With all the disasters that have happened recently, it never hurts to make sure that we are prepared for the worst. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all provide checklists to help you get started.
Those lists are the essentials of tangible items for personal survival, but there are also items that are even more personal in nature. Make sure you have identification (driver’s license and/or passport) with you at all times. Gather your family’s medications in their bottles so you can get emergency refills. Have photocopies of your birth certificate, driver’s license, Social Security and Medicare cards, power of attorney and will, insurance, deeds and any marriage, adoption or naturalization certificates stored in a plastic bag. You need to have your banking and investment information, but be sure to keep your pin numbers in a separate location.
You should always back up your computer, and now would be a good time to start using a cloud service for back-ups. If your house is flooded or destroyed by fire, that back-up disk in another room won’t be helping you. In addition, set your back-ups to happen automatically, at least on a daily basis.
I also recommend storing an electronic scanned copy of your essential papers and documents all in one folder on the cloud. Just be sure someone outside the geographic area knows how to access that folder. Check with advisers, CPA, attorney, etc. about their secure storage of your information.
Review your insurance coverage to be sure all your property is appropriately protected. Take lots of deliberate photos or a video of your home, vehicles, etc., and store them in that cloud folder with essential documents.
Other personal items to gather would include spare eyeglasses and toiletries, including soap, shampoo,
toothpaste and toothbrushes, and then a first aid kit, including Band-Aids, antibiotic lotion, antiseptic wipes, Q-tips, etc. Be sure to check the websites of the organizations referenced above for more specific details.
In addition, some cash would be advisable as ATMs and banks may be out of commission. Have enough cash for a few days and include small bills and coins in case you need to buy something out of a vending machine. ATMs out of the disaster zone should provide access to funds after the initial situation clears.
Making a family disaster plan before it happens is less stressful than in the moment. When you are packing, prepare a separate bag for each member of your family. Hopefully you won’t ever need to use these emergency measures. But if you do, we can all learn from what the Boy Scouts have taught us – “Be prepared.”
Sharon Pryse, chairman and founder of The Trust Company, may be reached at email@example.com.