Are you prepared for the unexpected?

People can quickly go from prosperity to poverty with the strike of a hurricane, wild fire, flood, or other natural disaster. To better prepare people in the event of an emergency, September has been deemed National Preparedness Month. This is a time to not only prepare for your physical needs such as food, water, and clothing, but also a time to get your financial needs in order in case of an emergency or unexpected event. Emergencies and disasters can happen any time. The Department of Homeland Security recommends that everyone take steps to better prepare themselves and their families before an emergency occurs. Experience tells us that families and individuals need to be ready with a financial preparedness plan. This National Preparedness Month, consider the following:

Protect your identity. Keep family records, property deeds, birth certificates, wills, insurance policies, passports, social security cards, immunization records, credit card numbers, car titles, bank account numbers, and three years of tax returns in a safe deposit box. Place each document in a plastic bag that can be sealed to keep out moisture.

Start an emergency fund. Regularly contribute to an emergency fund that can cover at least three to four months of living expenses. This fund should be separate from your savings or investment account. In addition, keep extra cash with your emergency kit, which should include a three-day supply of water and food, first-aid kit, can opener, flashlights, radio, and extra batteries.

Make a plan. Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes. It is important to develop a family emergency plan in advance—how you will contact one another; how you will get together; and what you will do in a different location. In addition, make a plan to take care of your pets, family members with a disability, and the elderly. Outline an evacuation route, a meet-up location, and alternative living arrangements while away from your home.

Have adequate insurance coverage. Proper insurance coverage will prove beneficial after an emergency happens. It will cover any property or personal damage. Some important insurance coverage include: auto, home, life, medical, flood, fire, hurricane, and renters (if you live in an apartment or lease a home). In addition, it’s worth considering specialized medical insurance such as short-term and long-term disability in case you are hurt and cannot work for a specified amount of time.

The key message is don’t wait for an emergency to get prepared.  Taking a few simple steps now can help a to ensure that your family is financially prepared to weather any storm.

Renee McGruder is a former communications coordinator and grant writer at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.