Being Prepared for that Disaster

Guest post by Barrie Switzen

n a flash it was gone! Fortunately it wasn't your home that was demolished or severally damaged with all its contents as Hurricane Sandy came barreling up the Eastern Coast. There are many lessons to be learned from this. Mainly how prepared are you for any disaster? 

RECORDS: It is not only your home one has to be concerned about but also the contents. I don’t know about you but I am re-examining how I save and store my records and legal documents. I realized my attorney didn't have some vital records of mine:

1. Copies of my proprietary lease for my home
2. Cemetery plot certificate of where I should be buried
3. Birth certificate and any death certificates that could possibly be needed
4. Various financial agencies I deal with
5. Vital contact information for:
    a. my doctors
    b. relatives who should be notified in case of an emergency
    c. my insurance agent
    d. the superintendent of my building and/or the management company
    e. my IT people who are familiar with my computers and how I do business
    f. who has keys to my apartment

Yes, one could have a safe deposit box or a fire/water proof box on the premises. But when you carefully examine the warranty, how safe will that box protect your vital records. At a bank if you have to go downstairs to the vault: can it get flooded and if electricity goes out then what? 

While I’m not an advocate of doing my banking on line I feel many aspects of my communication has to be re-examined for now I’m exploring the “Cloud” at least for backup. 
What about those pictures: memories can’t be replaced. If you don’t have scanners use your cell phone to take pictures. I am in the process of duplicating in some format what I consider vital pieces of information/pictures and then sending it up to the cloud with backups on flash drives and CD’s. Yes, maybe I’m over doing it….but I would rather this than being sorry later. What a nightmare to replace all your day to day identification. How long do you think you would have to stand in line at the DMV to get your license? And we aren’t even mentioning proving who we are. The world is changing and we have to adapt.

FOOD AND WATER: it wasn't until days after Sandy left us I finally emptied my tub (I did mini-baths) along with all the pots and pans then I donated food I would not be using. However, for emergency purposes I still have two gallons of water. In preparation I purchased a lot of canned food I don’t normally consume along with packages of food that doesn’t spoil. This is good to have on hand anytime as events happen that are out of our control. I’m not big on frozen food thinking what would happen if and when electricity went out. One food to keep in mind is Peanut Butter as a staple, you might want to add dry cereal to the list. 

TOILETRIES AND FIRST AID KIT: this is almost as vital as food and water. What does your medicine cabinet have? Now is the time to stock up. One thing for sure: bandages don’t expire. What about toothpaste (OK baking soda for no water) and toothbrushes, special soaps, deodorant, shampoo and other personal items. Think of what you would take if you went to a third world country on vacation keeping those supplies in a separate place. Quite some time ago I was given a flashlight that runs on both batteries and a mini-solar panel. Those space blankets used for the New York City Marathon are an ideal item to have on hand and to keep them in your car. Newspapers are another excellent source to use to keep warm; I use them to dry out my shoes at times. And don’t forget to keep a pair of glasses handy. 

INSURANCE: Now is an excellent time to document your possessions by writing along with pictures as excellent proof. 
If you live in a house don’t forget to take pictures of your home listing all the extra things you did to it: added installation, upgraded the windows and doors, etc. If you have receipts of any and all add to the pile. When I was cleaning out my parents’ house I had receipts, warranties, for everything including my father’s first income tax he ever filed. One doesn't have to make copies of all this but make sure you have duplicates just in case of an emergency.

PETS: Don’t forget to plan for them as well.