KTVU/UC Benefits Office Disaster Defense
Fire, Earthquake, Tidal Wave, Flood and Crime are things that often result in much more than physical damage to people and property. They also result in financial disasters to the victims as well. In this Disaster Defense Checklist, we want to give you the best advice we could muster up on how to prepare for the unpreparable to reduce the time it takes you to get your financial house in order -- the first step to making an economic recovery.

Create a "must take" list. If you only had five minutes to clear out, what would you want to take with you? Guide yourself by this two-step rule: those things which you could never replace and some things you will need right away.

Recognize that there is very little that you can never replace, but among them would likely be sentimental things like certain photographs, heirlooms, jewelry, gifts, and mementos. Store them in such a way that you could, if necessary, gather them up in seconds and take them with you. It has been suggested that those valuable items that are not often looked at such as photographs could be stored in an extra suitcase and kept in a closet near your exit. Since many people have old suitcases that they have replaced, this would provide a useful means of storing many items that you wish to be able to grab in a hurry in an emergency that requires evacuation of your residence.

Immediate needs:
It would be useful to have an overnight bag or suitcase loaded with one or two changes of clothes plus outer wear, rainwear, underwear, and shoes just in case you need to evacuate in a hurry. The bag should also contain an extra pair of prescription glasses if you wear them, prescription medication if applicable, and other things specific to your comfort, health, and safety. This should be left in a closet close to the door, in your car or garage.

Have an emergency fund. To the best of your ability, try to save up at least three months worth of living expense money to be used only for such an emergency and not a readily "raidable" piggy bank. In most every disaster, it is usually days before you will again have access to your property. If it is destroyed, it will be months before rebuilding begins.

Get a safe deposit box. Rent a box or, at the very least, have a storage area away from your home for the following items:

    Savings Passbooks Ownership Documents Loan Agreements
    Home Inventories Birth Certificates Deeds
    Titles Powers of Attorney Appraisals
    Certificates of Deposit Trusts Leases
    Insurance Policies Wills Bonds
    Contracts Passports Stock Certificates

Note: Include a list of your current creditors, your account numbers and how to contact them. Also, make a list of all professionals such as accountants, tax preparers, attorneys, bankers, brokers, doctors, hospitals, and other professionals who can help you reassemble your records. Keep copies or duplicates of all these items at your home.

Take an inventory of property. Refer to previous section on "Detailed Annual Inventory".

Tell somebody. Make sure that you tell somebody you trust where to find all the items you have protected away.

Practice makes perfect. Conduct regular evacuation drills. Practice sometimes with the entire family, sometimes with just a few and sometimes alone, since a disaster can strike at any time with any number of your loved ones around. If you do this often, when the real thing hits, you may well save life and property.

Have a meeting place.
Have a predetermined place where all family members should meet in the event of a disaster. Again, consider the time of day, where members are likely to be and how to accomplish the plan.

This is the time to execute your evacuation plan. This is where planning and practice pay off. Try to stick to your plan as close as possible but do not do that if it endangers your life, limb, or family. Be flexible in your response and make sure everyone knows the response should be flexible. Report to the closest disaster relief center so you can register your name. Then, if you must leave and another family member shows up, they will be able to learn you are O.K.

Here are a dozen duties that will get you well on the road to recovery, occupy your time and thoughts with important activities and provide the maximum return to you.

Get organized. Write a "To Do" list of the financial matters you need to address immediately, including filing insurance claims, requesting government assistance and finding alternative shelter.

Call your creditors. Explain your situation, ask for suspension or reduction of payments and make sure you make special arrangements to keep your mortgage current since that bill goes on even if the house is gone.

Get appraisals. Get an appraisal of your residence to compare with the one before the disaster for tax and insurance purposes.

Take pictures. Photograph or videotape the ruins, again for insurance and tax purposes. Compared to pre-disaster pictures, it is powerful evidence.

Take inventory. List everything you lost. (If you had a pre-disaster inventory, it will be much easier.)

Assess your finances. List what cash and credit is available. Also list how much you expect to get from insurance.

Create a spending plan. Determine what purchases you absolutely must make but be conservative. A written plan of those purchases over months and weeks will allow you to make the right decisions.

Do not go spend crazy. Spending makes us feel better. But wild or unnecessary purchases will only cloud your financial future. This is the time to prioritize spending. Ask a friend or professional for advice.

Borrow cheaply. This is not the time to run up credit card bills at back breaking interest rates. Friends, family members, and even the government may provide low cost loans.

Reconstruct documents. If your key documents are in a safety deposit box, you are way ahead of the game. If not, reconstruct your financial picture by getting:

  • a copy of your credit report
  • bank records from your bank (often provided to disaster victims at no charge) and
  • other records from professionals like your tax preparer, attorney, doctors, etc.

Keep close records. Since you are basically starting all over again, keeping close records will be critical for insurance and tax purposes. List each expense and payment. Most of this is deductible from taxes. Much of it ups your insurance recovery.

Plan and re-plan. Keep changing your spending and rebuilding plans as circumstances present themselves. From this tragedy can come a far more organized and beneficial financial life.