Recently we have heard of families and businesses forced to flee with short notice due to the threat of wildfires. Hurricane season is also upon us, so there is the possibility of future evacuations due to hurricanes. Every person and every business should have an emergency plan. Do you have yours?
If you are forced to flee on short notice, what should you take with you?
In addition to the food and clothing and medicines that you and your family and pets might need, you should also bring the paperwork and things that will help you get your life back in order after the emergency ends.
What important papers do you have? Unless you have your legal papers in a building that can’t burn down, flood, or get blown away (such as a bank vault), you should probably take your Wills, Medical Powers of Attorney, Statutory Durable Powers of Attorney (for financial matters), etc., with you. If someone dies, or is injured or incapacitated due to the emergency, these documents will be essential.
You should also bring your insurance information, or at least copies of the policy summaries that include your account number, contact information for the company, and policy limit information. That would include, but is not limited to, insurance information on your home, business, vehicles, health, disability, life, and long term care coverage. Contacting your insurance company as soon as possible will often move your claims along faster, and help you get your life back in order sooner. We also recommend that you take pictures of your property to show the condition before and after the disaster or accident. This can be very helpful in proving up the existence, condition and value of the item(s).
Are there personal or business electronics that are essential to keep in contact with the people that you need? If you are able to, you should probably grab your lap top and cell phones (and chargers too) so that you have some means of communication with loved ones and friends, as well as insurance companies and business associates. You may need to conduct on-line banking and bill pay if you will be evacuated for an extended period of time.
Often times in an emergency situation, internet and cellular service are not available. You should plan on a location to meet if the family is separated, and a specific person or point of contact that everyone should try to reach to let folks know where and how you are.
If you store important information on your computer, such as personal records, business information, or personal photos, make sure that you have some type of remote offsite backup of that data. Even if your computers are destroyed, your data will be safe and can be downloaded to a new computer. This is essential if you use your computers for business. The prices for offsite data backup have really come down, and it is cheap insurance for any emergency, even a hard drive crash!
You should make sure that you have a list of all family members’ prescription medications and the contact information for each of their doctors and pharmacies. You will need this information if prescriptions are lost or need to be refilled during an evacuation.
Some emergency plans may be very detailed. They may include escape routes, food or other personal packing lists, password information, etc. Talk with your family to develop the plan that works best for you.
What is important is that you have an emergency plan, so that if an emergency happens, you have a place to start and your family members or business associates will all be on the same page. It will help you deal with the emergency, and help you get your life back as best you can after the emergency ends.