I live in Paradise with palm trees, an ocean breeze and hurricanes. But you don't have to live in Florida to create emergency plans for your home and money. Unfortunately, wild fires, high winds and floods can happen anywhere.
Based on that reality, the following release about emergency plans for money apply to all of us:
"Hurricane Season starts June 1, and while Florida was spared from a major storm the last two years, many Floridians have already begun preparing for what could be a very active 2008 season. You may have already stocked up on batteries and bottled water, tested the generator, and planned an evacuation route, but have you thought about how you will manage financially should a storm come our way?
"The economic impact of a major hurricane will be felt long after the storm has passed," said Jessica Cecere, president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast (CCCS). "Proper financial preparation and follow-through can make the difference between surviving a natural disaster and being financially devastated by one."
CCCS offers tips to help families weather the storm:
Start an emergency savings account. Most experts recommend having a minimum of three to six months of living expenses in an emergency fund. This fund can provide financial security in the event a hurricane hits, and can greatly reduce the stress of recovering from a major storm or other disaster. These funds can be used to make disaster repairs, cover insurance deductibles, or pay monthly bills if your income is interrupted by job loss.
Review your insurance coverage. Review your policy and make sure you have the proper amount of coverage to repair or replace your home and belongings. Pay special attention to deductibles that apply to specific events, such as hurricanes, which can be a percentage of your home's value. Also review your flood coverage, which must often be purchased separately from your homeowner's insurance. You do not want to be in the position where you need coverage that you thought you had, but do not.
Secure critical documents. Take some time to make sure that your critical documents are in a safe, secure place and could be taken with you if you have to evacuate. Collect critical paper records and if you have records on your computer, be sure to make a backup and store it away from your home. Documents you will want to secure include identification records (driver's license, green card, passport); social security and tax information; titles, deeds, and registrations for property and vehicles owned; insurance policies; credit card, bank and investment records; birth certificates, marriage certificates, and wills. Invest in a fire-proof box or safe-deposit box to keep these records secure.
Review your "what if" scenarios and make a plan. What if your place of employment is damaged and will close either for a few weeks or indefinitely? What if your employer is ready to reopen but schools are still closed and you don't have a place to bring your children? What if your home is damaged and no longer safe to live in? It is a good idea to think about all the ways the storm could impact your life and what you would do if that happened.
For example, if your place of employment will not reopen for weeks or months, do you have an emergency savings fund to carry you through? Is there another place you could work in the meantime? The rebuilding effort following a storm often creates new job opportunities. Talk to friends and neighbors about sharing the childcare responsibilities until school reopens so that you all miss as little work as possible.
"With the prediction by NOAA of up to 16 named storms and 5 major hurricanes, chances are good that we will find ourselves in the recovery process this year," said Cecere. "While we can't disaster-proof our community, we can be prepared to handle the challenges the storm leaves behind."
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