In early September, my area of South Carolina went through last-minute preparations as Hurricane Florence prepared to batter our state and North Carolina with heavy winds, rain, and storm surges. Fortunately for my area, and unfortunately for others, Florence took an unexpected path, leaving less of an inland impact than expected. Florence also weakened before it hit the coast, perhaps reducing the expected devastation.
I also had a chance to interact with officials from Duke Energy and representatives from local government and was impressed how strongly they reacted to the hurricane’s threat, mobilizing thousands of people to aid residents after the hurricane passed. Even with all of the help available, individuals and families must be prepared to survive long enough for help to arrive. A better situation is to not require help at all. Now, I’m not going to go all “prepper” on readers of this post but, coincidentally, September was also National Preparedness Month. So here are a few notes on preparing for natural disasters. If you want more ideas on how to “prep,” just go to YouTube.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines “prepare” as making or getting something ready for something that will happen in the future. It also states: “to expect that something will happen and to be ready for it.”
A capricious planet earth makes natural disasters inevitable. Some years are worse than others, and relatively brief stretches of recorded history demonstrate the ferocity nature can impose on unsuspecting civilizations.
In the United States as recently as 2017, the havoc an untamed environment wreaked on communities and the economy reached near record levels. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded 16 weather and climate disasters in 2017 with estimated losses exceeding $1 billion. That number included one drought, two floods, one freeze, eight severe storms, three tropical cyclones, and one wildfire. Cambridge defines a disaster as “an event causing great harm, damage, or suffering.”
Look back in history to 1980, and the picture gets even bleaker. Nearly 220 weather and climate disasters swept across the United States since that time, costing more than $1.5 trillion. That figure includes the initial costs for hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
National Preparedness Month serves as a reminder.
National Preparedness Month was established in 2004 to encourage Americans to prepare for potential emergencies and disasters. The event is held every September and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
While we can’t control nature, we can brace ourselves for the worst in the hopes of escaping relatively unscathed. And that requires making preparations. Here are some emergency preparation tips to help keep you secure:
- Put appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer. Refrigerators should be kept at 40°F or colder and freezers at or below 0°F. Freeze water in containers to keep refrigerators cold during power outages.
- Put refrigerated perishable items like milk and meat in the freezer during power outages. Refrigerators retain adequate cold for about four hours during outages; full freezers may preserve contents for nearly 48 hours (if doors are kept closed).
- Plan ahead by buying emergency supplies if you know potential power outages may occur.
- As bad as it might sound, we have a box of MREs and plenty of bottled water available should our electricity fail and additional supplies are unavailable. MREs are available on com. Other emergency food kits are available that may be more useful.
The harsh realities of some of the recent and more severe natural disasters demonstrate the importance of making preparations to ensure all aspects of your personal life, including finances, are kept secure.
The Federal Trade Commission offers these steps to manage weather emergencies:
- Organize your finances. Most people preparing for emergencies rightly focus on the material side, such as stocking extra batteries or bottled water. However, ensuring your finances are in order is equally important.
- Locate documents. Inventory paperwork, forms or other important documents, and replace anything that is missing. Store the documents in a safe and protected place.
- Take a look at your insurance. See if your insurance policies—home or health—will pay for shelter or replace any property, including clothes, destroyed in a disaster.
- Brace for flooding. Hurricanes can send rising waters into homes and buildings, causing major structural damage. Check your policy to ensure you are adequately covered for all aspects of a disaster, including floods. You can also draft a personal or household flood plan.
- Protect your pets. The family member often overlooked or neglected during disasters and preparations is the furry one, the household pet. Make plans to protect your pets from fires, floods, tornadoes, or other emergencies.
The American Red Cross provides assistance with developing emergency plans and conducting inspections. Here are ways the organization provides help:
- Conducts home visits to test or install smoke alarms and provides disaster education.
- Hosts The Pillowcase Project, a Disney-sponsored program to help teach children how to prepare for emergencies.
- Participates in FEMA’s PrepareAthon!, which helps motivate communities to initiate and engage in more emergency-preparation functions.
- Encourages families with children to use Monster Guard, an app that teaches children through games about the importance of preparing for emergencies.
Preparing for emergencies and for your financial future should be a very important part of your life. Planning and preparing for emergencies is like insurance: no one wants to have it until they actually need it.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about developing strategies to pursue a prosperous and safe future, contact me today at Derek.Merkler@Parsonex.com! You can also visit my website to learn about how I help our service members and veterans plan for and achieve financial independence.
My blog discusses a myriad of financial topics and challenges, book reviews, and commentary on current events in the financial world to benefit our military and veteran community. I attempt to be as thorough as possible when examining each subject but can never account for every possible scenario. Please remember to consult with your own advisers for advice on your particular situation. Thank you for reading!
Advisory Services offered through Parsonex Advisory Services, Inc. 8310 S. Valley Highway, Ste. 110, Englewood, CO 80112 (303) 662-8700.