Keep in mind that I am an optimist. From my viewpoint, the glass is half full. But, just for a moment, let’s consider that other half—the empty part.
Life is good, as they say, most of the time, for most of us. Yet natural and man-made disasters can and do strike at any time. Recall the tragic headlines just in the first few weeks of the New Year — Haiti, the Olympics and University of Alabama; the devastating affects of the extreme winter weather across the Midwest and Eastern half of the U.S.
Catastrophes- big and small- just seem to be part of life.
What precautions have you taken to mitigate the damage of life’s unwelcome, if not devastating experiences? The most comforting answer lies in the tried and true Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.”
Effective preparation doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Simple measures can be taken to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers that lurk in life. Try these steps to create your own personal disaster recovery plan.
- Emergency contact information. Compile a written list that includes the names and contact information of family, friends, medical providers including your veterinarian, and insurance carriers. Store the list in multiple locations, including the home safe, car, office, bank safe deposit box and even the inside of your refrigerator which is fire and water resistant. Update the list annually.
- Duplicate records. Back-up computerized data files regularly and store them off-premises. Keep copies of important records and documents in a safe deposit box and make sure they’re up-to-date. A computer melt down qualifies as an unnatural disaster. I learned this lesson the hard way when a power outage fried my PC along with the first year of photos from my middle child’s life. I’m still sad when I think about this loss.
- Battery-operated or wind-up AM/FM radio. Maintaining a connection with the outside world can be critical in a severe disaster scenario.
- First-aid kit, including a list of important medications, if not an actual supply of medication that you cannot safely go without for a short time period.
- Supplies. Be reasonable and store basics such as bottled water, nonperishable food, matches, blankets and flashlights. Last but not least, make sure there’s an ample supply of fresh batteries.
- Camera. This is optional, yet can be an irrefutable way to document details in a way that you could never fully remember much less express in words, especially in traumatically stressful situations.
- Cash and credit card. Cash is king, especially in a crisis. Keep cash accessible but safe at home. It’s a good idea to keep cash hidden in your car too, just in case.
- Safety plan. Train the people who live under your roof to escape the house in the event of fire or other dangers, and to retreat to the safest place in the house if it’s best not to evacuate. Growing up in the Midwest, I remember routinely taking cover in the basement when the sky turned green, the wind grew eerily quiet and a tornado watch was in effect. Practice your own evacuation and safety drills, just like it’s done at schools.
- Maintain insurance coverage. One of the best ways to make sure you can recover from disasters is to have proper insurances to cover much of the cost of replacing and rebuilding what is lost or damaged. Be sure to review your property and casualty insurance policy with your agent to understand what is covered and what is not. Note that most homeowners’ policies do not cover flood or earthquake damage which means you may need separate policies for this protection, depending on where you live.
With a personal disaster recovery plan, your glass doesn’t have to be half empty. Do this for yourself, and the people you love who depend on you for their safety and well being.
Karin Maloney Stifler, CFP®
True Wealth Advisors