September is National Disaster Preparedness Month. This article is intended to provide an overview of ideas so that you are prepared for any unforeseen events.
As of 2005, South Florida had been impacted by 8 hurricanes in 13 months. New Orleans, other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi were literally wiped out by a hurricane. In 2008, Hurricane Wilma hit. Superstorm Sandy ravaged the coast of New Jersey. Earthquakes decimated other parts of the world while brush fires threaten homes in California. Floods are ravaging Colorado as this is being written. Besides the aforementioned, emergencies can include tornadoes, burglary and other unforeseen events.
As with most aspects of life, emergencies can be handled efficiently and effectively when done in an organized manner, in other words, if planned for. Organizing instills confidence and peace of mind avoiding that last minute panic and scramble to assemble necessary papers and supplies.
Checklists and supplies arranged in advanced are key to emergency preparation. Supply preparation is heavily covered by the media prior to a hurricane. The focus of this article is for your valuable papers.
Is it worth taking the time to make plans and preparations in case everything you own is destroyed? No doubt that the victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi (or any of us for that matter) ever imagined losing entire homes and neighborhoods. Being caught unprepared only increases the pain and suffering brought on by the crisis.
Insurance statistics show that policyholders who are prepared with an “inventory” and photos of their belongings recover up to 25% more when their claims are settled, than those not prepared. The claims process may go faster, more smoothly and with less stress. (As a familiar commercial indicates, these benefits are “priceless”).
Check with your insurance agent to determine if you have purchased replacement cost coverage on your home and personal property. Some homeowners’ insurance policies only provide coverage for actual cash value “ACV”. Your loss will be adjusted on an “ACV-actual cash value” basis, which means the insurance company will depreciate your damaged items, including your house, depending on their age.
The policy limit for “personal property/contents” coverage is customarily one-half (1/2) the value of your home (structure) coverage. The full value of contents coverage is not paid automatically. The insurance company will investigate to determine if the dollar amount of contents you claim is reasonable and provable. You must be prepared to prove to your insurance carrier that you in fact did own certain property if challenged.
Documents and Documentation
It is recommended that you prepare a written inventory of your contents (room by room) and take photographs or videotape to back up the list. Purchase receipts should be maintained for your major belongings to offer this proof and thus help speed the claim process.
- The front page or “declaration sheet” of your insurance policies, home, flood, health, auto and life, with policy numbers and your agent’s contact information is critical to have available.
- Other valuable documents and items you could need include: the deed to your home, birth certificates, stock certificates, credit card and bank account numbers, passports, jewelry purchase receipts and of course insurance policies (with policy numbers and company or agency contact information).
- Should circumstances require evacuation, additionally you may want to bring along items such as jewelry, cell phones, passwords for online accounts, computer back-ups (flash drive, DVD etc.), photographs (especially current ones of your family for identification purposes in case you get separated), personal address book and important memorabilia.
- If you are forced to relocate, resumes, college transcripts and degrees may be needed. Military records and discharge papers will be useful if applying for military and veteran’s benefits.
- Immunization records and health records regarding health conditions will be needed for your children to enroll in a new school.
- Marriage licenses and divorce certificates may be needed to set up bank accounts or establish residency.
- Instead of carrying bank statements with you, a copy of your credit report contains all your account numbers, names and addresses for all your credit cards and other lenders. You can obtain a free credit report annually at www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Copies of wills and trusts, power of attorneys and medical directives, in addition to the above documents are safest if kept in a bank vault.
- Copies of mortgage documents may be necessary as well. Did you know that even if you lose your home, you are still expected to keep up the payments?
Inventory the above items on your check list (including location by room) so you can round them up quickly. Even better, all these items, including the inventory list should be kept together in one place, in a zip lock (water proof) bag for easy retrieval, in case of the need to evacuate your home in a hurry. Keep extra copies of each paper in an emergency file in your filing system for easy reference throughout the year.
Since all of this documentation could be too cumbersome to carry along, in case of an emergency, keeping them in a bank vault, or sending them to a trusted relative or friend in another part of the country are viable alternatives. It is suggested to save all this info in advance on a scanner then burned onto a CD or DVD for portability.
Should any of the aforementioned be kept in a safe deposit box (at a bank), no worries. Next best thing is a waterproof, fire proof safe in your home. However, be aware that safes are rated as to degrees of temperature they can withstand from fire and can melt. You will need to remove the contents of the safe to take with you in case of evacuation.
This article is intended to bring your awareness to detailed information and to help you begin the organizing process. Further research or action may be required on your part in order to complete the details necessary to accomplish them. This includes discussion with your insurance agent and Time-Savers Professional Organizing Services to get your business or house ready.
Be sure to take time to “google” emergency preparedness online or go to www.ready.gov or call 1-800-BE-READY and you will be treated to a mass of other articles and lists to use. Some insurance agents provide them or just make your own. Inventory books and lists can also be purchased from several websites. The point is, to quote another familiar commercial, “Just do it!”
Until next month, Happy Organizing! And stay safe.
Diane Hatcher, CPO® is a Certified Professional Organizer and owner of Time-Savers Professional Organizing Services, Inc. in South Florida. Contact her via www.timesaversusa.com or 954.252.7511.