A Financial Checklist For Natural Disaster
- Tracy East
August 31, 2017
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Most of us are aware, at least in general ways, of how to prepare for a pending natural disaster. We may know how to board up our homes to protect them from hurricanes, purchase bottled water when a storm is coming, stock up on non-perishable food items and make sure we have batteries on hand for flashlights. Beyond those basics, preparing for a disaster is not typically on our minds. We often assume that the chances aren’t very high that anything will happen.
In the wake of a disaster, there are many things to consider, especially financial matters that can have a long term impact. We’ve prepared a financial checklist to help if the worst ever happens.
As a non-profit credit counseling agency, CESI is here to help if you’re struggling with financial hardship following a natural disaster. Please contact us or visit our financial resources page for more information.
Prepare Before Disaster Strikes
- Create and keep an electronic and hard-copy list that includes contact information for everyone you would need to contact following a disaster, and back it up to the cloud should your computer be damaged or lost. This list should include insurance companies, utility companies, and all creditors. Make sure to include your account numbers and any other information that you would need to identify your account.
- Build an emergency fund that you can access quickly in the event of a disaster where you may need cash. You won’t want to wait for payouts from stocks, bonds or a CD. A simple savings account for emergencies will allow you to access cash quickly if you need it.
- Take photos of property, cars, and household items of value in the event any belongings sustain damage during the storm. Having a complete inventory will help with your insurance claims.
Financial “To-Do’s” Following a Natural Disaster
- Have cash resources on hand since many places may be out of power and require cash for purchases. A home safe or locked fire-box can help you protect any cash you keep in your home.
- Contact your flood and home insurance companies and file insurance claims.
- Know what your policy covers and provides for your family in the recovery period, such as reimbursement for living expenses.
- Keep an inventory of all your belongings to provide to your insurance company. If possible, your inventory should include photos. Keep these photos and inventory in a safe location (not just on your home computer) and back them up to the cloud if possible so you have them when you need them.
- Contact all of your utility companies if your residence is uninhabitable so any charges can be stopped.
- Contact all creditors, including your mortgage company, auto lender, and credit card companies.
- If the disaster will have any impact on your ability to make timely payments to creditors, they should be informed quickly.
- Many creditors will waive later fees for those residing in areas impacted by a natural disaster. In extreme cases, payments may be deferred for a period of time. Be sure to ask if there are hardship programs you may qualify for.
- Request a copy of your credit report from all three of the credit reporting agencies. This can be done for free at com once every 12 months.
- In the months following a disaster, should your ability to make payments impact your credit report, you can add a 100-word statement to your credit report to explain how a natural disaster has disrupted your life and ability to make creditor payments. (This doesn’t protect your credit rating, but it may help your circumstances and influence future lending decisions.)
- Beware of post disaster scam artists and how to protect yourself from fraud.
- If you feel uncomfortable, just say “no”.
- Always be cautious when wiring money.
Access Resources for Assistance
- Know your resources for finding help after a disaster:
- Contact your state and county offices of emergency preparedness.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Visit fema.gov or reach FEMA by phone at 800.480.2520.
- American Red Cross: Visit redcross.org and enter your zip code in the “Find Your Local Red Cross” area or select “Plan and Prepare” to see many more facts and tips on disaster preparedness. Call your local chapter for more specific information. Download disaster-specific apps for your smartphone at redcross.org/ prepare/mobile-apps.
- Salvation Army: Visit salvationarmyusa.org for more information.
- Volunteers of America- Call 800.899.0089 or visit voa.org for more information.
- Research special programs that apply to your family, such as veteran benefits if you qualify.
- You could be eligible for a monthly benefit. For more information, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website at va.gov.