My family went on a three-week road trip during the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school. The day before we left, an earthquake in California affected power — and bank networks — across Western states. Even though I lived in Idaho, my family went hours without power. And when we left for our trip the next day, we soon discovered that we couldn’t withdraw money from the ATM.
It wasn’t a few days later when we nearly got to the Mississippi before we could withdraw cash from our bank accounts. Luckily, my parents had cash already, and their credit cards worked the second day. If my parents hadn’t been willing to lend me money due to the emergency situation, though, I would have been out of luck for souvenir buying and clothing shopping.
The large-scale disasters populating the news in recent news have my thoughts once again returning to that trip — and wondering if my money would be prepared for an emergency in my local area.
Financial Information Items to Have Readily Available During an Emergency
If you have to leave in a hurry, or if a natural disaster renders your area without power, it is important to be prepared with some financial information. Things you should have readily accessible, perhaps in a central, safe place, including:
- Cash: Figure out how much you need, and keep it in a container that is water proof and fire resistant. Do not use it for daily needs. Keep it with your emergency preparedness items, or in some other place that is not obvious, but that you can get to quickly if you need to leave.
- Pocket book: Your wallet, purse or pocket book should be easy to get. It should have things you use every day, such as picture ID, credit cards, some cash (that you use every day) and health insurance cards.
- Passport: You might need this. Know where it is so that you can grab it quickly.
- Connectivity device: This can be a cell phone, or a tablet computer. Try to keep these items charged. You can also buy charges that hand crank. You never know when the power will be out for a while.
- List of important financial numbers: If you feel comfortable with the security of your connectivity device, you can store numbers for banks, credit cards, mortgage lender, auto lender, utility companies, insurance companies and other important financial service providers on the device. In any case, you should also have this information written down and kept in a safe place that is quickly accessible. You’ll need this if you can’t re-charge your phone or iPad battery.
- Account numbers: You might need your account numbers. I actually have my most important account memorized, and they are password protected on an electronic device as well. You can write them down, but use a scrambling method or code so that they aren’t easily available to someone who gets a hold of them.
Protecting Important Financial and Personal Documents
Original copies of insurance policies, personal documents (like birth certificates), retirement plans, account lists with contact numbers, and other important documents should be stored safely, in a more permanent location. A waterproof fire safe is often a good choice. This way, your important papers will remain safe during a natural disaster, where you can retrieve them later.
With natural disasters happening more frequently these days, how prepared are you if in the event that it happens to you?