General preparation and planning
A minor disaster can happen to anyone at any time. You can lose a job, get hit by a hurricane, get stuck with a high medical bill or just go the grocery store and find out that the price of beef has tripled overnight. Unfortunately, these types of small disasters are the main reason why most people file for bankruptcy every year. Without the ability to deal with these events, your finances can quickly get out of control.
Fortunately, there are some general things you can do to prepare for whatever life, the government, or the environment throws your way.
- Have enough readily available cash to cover the deductibles on all of your insurance policies. This includes all of your cars, your home, your “toys” (boat, motorcycle, ATV, etc.), and enough to cover a three day hospital stay for each member of your family. Consider this amount to be the minimum you need in an emergency fund. When a disaster hits, you might find yourself having to make claims on all of your policies at once. Of course, this means you'll need insurance in the first place.
- Keep enough food and water on hand to feed everyone in your family for a week without heat or electricity. You can keep it in your pantry, but never let your shelves get so bare that you have to rely on a grocery store to feed your family within the next seven days. While it might not be ideal to always eat this way, you'll always know that you can get through a short-term crisis.
- Know how to evacuate. Believe it or not, one of the biggest problems that emergency services personnel have before a storm is dealing with people who don't know what they're going to do once they've been told to get out of an area. Think of several ways to leave your home that take completely different roads. Learn a route other than those that use major roads (everyone will try to get out on those). Also, keep enough money on hand to be able to fill your tank at least twice and eat a few meals along the way.
- Know where you can hide things in your home. Ideally, pick a place that you can access quickly, but that an intruder would not typically think of looking. That means avoiding sock drawers and under the mattress. Instead, think of hiding small items in the pockets of seldom-worn clothing hanging in the closet or inside a stack of towels in the linen closet. Of course, make sure that at least one other person knows your hiding spots so that these items can be found if something ever happened to you.
- Make sure each member of your family knows where to go to be safe. In the middle of a storm, your children should know what part of the house is the safest place. This is a place with no windows, a sturdy roof, and very few potential projectiles. Also have everyone practice how to get out of the house in the event of a fire.