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Disaster Preparedness and Your Finances

Disaster Preparedness

September is National Preparedness Month, intended to promote family and community disaster preparedness planning. As summer winds down, we know to expect; wildfires in California; tornados and derechos in the Midwest; hurricanes on the Southern and Eastern shorelines. The news programs show survivors of these terrible events and our hearts break but we don’t think it could happen to us -but we didn’t see a pandemic coming last year, either. While we cannot control the uncontrollable, we can prepare for the unpredictable -- and your finances are part of disaster preparedness planning.

I once worked as an assistant store manager for a big box store and twice a week I was responsible for closing the store. One evening all the registers and the main computer went offline without warning. We couldn’t accept credit/debit cards for sales and we couldn’t post payments for store credit cards. Soon the calls rolled in from other stores in our shopping center; the entire credit card grid was down for twenty square blocks. When I was the closing manager, my normal routine was to run to the closest grocery store to grab some dinner before the other managers left for the evening. That day I only had my debit card…no cash, which meant no dinner, no bottled water, no snack…no nothing. I had an epiphany—I couldn’t eat plastic. From then on I brought my meals from home…just in case. This was only an annoyance but it taught me that things can change without warning.

We don’t always get a warning before a disaster but there are some ways we can be ready should one occur. You can also check out our Guide to Planning for a Natural Disaster eBook for more information.

Disaster Preparedness Tips

A good disaster plan includes:

  • A meeting place that everyone in your family knows about; Ideally you should have one for outside your home as well as outside of your immediate neighborhood in case it is necessary to get further away. Make sure to plan who’s responsible for kids, elderly parents, disabled family members, and pets. Consider using an emergency plan for communication with your family to ensure you’ve covered all the basics.
  • Have extra medication, eyeglasses (contacts), batteries, flashlights, and cell phone chargers for your vehicle. Keep icepacks and coolers ready for any meds and food that needs to stay refrigerated.
  • Have your important financial papers and documents in one place, preferably in a plastic zip bag so you can “grab and go”.Make sure to include: bank account information and extra checks, birth certificates, passports, and photo ID’s for each family member, Insurance papers, mail with proof of address. For more financial disaster preparedness tips visit ready.gov financial preparedness.
  • Personal sanitary supplies (we all found out the hard way how important toilet paper is), hygiene items (like pre-moistened wipes), and fresh fully stocked first aid kit. For more information about building an emergency kit, you can visit ready.gov
  • Valuable items and jewelry.
  • And last but not least, CASH! As you save money in your checking or bank accounts, from time to time pull out a little bit of cash and put it in a safe place that you’ll remember when you need it (a lockable fire box with your financial papers is a great place.) Try to have enough on hand for two day’s worth of meals and to be able to fill your tank a few times. That should be sufficient to get you away from a disaster zone.

With everything we have to think about, deal with, adjust to, planning ahead for a disaster might seem like one more thing you don’t want to add to your plate. But please, consider doing it anyway. Disaster preparation can mean the difference between life and death. Don’t be caught unprepared!


Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today.

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