Start recovery before the storm
By HELEN HUNTLEY
Published April 16, 2006
Hurricane season has a way of bringing into sharp focus what's really important in life: ice and air conditioning. That's after the safety of our families, of course. There's nothing like being forced to do without something to make us realize its importance.
The last two seasons have taught us a lot about the impact these storms can have, even when your neighborhood doesn't take a direct hit. I know I've learned a few things about preparing for physical discomfort, like keeping water-filled milk cartons in the freezer in case the power goes out.
I've also found there are things we can do that will make a big difference in our financial security. Best of all, they're good things to do even if a hurricane never comes our way.
Here are five things hurricanes have brought to my attention:
-- We need to know what our homeowners insurance covers. If you haven't already done so, review your policy and find out whether you have enough coverage to replace your house if it is destroyed. Would your policy pay for the cost of upgrading to meet current building codes? Would it cover your temporary living expenses if you were forced to relocate during repairs or rebuilding? If you don't have enough coverage, now is the time to do something about it. Remember that you need separate flood insurance because homeowners insurance doesn't cover flooding.
--Emergency reserves are lifesavers. All of us should have an easily accessible account we can tap if we have to buy supplies, evacuate or find temporary living quarters after a storm. If you say "charge it" when you don't have the money to pay the bill, you will add to your post-storm woes. Ideally, you also should have enough in your account to cover uninsured repairs you might have to make. Start saving now for next year's hurricane season and hope you don't need the money this year.
-- Home equity is valuable in a storm. Open a home equity line of credit but don't use it. The available credit can serve as a second-level emergency reserve to meet your hurricane deductible and to allow you to make needed repairs right away by borrowing at a reasonable interest rate.
-- Organizing your paperwork pays off. Don't wait until a storm is approaching to look for important papers such as birth and death certificates, deeds, car titles and insurance policies. Keep them in a safe deposit box at the bank or in a handy waterproof envelope you can take with you if you need to evacuate. It's also a good idea to keep current a list of bank, investment and credit card account numbers and toll-free phone numbers. If you are computer-savvy, scan important documents (and treasured family photos) and send the disc to a relative in a less-hurricane prone area for safekeeping.
-- Storms can teach us something about our priorities. What did you take with you the last time you evacuated (if you did)? What did you really miss if you lost power? Have you spent a lot of money acquiring possessions that don't really matter? If so, stop!
Something good can come from the storms if they make us better prepared to face the next disaster that comes our way.
Helen Huntley can be reached at (727) 893-8230 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Last modified April 13, 2006, 16:10:28]
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