“Having access to pertinent documents and emergency funds is critical in the days and weeks following a natural disaster,” says ICBA Chairman Rebeca Romero Rainey, chairman and CEO of Centinel Bank of Taos, N.M. “Devising a strategy ahead of time can help alleviate victims from undue pressure during an incredibly stressful time. Doing so will also help minimize financial uncertainty, and limit the long-term impacts from damaged, destroyed or lost financial documents.”
ICBA offers the following tips to help consumers prepare for a natural disaster:
- Store important documents such as proof of identity, property ownership, insurance policies, bank and investment account information, and three years of tax returns in a bank safe-deposit box. Encase these items in plastic bags to prevent moisture.
- Prepare additional copies of critical documents such as birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage licenses and the deed to your home for safekeeping and inform a trustee, relative or attorney of their location.
- Print out key contact information for executors, trustees and guardians and store it in a secure location, either in your safe-deposit box or with a close relative.
- Inventory personal and household valuables (take photos and keep receipts) to help evaluate replacement costs.
- Include surplus cash, preferably small bills, in your home emergency kit. The kit should also include a three-day supply of food and water, a first aid kit, can opener, radio, flashlights and batteries.
- Create digital copies, which can serve as a supplement or backup to paper documents. Scanned or electronic documents can be uploaded with secure online backup services.
- Contact your insurance agent or visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website at fema.gov to determine if a flood insurance policy is right for you.
“Your local community banker can also serve as a valuable resource in helping assess your financial preparedness in the event of a natural disaster,” Romero Rainey adds. “Remember that your community bank is always with you—in good times and in bad.”