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Last-minute disaster preparation

If you're one of the millions of people in the path of Hurricane Isaac or know someone who is, here's a last-minute guide to protecting your financial life.

By Stacy Johnson Aug 26, 2011 10:09AM

Updated 2:52 p.m. ET on Aug. 28, 2012


This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyFor those of you in the path of Hurricane Isaac, take heart. As a long-time resident of South Florida, I've traveled this road before, and I probably will again before the season is over.


Hurricane: Image: Hurricane (© Digital Vision Ltd./SuperStock)Preparing for a hurricane is a frantic time, and the most important thing you can do now is make sure you and yours are out of harm's way. But if you have a spare minute or two, you should also protect your financial life to the best of your ability.


Here's how to get the most results from the fewest minutes: 


(Post continues below vide.)


  • Get important originals out of harm's way. Put difficult-to-replace papers in a waterproof container, such as Tupperware, or even a baggie. Keep it where you can grab it and run. You first priority should be documents with raised seals and original signatures: car titles, passports, your home deed -- you get the idea.
  • Grab your camcorder. Shoot video of everything in your house, and I mean everything. Open drawers and cabinets. Go in closets. This is your last-minute inventory of everything you own: If you need to file an insurance claim, it's going to be the smartest thing you've ever done. If you can send that video digitally to a friend far away, great. If you can't, make sure it stays with you. 
  • Get cash. It's hard to understand what life without electricity is like. Just ask any Floridian who has done it for weeks; it's not pretty. When there's no electricity, there's no ATM and the credit card machines at the store may not work.
  • Get gas. There's also no gas without electricity. This is most useful if you have a generator, because without working traffic lights, you won't be doing a lot of driving.
  • If you have time, scan important papers and store them online. This includes just about everything: deeds, titles, wills, birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce and adoption papers, insurance policies, mortgage documents, Social Security cards, driver's licenses, passports, tax returns. While digital copies of some of these things won't replace the originals -- passports and driver's licenses, for example -- at least you'll have a copy of the numbers on them. Store the digital copies in cyberspace, where natural disasters can't find them. If scanning stacks of paper seems too onerous or time-consuming -- your mortgage or insurance policies, for example -- just scan the first page. It's better than nothing.
  • If you have time, get a second cellphone. Go to the cellphone store and get the cheapest possible phone that will hold your SIM card. Charge it and put it in your waterproof container. This serves two purposes: You have a fully charged backup phone if yours runs out of juice, and you have a replacement if your primary phone gets wet. 
  • Put your insurance company's phone number in your cellphone. As soon as cell service resumes, your first calls will be to your family and friends, but the next one should be to your insurance company. First come, first served.

That's the down-and-dirty of protecting your financial life. There are plenty of additional articles online with more details, and if you have time, you should check out some of them. But if you don't, do as many of the things above as you can. And if you're not in Isaac's path but know someone who is, forward this article to them.

Also for those not in the path of this particular peril, remember: It's only a matter of time. Why not take a few minutes this weekend to prepare your own plan? It's definitely time well spent.


More from Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Aug 26, 2011 2:28PM
I keep all of my stuff copied on two flash drives, one in my purse and one on my desk at home. Also, don't forget to copy all important bills/bank statements AND the back and front of all of your credit cards in case they get lost! I copied our wedding photos/home photos and all of our family photos and put them on the flash drive, too. I'd suggest buying an additional phone charger for the cheap cell phone, too!  Better safe, than sorry.
Aug 29, 2012 3:50AM
who would have expected isaac to hang around for such a long time.
Aug 28, 2012 6:51PM

Scan important papers and store them online? Uhh, online in your email folder somewhere perhaps? And if your email account is hacked? Store in your computer? And if your computer is washed away in a large wave and goes floating to who knows where? Or it's stolen in a break in? Put insurance info in your cellphone? And if your cell phone is stolen -- or again, gets washed away in a large wave?  I'd say keep these items ON YOUR person or forget it.


I like the shoot camcorder of what you have etc. That's a good idea.

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