Spring is coming to Minnesota. I promise. We know our spring weather can turn violent with thunderstorms and tornados. We’ve all watched the unfortunate turmoil that Houston, Texas and the entire state of Florida have experienced in the last year from hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Many residents had very little time to prepare and, by the time they did, everyone else was also in a frenzy to do so.
Do you know what you would do if your house was suddenly under water? Ravaged by a tornado? Went up in flames?
According to CNBC, about 60% of people are not prepared for a disaster, and according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8 in 10 Americans live in places that have been hit by a weather-related disaster. If you are one of the 60%, here are some tips to prepare for a disaster ahead of time so you won’t have to worry as much if it happens to you.
Safeguard Documents: If you are using an old file cabinet to keep your documents, it probably will not withstand a flood or fire. Using a fireproof and waterproof safe is a much better option, and is conveniently kept in your home as opposed to a safety deposit box at a local bank.
Keep in mind, in a natural disaster, your bank might also be affected. They are also not open on Sundays, late nights, or holidays. Items to keep in your safe might be deeds, insurance policies, safety deposit box keys, passports, birth certificates, social security cards, titles, and wills.
Try to buy one that gives you at least 30 minutes of fire protection, and be sure they are water-tight if you are in a flood zone. The more features a safe has, the more expensive it will be to purchase. You can find them at local home improvement stores like Lowes or Home Depot, or buy them online from Amazon or other retailers.
Use A Cloud: While a safe is great at keeping original documents, and I would still recommend getting one and using it if you don’t have one, it never hurts to keep electronic copies. Depending on the disaster, you may not be able to get back in to your house right away. So, while your documents are safe, they are not necessarily available immediately.
Cloud storage is the safest way to store your documents because you can access them from any computer or device. Many at-home printers have scanner features now, so you can start backing up your documents and storing them on your computer and cloud.
It’s important to remember that sometimes disasters happen when we are away from home, too. If your passport is lost or stolen, it will be easier to replace if you go to an embassy with a scanned copy.
Cloud services are available to purchase. Make sure that whatever form of cloud storage you use has encryption so your documents are protected from others’ viewing. Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud are not necessarily encrypted and could be hacked, giving strangers access to valuable and sensitive personal information. Consider paying for a monthly cloud service (some are as low as $7-$10 a month) that offers encryption services.
If you are a client of ours, we are happy to scan any important documents you have and keep them in your file. Our databases are protected by an encrypted cloud service here at the office, and we have the ability to share your documents with you via your Investor360 account. Did you know Investor360 has an app now too? You’ll never be without access to your documents, even if you aren’t at home.
Don’t have an Investor360 account yet? Call our office to get signed up.
Check Your Insurance Policy: Make sure you have enough insurance (and the right kind!) to rebuild your home, if you need to. This is a very common problem. Many homeowners might have an insurance policy, but often it does not reflect the current value of what’s in their home.
If you bought your policy many years ago and never bothered to look at it again or update it, you may no longer have enough coverage to replace your home and everything in it should disaster strike.
Another common slipup is not having flood coverage. Most insurance policies cover wind damage, but water damage is atypical. You will need a separate flood insurance policy to cover your home.
Home Inventory: If you’re like most homeowners, you’ve probably acquired some pricey items over the years such as jewelry, electronics, snowmobiles, etc. Without a good home inventory, it could be hard to replace them. Keeping descriptions, photos, serial numbers, and receipts of these items and keeping them in your safe or cloud storage is the best way to ensure you are getting back the value of these items.
There are also home inventory services available, such as Sortly, or Home Contents – Easy Home Inventory apps. These can be downloaded to your smartphone or tablet and in a few hours, your entire home can be documented. There are several other services that offer a low, monthly fee service to store your serial numbers and other sensitive data alongside your belongings.
If you are well-documented, it will be much easier to go to your insurance company and file a claim. Again, electronically documenting is much safer than keeping them in a notebook or file that could become damaged or that you may not have immediate access to.
Disasters are stressful. But being prepared makes them less stressful and more manageable. It can be a daunting task, but worthwhile. Share this idea with a friend or family member and help each other get prepared. Hold each other accountable. It can be just as stressful if someone else experiences a disaster and needs your help. We can’t predict disaster, but we can prepare. If you need any recommendations or have any questions on disaster preparation, my door is always open.
You can also check out the Department of Homeland Security for additional emergency preparedness.