Thursday, September 4, 2008

Successfully Weathering the Storms: How to Prepare Your Family and Your Assets in the Wake of Disasters and Emergencies

Three years after ravishing the state of New Orleans and the Mississippi gulf coast, the effects of Hurricane Katrina remain fresh in the minds of its victims and the country. In recent weeks, America braced itself for Hurricane Gustav, fearing a similar outcome. The diminished impact of Gustav is at least partially attributable to heightened preparedness. Just as the state of Louisiana and the federal government sought to practice responsible preparedness, you too can employ smart decision-making in order to properly prepare for unexpected disasters and emergencies.

Disaster often strikes without warning, leaving those who are ill-prepared in precarious situations. In order to avoid this, here are a few steps to secure your home and assets:

1) Know the particulars of your insurance policy: Go through your policy and find out the specific disasters that it does and does not cover. Typically, home insurance does not cover flood damages. Visit to learn more about flood insurance.

2) Create a home inventory: In order to file an insurance claim following a disaster, you will need to provide a list of what has been lost or destroyed. Visit to download a free software program that organizes valuables and documents digitally. Try to keep important records such as birth certificates and Social Security cards in a safety deposit box outside of the home.

3) Know your benefits and who to call when disaster strikes: It is important to know what emergency and employee-sponsored benefits you and your family may qualify for in the case of an emergency. You may be eligible for temporary housing, funds and food assistance through both FEMA and the USDA. The IRS also offers tax relief and other benefits for disaster victims. Call the IRS helpline at 1-877-829-5500 to find out what you may qualify for.

4) Regain financial health: In order to diminish the uncovered costs of disasters, you can turn to various institutions for assistance. The Pensions Benefits Guaranty Corporation is a federal corporation that pays out benefits under certain pensions and can be contacted at 1-800-400-7242. Some 401 (k) plans also have allowances for early withdrawals during emergencies. Contact your sponsor to find out these details.

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