it’s wildfires or blizzards in Colorado, tornadoes in the midwest, or tropical storms along the coast, what can you do to protect your family, property, and other assets? Read on for our disaster preparedness tips to protect your family and your financial well-being.
Why Disaster Preparedness Matters
If you live in Florida or South Carolina then you already know the drill. You’ve got your go-bag packed and ready. Your pantry is always stocked with bottled water, extra non-perishable food, first aid supplies, and a few bottles of wine.
But Texans weren’t prepared for the snow and ice of Winter Storm Uri in 2021. And California’s desert roads aren’t built to withstand flooding. As more crazy and unexpected things start happening, you can't be too prepared.
The number of natural disasters per year in the US is on the rise. In the last three years, the U.S. had an average of 20 “billion-dollar disasters” per year, up from 12.8 per year in the 2010s and 6.7 per year in the 2000s.
Since 1983, Colorado wildfires have caused $5 to $10 billion in damages.
In Colorado, the number of massive natural disasters costing $1 billion or more has risen over 250% in the last 3-4 decades.
You can’t control when a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake will strike . But by being prepared, you can prevent injury to your family, reduce property damage, and recover more quickly.
If you’re well prepared, you might be in a position to help others, further reducing suffering and loss in the community. And, you’ll feel less anxiety and fear knowing you’re prepared.
General Disaster Preparedness Tips
Preparing for disasters can help individuals and families stay safe and reduce the impact. Here are some tips on how to prepare for disasters:
- Pack an emergency preparedness kit. Essential items to put in an emergency kit include bottled drinking water, non-perishable food (snack bars, dried fruits, nuts, canned food, etc.), a manual can opener, first aid kit, flashlight, a blanket, a battery-powered portable radio, and extra batteries.
- Keep devices charged. Buy a power bank, travel charger, and/or car charger for your phone and other devices.
- Plan for everything. Make specific plans for things that can happen anywhere, such as home fires and floods, and also emergencies that are unique to your region, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes.
- Make a list of out-of-area emergency contacts. Know who you’ll contact first and Keep their contact information in a safe place.
- Practice evacuation plans. Practice evacuating your home twice a year and plot the best evacuation route. Know how you'll contact family and friends in an emergency.
- Plan ahead for everyone. Consider the needs of family members, including elderly, pets, children, and anyone with a disability, and plan accordingly.
- Stay informed about weather conditions and emergency alerts. Sign up for emergency notifications and follow instructions from authorities.
- Work with your community. Establish your family, friends, and neighbors as a team in the process of preparing for a disaster. Learn about past and current hazards in your area and identify meeting places. Organize a neighborhood plan for clean up afterwards.
- Take pictures of your stuff. Take pictures of all the rooms in your house, your car, and other valuables. If your property is destroyed in a disaster, you’ll have some documentation to give the insurance company.
- Keep copies of important documents. Keep insurance policies, appraisals, birth certificates, and other personal records in a secure, dry, accessible location. For example, a fireproof safe, safe deposit box, or in a secure offsite storage facility.
- Consider a home equity line of credit. If you have more than 20% home equity and a credit score of at least 620, you may be able to use a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to allow for restoring home before your insurance payments come in.
- Insure your home and belongings. Consider getting insurance that will cover your home and belongings in the event of a disaster, like flood insurance, or additional coverage for things like jewelry or art.
- Don’t run out of gas. Fill up your car with gas and get an extra gallon to keep in the trunk.
- Plan ahead for medical needs. If you, your aging parents, or any babies in the family take medication or need other medical supplies or diapers, stock up beforehand.
- Get cash to have on hand, just in case. You never know when systems will go down or you can’t access your bank.
- Don't cal 911 unless you're in danger.
Tips for Protecting Your Financial Well-Being In a Disaster
We mostly think of losing our home or property in the event of a disaster. But what about your income, aka your livelihood? Here are a few things to consider if you want to protect your ability to keep earning for your family and saving for retirement:
Do you have an emergency fund that can cover your basic living expenses for at least three months?
Does your job offer any disaster-related protections, like emergency leave or a disaster fund?
Can you work remotely, or do you have a backup plan if you can't get to your workplace?
Do you have a network of friends, family, and colleagues who could help you in a disaster?
If you’re self-employed or you own a business, do you have disaster plans in place for you and your employees? How about business interruption insurance?
Do you have disability insurance in case you’re injured in a disaster and can’t work?
You never think it’s going to happen to you…until it does. By following these steps, you and your family can be better prepared for a natural disaster and reduce the impact on your financial well-being, your retirement, and your life.
How prepared are you for retirement? Download the Essential Retirement Guide to learn the 7 things you need to do before retiring.
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