Hi all! Today I had originally planned to publish a post all about the new Nobel Prize winner in economic theory, and how he showed that behavioral economics was predictably irrational. But that all changed on Saturday when I read the post from my fellow personal finance blogger, Dad, Dollars, Debts, about the tragic loss of his home in the California wildfires.
You’ve probably seen the news about the terrible wildfires going on over in CA. Well DDD and his family moved from New Orleans to California back in June 2016-only a little more than a year ago. Unfortunately, last Tuesday he lost his home in the Tubbs fire. He was awakened suddenly by a knock on the door at 2 AM and had only minutes to evacuate with his wife and son. You can read the entire harrowing escape here. Their home and everything in it was totally destroyed.
Like many people, when faced with a tragedy, I want to help. But I was struggling to think how I could help DDD? He doesn’t need financial help – he and his family have plenty of money and proper insurance. I live halfway across the country in CT, so it’s not like I can invite them over, or bring them dinner. I did let him know that I was thinking about him & his family and how sorry I was for the loss of his home, but I wanted to do something more. So I came up with an idea.
Emergency Preparation – It’s Not All About The Money
There have been a few “personal finance blog chains” the last few months, where folks coordinate with one another and write on a subject. It shows various perspectives on a single issue or topic, and it’s a way to bring a particular subject to a very broad and diverse readership. After all, our various website have some overlap in audience but ultimately we all reach different people. Why not use this concept to spread the word on real emergency preparation? So after reading his story I decided to start a blog chain in his honor, so we can all help spread the message of the importance of preparing for emergencies.
Before long, others were chiming in to lend their support. Already, in under two days, five bloggers have published posts on emergency preparation in honor of DDD. And there are more coming. You can find them all at the bottom of this article. The personal finance community really is a tight knit one, and we’re all here to support and help each other. Since we’re a virtual rather than a physical community, the best way we can help is to focus on making sure our families and ourselves are prepared, and then by helping to spread the word to impact the lives of others.
Too often, when the financial media or personal finance bloggers discuss emergencies, they focus solely on job loss. Well, job loss is but unfortunately one of a variety of different disasters or crises you may undergo in your life. You could be like my family, and be faced with a medical crisis. Maybe it’s not a fire, but perhaps it’s a hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake, a flood, or a huge snowstorm that knocks out power to your state/brings down trees everywhere (like the one we had in CT a few years ago). Honestly there are a lot of different things that can happen, and although we can never be truly prepared, we can do what we can in advance.
How Can You Prepare?
DDD included some great tips in his article (which you need to read now if you haven’t already) on preparing for an emergency, so I won’t rehash those here. There are a few more things that I would add to his list:
- Check and understand your insurance: Understand what is and is not covered and how it’s defined. For example, flooding is never covered by your homeowners insurance-you’ll need a separate flood policy for that. In some states, things like hurricanes or earthquakes will trigger a special clause in your policy that means you need to pay more than you would normally for another claim. Things like jewelry, art, collectibles, and other things are only covered at very low amounts and need to be scheduled in order to be fully covered. Be sure to read through your “excluded perils” and understand what they are. Might you need sewer back-up and sump pump coverage? If you own a condo, are you crystal clear on exactly what the condo association master policy will cover and what it won’t? If you rent, make sure you have renters insurance to cover your belongings. And if you have flood insurance, make sure you are very familiar with all the many, many limitations. Learn more about insurance here.
- Consider a safe deposit box: DDD talked about a fireproof safe, which is a great idea, but you might also want to think about using a safety deposit box at the bank. They are essentially disaster proof, and have the bonus of keeping things offsite away from your home in the event of a disaster. You can, for example, store a thumb drive of important documents/photos that you don’t want to upload into the cloud
- Do a disaster dry run: I talked about this a bit in my emergency plan article, but I’ll do it again. If you haven’t done this before, I’m serious that it’s something I want you to commit to doing.
- Set aside some time on your calendar in the next two weeks to come up with your plan.
- Use this time to think about and research how you can prepare for different kinds of disasters – fires, job loss, medical crisis, hurricanes, etc.
- Ask yourself for each one – What can you do to prepare? What should you have on-hand in the house? What should you have as a quick “leave now” list in case of sudden evacuation? Are there documents or photos that you would be unable to replace, and you should store them in the cloud or in a fire-proof safe? Do you have all the right insurance in place to deal with the disaster, like life insurance and disability? Do you need to research what your homeowners insurance covers? Do you have a first aid kit in your house?
- Based on your assessment, develop your personal disaster preparedness list. Commit to closing any gaps you’ve found in your emergency preparations over the next few weeks or months.
- Revisit the plan every year so you can make sure you stay up to date.
Sometimes It Is About The Money
When disaster strikes, the last thing you want to have to worry about is money. I talked about this in my article about my husbands illness, but the fact that we had an emergency fund and health insurance is what made the difference. It meant that in the midst of the crisis, and the months (ok, years) spent recovering were focused solely on the physical issues and not stressing about money.
So as part of your emergency planning, make sure you have the right protections and insurance in place. Are you carrying disability insurance, in case you’re disabled in a crisis? Do you have life insurance to protect your family if you were to pass away? Do you have home insurance, and flood insurance if needed?
And of course, do you have that 3-6 month emergency fund? Remember that it’s not just for job losses, but also to cover things like large deductibles, out of pocket costs not covered by insurance, and helping you get through other unforeseen disasters. If you don’t have your emergency fund yet, or if you have one but it’s a bit lighter than it should be, be sure to use this as a reminder to go ahead and beef that up.
Sorry To Say – It Can Happen To You
These are the kinds of events we think only happen to “other” people – people we read about in the newspaper or in books. It’s so sad, but it could never happen to us because (reasons). We like to pretend that bad things only happen to those “other” people who deserve it in some way, shape, or form.
But sometimes bad things happen to people through no fault of their own. It’s sad but true. Those of us who have been through bad things, or know people who have gone through bad things, know this to be true. Natural disasters are random – they’re called “acts of God” for a reason. People get sick. People die. Bad things happen, and many times it’s out of our control.
The only thing we can do is prepare for what we can, and let go of the rest.
Don’t be kicking yourself in the future for not preparing now.
Are you committing to visiting your emergency and crisis plan in the next two weeks? Is yours already pretty solid and you just need some tweaks around the edges, or are you starting from scratch? What’s your evacuation strategy? Let me know in the comments.
Here are all the bloggers participating so far – be sure to check back here often for others joining in.
- Anchor: DadsDollarsDebt – Tubb’s Fire – A Sudden Evacuation
- Anchor Two: Chief Mom Officer – Going Beyond The Emergency Fund-A Harrowing Escape Inspires The Personal Finance Community
- Link 1: OthalaFehu – Cool As A Cucumber
- Link 2: The Retirement Manifesto – Am I A Prepper?
- Link 3: Mrs. Retire to Roots – In Case Of Emergency Follow The Plan (blog offline)
- Link 4: The Lady In Black – Emergency Preparedness
- Link 5: The Green Swan – Preparing For The Worst
- Link 6: Minafi – Minimal Hurricane Preparation
- Link 7: A Gai Shan Life – Earthquake and disaster preparedness
- Link 8: The Financial Journeyman – Emergency Preparation: Be Proactive (blog offline)
- Link 9; John And Jane Doe – Thinking the Worst: Emergency Planning or Fighting the Last War? (blog offline)
- Link 10: Adventure Rich – Emergency Preparation Up North
- Link 11: Money Beagle – How Much Would You Replace If You Lost Everything?
- Link 12: Crispy Doc – Fighting Fire With FI/RE
- Link 13: She Picks Up Pennies – How Can A Planner Be Unprepared?
- Link 14: Chronicles Of A Father-Getting Ready for a Natural Disaster
- Link 15: Rogue Dad MD- Disrupting the Equilibrium
- Link 16: Unique Gifter-10 Ways To Help Disaster Victims
- Link 17: SomeRandomGuyOnline-Friday Blog Roundup – Emergency Preparedness Edition
- Link 18: 99 to 1 Percent: 15 Frugal Ways To Prepare For An Emergency
- Link 19: I Dream Of FIRE – Your house is burning and you can only save 10 things – what do you choose?
- Link 20: Full Time Finance – Emergency Preparedness in Place
- Link 21: Thinking of Someday – Are You Prepared For When An Emergency Occurs? (Blog offline)
- Link 22: My Money Wizard – Are You Mentally (and Financially) Prepared to Lose Everything?
- Link 23: Wealth Rehab – Start Building Your Emergency Fund Today (blog offline)
- Link 24: Military Dollar – Emergency Preparedness for Natural, Man-made, and Twitter Disasters
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