Every year, we see instances of extreme weather and other unforeseen natural disasters. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 3 in 5 American adults have experienced such an event. One way to protect yourself and your family is to prepare ahead of time—including making sure you have key financial information handy. If you’re wondering where to start, we have a few tips.

Preparations for Sheltering in Place

Financial Needs

  1. Keep cash on hand. In case of an extended power outage that disables electronic pay systems, you may need cash to pay for things. Consider keeping a few hundred dollars in a waterproof and fireproof safe in your home. Choose smaller bills ($5, $10 or $20), so you don’t have to worry about breaking larger ones.
  2. Build your emergency savings fund. A financial cushion can help you bounce back faster after a natural disaster. Experts recommend saving enough to cover 3 to 6 months of expenses, if possible. If you can’t afford that much, you can start with smaller goals and build from there. Learn more about building an emergency savings fund. You can use our emergency savings calculator to figure out how much you may want to sock away.
  3. Review insurance coverage. If the unthinkable happened, you’d want to be able to repair, rebuild or replace damaged or destroyed property and have the coverage you’d need for medical attention. Review insurance policies annually (e.g., life, health, auto, homeowners or renter’s) and update coverage, if necessary. Learn about the National Flood Insurance Program and be sure to check into flood insurance in your area.

General Preparedness

  1. Stock up on food and water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests storing 1 gallon of water per person per day. Store enough supplies for each person for at least 3 days, though many experts suggest storing enough for 2 weeks or more. Have a supply of nonperishable foods on hand, like canned beans, vegetables and meats, dried fruits, nuts, peanut butter, crackers and granola bars.
  2. Prepare for power outages and have a preparedness kit ready. Have extra batteries on hand, a flashlight and a battery-powered or hand crank radio. Stock your first aid kit with different-sized bandages, antiseptic ointment and other necessities.

You can build a custom preparedness kit with guidance from the experts at FEMA. To get you started, they’ve assembled a Basic Disaster Supplies Kit, which you can customize by adding other items unique to your situation.

Preparations in Case You Need to Evacuate

We rarely have much notice if a call comes to evacuate, so having a few things ready beforehand can save you some frustration.

Financial Needs

Create an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit. After the immediate danger passes and the recovery phase begins, having your financial and insurance information all in one place can be very helpful. That’s why it’s a good idea to create an emergency financial first aid kit. Your kit should include your household, financial and legal information.

Keep important documents (e.g., deeds, titles and policies, bank accounts, adoption records, birth, death, and marriage certificates) in a fireproof and waterproof box in your home or in a safe deposit box at your financial institution.

General Preparedness

  1. Have a “Go Bag” ready. Having a “Go Bag” prepared ahead of time can save the stress of trying to decide what to take if you have to leave quickly. Include items like your phone, medicine, first aid, some nonperishable food essentials and important documents/information (e.g., insurance and bank accounts, photo IDs and Social Security cards). Make sure any physical copies are stored in a waterproof container. Websites such as ready.gov, The Spruce, CNET and others offer more suggestions for what to include. Make sure to check your bag periodically and replace items that are old or expired.
  2. Make sure everyone understands your emergency plan. It’s important that everyone in your household knows where to go and what to do in an emergency, especially if you become separated. Have periodic meetings and update your plans when necessary. Decide on a spot to meet outside your home. Designate an out-of-town emergency contact—a person to contact if you need to leave the area. FEMA has some tips, resources and things to consider when making a plan.
  3. Have a contact list. Keep the list in your wallet, in case you don’t have access to power and your phone contacts aren’t available. The American Red Cross has a printable emergency contact card template you can use. Have a list with contact information for:
    • family members
    • your employer
    • school
    • banking institutions
    • insurance agents
    • health care providers
    • friends and neighbors
    • place of worship
  4. Sign up to get alerts. If you have a smartphone, sign up to receive alerts for extreme weather and other emergencies. You’ll get short messages that look like text messages from federal, state, local or tribal authorities.
  5. Gas up your car. It’s a good idea to always keep your tank full, especially if you live in an area that has seasons of extreme weather or prone to events like fires, floods or earthquakes. That way, you’ll be able to hop on the road and won’t have to worry about long lines at gas stations or shortages.

At Navy Federal Credit Union, we’re committed to helping you protect your finances, so you can focus on keeping your family safe. Whether you need help planning your financial future or checking out life insurance options, we can help.