Here in Florida, we think about the weather. A lot. We think about how to prepare our homes and families to stay safe and secure through tropical storms, hurricanes, severe rainstorms and flooding, and even tornados. We think about weather forecasts and evacuation routes. We think about caring for our pets during and after a storm. We plan, prepare, and practice so we are ready for any weather condition.
During all of this, we may overlook one more important area – financial preparedness. By this, we mean having all of your insurance and financial documents as well as cash on hand and easily accessible after a storm. This is important because you may need to file an insurance claim, may need to replace lost credit cards, or may need access to cash if the power goes out or if banks limit withdrawls.
The state of Florida has prepared an excellent Emergency Financial Preparedness Toolkit that you can download and fill out. In addition to policy numbers, insurance cards, and key financial contacts, this toolkit has space to log insurance claims details, as well as the status of claims and repairs – which can be crucial to track during stressful times. The kit also has plenty of space to document your assets and belongings which will help you secure appropriate reimbursement values. We recommend taking plenty of photos and videos of your possessions as well to help support your written list.
Now is also a great time to meet with your insurance agent to be sure you have enough coverage for your home and family. Be sure to discuss long-term housing options, flood recovery, preferred contractor endorsements, and other storm-related coverage.
Keep a copy of this completed toolkit in a waterproof bag in your home emergency kit along with other vital documents such as birth certificates, passports, titles/deeds, wills, etc. If you have to evacuate, be sure to take your emergency kit (and these financial documents) with you. As a backup, you may want to keep copies of the toolkit in your car and maybe even your workplace. This way, if you can’t get to your home emergency kit, you will still have access to vital financial information when needed.
Forbes also recommends setting up a hurricane savings account to help you pay for unexpected storm-related expenses such as food/lodging and gas. If you can save only $40 per week, you will have more than $2,000 set aside in just one year that you can readily access if needed.
Here are some other important resources that you may need during or after a storm:
• Florida Department of Financial Services Insurance Consumer Helpline 1.877.MY.FL.CFO (1.877.693.5236)
• Department of Financial Services Storm Hotline 1.800.22.STORM (1.800.227.8676)
• State of Florida Emergency Information 1.800.342.3557
• Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Worksheet (PDF)
• Financial Emergency Information Sheet (PDF)
• Be Prepared for a Financial Emergence (PDF)
• Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) (PDF)
• Safeguard Critical Documents and Valuables (PDF)
Being prepared on many levels helps all Floridians stay safe and recover faster during a weather-related emergency. Taking steps now to be sure you have immediate access to your key financial information is one of those levels that just may help you the most.