OPINION — September is National Preparedness Month. It is a chance for each of us to learn the risks that we face and to take steps to protect ourselves, our families and our property.
We often view those risks as natural or man-made hazards, like flooding, tornadoes or even acts of terror and act accordingly. We create family evacuation plans, put together survival kits, protect important documents and maintain a greater awareness of our surroundings.
All of those actions are important. Unfortunately, too often we don’t take the next step and look at how all of those hazards we face could impact us financially. Natural disasters and other hazards can have the initial effect of damaging homes and property – or worse, causing harm to individuals.
But for those who were not prepared, the financial distress faced in recovery can be long lasting. For businesses, that can mean closure, for individuals it can mean delayed retirement, downsized living arrangements and dreams unfulfilled.
Those dire results don’t have to become a reality though. Individuals and businesses can defend themselves against the financial impacts of disasters. Three areas you can look at while building toward financial preparedness are insurance, savings and planning. Strengthening these three areas will benefit you against misfortune, large or small.
Insurance: your first line of defense
Talk with your insurance agent to make sure that your existing coverage is enough to protect yourself, family and business. Too many Americans are uninsured or underinsured. Also, be aware of the hazards you face as some may not be obvious. Additional insurance may be required for some hazards like earthquakes or flooding. Having the right insurance coverage will speed your road to recovery.
‘Rainy day’ fund for rainy days
In addition to having the right insurance, it’s also beneficial to have a “rainy day” fund you can tap when needed for emergencies. Having a savings cushion allows you to deal with immediate needs that may occur before insurance proceeds arrive or pay for needs not covered by insurance. However, dealing with the realities of life and a wallet that is already stretched thin can make building a savings fund a challenge.
The Financial First Aid Kit
That leads us into the final element: planning.
FEMA and Operation Hope have developed an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit to help in the effort. The kit has checklists of important documents to maintain as well as other resources to help you become financially prepared. You can find the kit and other helpful resources here.
If we all take the right preparations steps now, we can ensure that our families, businesses and communities are able to more quickly recover from any type of disaster.
Submitted by LEE dePALO, regional administrator for FEMA Region VIII, which serves Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, along with the 28 federally recognized Tribal Nations located within those states.
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