Natural disasters can lead to financial disasters.
There are steps you should take to protect yourself and minimize your losses.
You can contact the Red Cross (800-RED-CROSS) if you need help following a disaster. Often the organization will already be on site to help with emergency food and shelter.
Contact your insurance company. Depending on your policy, you may be covered to stay in a hotel while repairs are being made to your home.
Discuss with your agent everything your policy covers and what it does not. You may need to add a rider to cover certain collectibles or in the case of flood or earthquake.
Make sure you know all the rules for filing a claim and follow them exactly. And save all your receipts.
You should have an inventory of all of your valuables saved, away from your home, in a safe place. Use that to make a list of which were damaged or destroyed and their value. It's helpful to have pictures or video of your home and its contents along with that inventory.
The Oklahoma Society of CPA's offers these details on being prepared:
A natural disaster can strike anyone at any time. The good news is that there are practical steps you can take now to be ready for the "just in case" scenario.
· Safety first. In case of a disaster, have a plan. Make sure your family knows where to go and what to do. Don't count on being able to access phones or email. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers suggestions about preparing your family and business for emergencies.
· Review your insurance. Know what kinds of disasters your insurance will cover. Many people are surprised to discover they are not covered for specific types of disasters like a flood. Review your policy every year to make sure your coverage is adequate. For example, if you've built an addition on your home and significantly increased its value, you will need to increase your insurance coverage as well.
· Know your stuff. Create an inventory of your home, its furnishing and your valuables so it's easier to create a list for your insurer in times of crisis. Consider taking photographs as well. Also consider keeping a folder with receipts for major purchases such as appliances, electronics and furniture.
· Create an emergency fund. The financial planning experts at the OSCPA suggest having a three- to six-month cushion of living expenses set aside for any emergency. You also might want to consider having some on-hand cash in case banks are affected by a large-scale disaster.
· Protect your documents. Purchase a fire safe or use a bank's safety deposit box to protect irreplaceable and important documents. You can store all types of information here - credit card numbers, phone numbers, wills, and copies of things like your driver's license, passport and Social Security card. You might also consider creating an electronic backup of important documents like tax returns, bank statements, insurance policies, etc. You can store documents on DVDs, CDs, external hard drives or you can use an online electronic storage service.
"After the shock and grief of a natural disaster wear off, you may find yourself wondering what to do next," said Daryl Hill, CAE, executive director of the OSCPA. "The tax laws about post-disaster recovery can be complex, so don't be afraid to ask for help."