Be Ready for Emergency Expenses
In the first seconds, minutes, or hours after a disaster you will be focused on keeping yourself and your loved ones safe. Once the immediate danger has passed, however, what comes next? Teton County Emergency Management suggests planning for the disaster recovery process now by considering how you can become more financially prepared. Doing so will help you rebuild your life as quickly and as easily as possible after a disaster.
If “financial preparedness” sounds expensive, know that there are low- and no-cost ways you can improve your resilience – they only require time and effort. Check out the graphic below to get started, and read on for more information on each step.
- Download the free Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) at community.fema.gov/EFFAK, where it is available in six languages. The EEFAK is a tool put together by FEMA and five other agencies to help you organize critical financial, medical, and household information. It also provides advice on managing finances and describes what to expect should a disaster strike your community. You can get a free paper copy by dialing (800) 480-2520 and asking for publication number P-1075.
- Fill out the EEFAK, or use your own system to organize and store important records. When you complete the first two sections of the EEFAK – Household Identification and Financial and Legal Documentation – you will have all the information needed to apply for FEMA disaster assistance. At minimum, make copies of documents like your ID and social security card. Write down information like the phone and account numbers for your credit card companies, utility companies, and insurance companies. Store your records digitally and also keep paper copies in a waterproof, fireproof container and/or off-site in a safety deposit box or with a trusted friend or relative.
- Document your property. Take photos or record a video of the rooms in your home and any valuable belongings in case you need to repair, replace, or rebuild after a disaster.
- Keep some cash on hand. It is important to have small bills stored in a secure place. ATMs and credit cards may not work during a disaster and banks may be closed when you need to purchase necessary supplies, fuel, or food.
- Review your insurance coverage. If you own a home or a car, ensure that your homeowner’s and auto insurance coverage is enough to support you in an emergency. If you rent, make sure that your lease reflects your current rent payment and verify that your insurance is up-to-date. Consider adding policies based on your risk. For example, most homeowner’s and renter’s policies do not cover damage from flooding, earthquakes, or wildfires. Keep copies of your policies on hand. Perform an annual insurance “check-up” with your agent, review your policies to see if they meet your current needs.
- Start an emergency savings account. If you can find a way to set aside small amounts, like $5 or $10 a week, you will be better situated to take care of expenses that crop up after an unexpected event. Work toward saving up enough money to cover insurance deductibles and short-term expenses after an emergency.