Across the country, September is recognized as National Preparedness Month to encourage Americans to prepare for disasters or emergencies in their homes, businesses and communities. A disaster can present itself at any time, but if properly prepared, you can protect your family and business from significant impact. At USAmeriBank, we pride ourselves in serving our customers and the communities in which they live. We look to provide more than just financial services, our team actively pitches in, lends a helping hand, and works to improve the lives of those in need. In observance of National Preparedness Month, our team has compiled a list of tips to help you protect your family and business.
- Build an Emergency Kit – Spend some time and think about your family and what they may need to survive if a disaster happened that left you without access to the resources we are accustom to on a daily basis. What would you need if the power was out for multiple days or if you could not go to the store to purchase provisions. At a minimum, include a first aid kit, flashlights, batteries, a manual can opener, a radio, and at least 3 days of food and water.
- Protect Your Documents – If a disaster does happen you may need to have a collection of documents to gain access to bank accounts or to file a claim. Gather you family’s birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage licenses, property deeds, wills, insurance policies, passports, social security cards, car titles, bank and investment account numbers and three years of tax returns.Put each of these documents in a sealed plastic bag to keep out moisture and place in a safe deposit box.
- Gather Names and Numbers – Mobile phones have made it harder to remember the numbers for loved ones and important contacts. Keep a written copy of names and contact numbers for your family members, healthcare providers, insurance companies, and financial institutions in a safe place. Think about multiple places to store the numbers including a safe deposit box, a close relative, or a secure online repository. Having the numbers accessible will save you days of frustration if something were to happen.
- Review Your Insurance – A lot of things can change during the course of a year. Make sure to review your individual insurance policies to determine if they still meet your needs. Changes in health, having a baby, a recent move, large purchases, or even a change in employment can all affect your need for insurance or the amounts that you are insured for.
- Take an Inventory – Spend time to inventory and make a list of your household valuables. Make sure to include jewelry, electronics, furniture, artwork, and other higher cost items. Include descriptions, purchase dates, approximate value, and photographs. The more complete the information, the easier it will be to communicate with the insurance company and expedite a claim.
- Create a Backup – Once you have centralized all your documents, it is a good idea to make a backup of the information and store at an alternative location. Create a digital copy of each item and think about where you would like to store it. There are many online document repositories that provide a limited amount of storage free of charge including Google Docs. Make sure that individual members of the family have necessary passwords just in case you are not available to provide access.
- Identify Meeting Locations – Make sure that your family has a designated meeting spot to group at depending on the disaster. If the issue is something in the home, maybe a tree across the street or a neighbor’s home. If a larger disaster, than maybe a community shelter or town government building. Having a central place to meet will provide for an easy way to regroup with your loved ones regardless of the ability to communicate.
- Know Evacuation Routes and Shelter Alternatives – Contact the local authorities and learn the potential disasters that are likely in your community – floods, earthquakes, fire, hurricanes, etc. Obtain maps and information that explain the local emergency, evacuation, and shelter plans for each specific disaster. Disasters can happen quicker than you think and having this information ready will allow you to react at a moment’s notice.
- Plan to Get Information – If a significant disaster were to happen it may leave you without power and the ability to communicate through your smart phone. Make sure you have a plan to get updates on your community. Research the agencies and local media stations that provide information for your area. Invest in a battery powered radio and know the stations for news and local information. The more information you have before, during, and after the disaster the better prepared you will be to take care of your loved ones.
- Review, Communicate, and Practice – A good plan is nothing if people don’t know the details, understand how to implement, and practice its execution. Make sure to spend some time each month to reviewing the plans with your family or team. Ensure that everyone knows their responsibilities in case of an emergency. Have a clear communication path that sparks the start of the individual tactics, ensuring that people won’t be waiting to implement. Review your disaster kit, documents, contacts, and other tools to ensure that they are current, valid, and available.
These tips are just a start in preparing your family and business for potential disasters within your community. We encourage you to participate in National Preparedness Month and create a plan to limit your risk in case of an emergency. National Preparedness Month is sponsored by the White House, Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Additional tips, checklists, and documents are available on the Department of Homeland Security preparedness campaign website, www.ready.gov. You can also learn more about preparing your financial well being by contacting USAmeriBank at 1-800-949-5666 or www.usameribank.com.