If you are facing a natural disaster and must shelter in place then follow the steps below to best prepare to protect your finances while you ride out the event and recover.
Depending on how bad the event is, it might be a day, weeks or months before your financial life returns to some degree of normalcy.
Financially preparing for the disaster can help to minimize the financial damage while you concentrate on dealing with the emotional turmoil and surviving.
The steps below are not as extreme as some you might see on a doomsday prepper website or television show, just good common sense advice to help you deal with unexpected supernatural debt.
Do This Before You Must Hunker Down
Gather Important Items
Gather all the important items below and put them in a small watertight box, even a tupperware container or a big ziploc plastic bag will do. However a heavy metal box like a small safe or strongbox has it’s advantages as well.
Wherever you feel is the safest place in your home to shelter, take that bag or box of important items with you and sit on it or hold it down. If your home blows away, the important items above must stay with you.
We don’t know how long ATMs or bank branches may be out of order following a disaster. If you have time before you take shelter, go to the ATM and take out as much cash as you can.
Following a massive disaster you may need things and the plastic card payment infrastructure may be out of commission. You can never have too much cash on hand.
But don’t recklessly spend that cash. You don’t know when you will be able to replenish it so trust it like the most precious thing in the world.
And while you are focused on the bank, move enough money from your emergency fund or savings into your checking account to prevent you from drawing on very expensive overdraft lines. It’s best to avoid dipping into any overdraft facility your bank may provide. It’s a money maker for the bank and a money loser for you.
Increase Your Cell Phone Plan
If a disaster hits you are most likely going to be reliant on your cell or mobile phone. If you have a limited plan the chances are you are going to run over your available minutes. If you do then you will be charged for overage at very expensive rates. It would be better to call your mobile provider in advance and discuss increasing your plan till life gets back to normal.
Speaking of your cell phone, make sure you have the phone charger with you. Also grab a power strip as well so you can plug multiple chargers into your power strip when you find access to power if the disaster strikes. Access to power, even in a shelter, will be limited.
Laptop or Tablet
Grab your laptop or tablet computer and keep it nearby. You’ll need it later to check on your financial affairs if you are displaced after the disaster.
Make Sure All Important Insurance Payments Have Already Been Made
Before the disaster strikes, make sure all of your home, car, flood, health, and life insurance policies are current and payments are up to date. If a payment is coming up soon, make it early. The last thing we want is for your policy to inadvertently lapse and have coverage denied when you need it most.
Gather all your valuable jewelry and small valuable collectibles, like coin collections, and have them ready and handy to take with you if you must leave. Things like jewelry and coin collections can be pawned if you need cash later.
If you have enough time to login to the U.S. Post Office website and put a stop to your mail temporarily, do it. If the worst case outcome happens and your home is damaged and you have to relocate, we don’t the post office to put important mail in your mailbox when you are not around. The post office will hold your mail for free for up to 30 days.
To put a temporary hold on your mail, use this form.
If You Must Evacuate
Be sure to take your important papers with you if you have to leave your home after the disaster.