Preparing for an Emergency

Kimberly A. Evans  |  5/17/2011 1:24:42 AM

Packing a box you can grab and go in case you need to evacuate could save you from financial disasters and hardships, no matter what the possible need for leaving your home might be.

You may not be able to prevent hurricanes and storms that interrupt your routine or destroy your home, but you can make plans to keep them from disrupting everything. An evacuation box that’s ready to grab and go is one item every household should have to prevent financial disasters and other hardships.

This grab and go box may be a plastic tub, a file box, a backpack or any other durable container you would like – although a fireproof and waterproof box or a waterproof backpack are recommended.

The contents really are the important part. Just put it all in something that’s easy to store and easy to take with you, and make sure it’s something that will hold up and help to protect the valuable items you have inside.

The contents should include copies of important papers, emergency cash or traveler’s checks, lists of emergency phone numbers, safe deposit box keys and backups of computer records. It should always be packed and ready to “grab and go” in case you need to leave your home.

After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many people had a renewed sense of why it’s important for every family and every individual to have evacuation plans in place. Although everyone’s emergency plans may be a little different, there are a lot of common elements – and some sort of evacuation ‘to go’ box should be one of those elements.

Keep the box somewhere in your home where you can get to it easily. Then if you must evacuate, keep the box with you at all times.

Among the items you’ll probably want to include are:

  • Cash or traveler’s checks to cover several days’ living expenses, since power outages can make ATMs and debit cards useless.
  • Rolls of quarters for vending machines, pay phones, coin laundries and other needs.
  • Emergency phone numbers, including those to doctors, pharmacies, financial advisers, clergy, repair contractors and family members. Don’t forget to include cell phones of those who also may be away from home!
  • Copies of prescriptions for medicines and eyeglasses, copies of children’s immunization records and copies of medical, dental and prescription insurance cards (or policy information).
  • Copies of auto, flood, renter’s and/or homeowner’s insurance policies (or at least the policy numbers) as well as contact information for your local agents and the companies’ headquarters.
  • Copies of other important papers such as deeds, titles, wills, trust documents, powers of attorney, health care directives, stock and bond certificates, recent investment statements, home inventory, birth certificates, death certificates, adoption certificates, marriage certificates, passports and/or other identity documents, employee benefit documents and federal and state tax returns (at least the first two pages).
  • Backup copies of computerized financial records.
  • Keys to safe deposit box.
  • Combination to safe (if you have one).
  • Negatives or digital copies of irreplaceable personal photos.
  • Computer user names and passwords.
  • Lists of Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, driver’s license numbers, loan numbers, investment account numbers and any other important numbers.
  • List of debt obligations, due dates of payments and contact information for companies.

It’s a good idea to place papers in sealed, waterproof plastic bags.

Some planning and a few relatively simple preparations can prevent the unexpected from becoming even more disastrous.

For additional information about family financial matters or preparing for storms and hurricanes, contact Kim Evans, Extension Agent with the LaSalle Parish LSU AgCenter Extension Office. This office is located in Room 1 of the LaSalle Parish Courthouse and the telephone number is 318-992-2205.

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