Are You Prepared for a Disaster?

You never think a disaster will happen to you and then it actually does. Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, house fire, and theft are just a few of the things that can turn your world upside-down in a matter of seconds. Disasters hit us harder because we work from our homes. Are you prepared for the worst?

Do you have an emergency fund?

When you’re depositing money in an account each month it seems pointless. After I was displaced by a tornado a couple of weeks ago, I have a renewed energy for saving up an emergency fund. This money is critical when a disaster affects your life. You can use it to pay for a hotel, buy new clothes, pay any insurance deductibles, or fund any other expense that comes up.

Do you have the right insurance?

If you’re a renter, you should have renters insurance to cover at least the contents of your home. Some renters insurance policies will pay for a certain number of nights in a hotel if necessary.

Homeowners should have homeowners insurance. If you still have a mortgage, your lender probably requires you to have this insurance. If you fully own your home, you still need insurance to cover damage to your home as well as the contents inside your home.

Auto insurance is also important. Liability coverage will pay for damages you cause to another vehicle, but not damage to your vehicle resulting from a storm, fire, or other catastrophe.

Review all your policies periodically to make sure they’re current and that the coverage limits still meet your needs.

Do you have copies of important documents somewhere else?

This is one step I wish I’d taken in preparation for a disaster. It’s a good idea to have front and back copies of your driver’s license, social security card, insurance cards, and credit cards. A copy of a blank check could also come in handy if you don’t haven’t memorized your bank account information. Copies of contracts are important.

These copies should be somewhere outside your home so you can get to them if you need to. A fireproof safe isn’t enough – it could be lost in a storm or stolen. You could place these documents in a safe deposit box – some banks offer them for free with certain types of accounts. Or you could scan them and store them on your computer or thumb drive.

Do you have cash on hand?

Right after the storm, there were more than 400,000 homes in Alabama without power. Some smaller stores opened up to make sales, but no power meant no credit or debit card transactions. Only people with cash were able to buy snacks, batteries, and other non-perishable necessities. Always keep a small amount of cash on hand, about $200 in varying denominations, just in case you lose your debit card or you’re not able to use it.

Do you have gas in your vehicle?

Gas stations that weren’t directly affected by the storm were closed because of the widespread power outage. The closest gas stations had dozens of vehicles lined up. You may have to drive to get internet access to send off work or let clients know you’ll be late, so keep gas in your vehicle. I’ve resolved to fill up whenever I get around a quarter to a third of a tank of gas.

Of course, this is not a complete list of things you should do to prepare for an emergency. But, many other lists just tell you to make sure you have things like batteries, non-perishable food, a mattress in a safe place, etc. Have you ever experienced a disaster in your freelance career?

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LaToya Irby is a full-time freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Alabama. She primarily writes about personal finance, freelancing, and other self-employment topics.

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