You never know when an emergency will arise. This emergency might be one related to a natural disaster, or it might be a financial emergency, such as a job loss. In some cases, you might experience a financial emergency at the same time that you experience a natural disaster.
While you can never be completely prepared for the toll an emergency takes on you, it is possible to limit the harm done by an unexpected turn of events. As you consider your situation, and think about the possibility of emergency, it helps to be as prepared as possible.
Physical Emergency Preparedness
Getting ready for an emergency on the physical level is a good first start. It’s a good idea to gather your emergency supplies so that you are physically able to deal with an emergency when it strikes. Some of the things that you need to have on hand in the event of an emergency include:
- First Aid kit and other supplies (including medication)
- Water (and method of purification)
- Way to stay warm (either some heat source, or lots of blankets)
- Personal hygiene supplies
- Ability to signal for help
It’s a good idea to not only have some of these supplies in the house, and readily available, but to also have them in the car. I have emergency supplies in the car, including blankets, food, flares, and First Aid. Whenever I travel, I also take water (the result of an unfortunate stranded-in-the-desert incident during college).
Know where these items are, and make sure other family members know as well. If you have limited storage space, at least put together a 72-hour kit for each member of your family. You may not be able to store six months of non-perishable food items in a small apartment, but you can at least get through the initial stages of a crisis with the help of a 72-hour kit and what you have on hand for the week.
Make sure that you understand escape routes from the house, and that you drill family members on how to get clear of the house, and where to meet. My son knows that there are two meeting points out (depending on whether he leaves out the front or out the back) in our neighborhood. Additionally, we participate in the community drills that indicate a meeting place for the children who are in school when disaster strikes. This can help cut down on confusion later, and help you increase your safety in the event of an emergency.
Know where the turn-off valves are for your gas and water. Broken water and gas mains can make an already difficult situation intolerable — and even more dangerous. Know how to turn these items off, and show children who are old enough to help how to turn off the water and gas.
It can also help to have a security system, like ones from SimpliSafe that can alert the local authorities that you are in trouble. Some systems even come with water sensors and fire sensors which can help in times of a flood or fire.
Your physical emergency preparedness can also help during times of financial hardship. For example, if my family were to experience a sudden drop in income, we have enough home food storage to help us along for a few months. We wouldn’t have to worry as much about shopping (although we’d probably spend a few bucks a week on fresh produce and milk) while we looked for other income sources.
Financial Emergency Preparedness
You also want to be ready financially during an emergency. Some of the items that you should have available to you during an emergency include:
- Credit card with an adequate limit
- Financial accounts numbers (memorize them and/or save them in digital form, protected by a password or encryption)
- Financial contact numbers for banks, credit issuers, insurance companies, and others
- Device to connect you to the outside world, and a way to charge it (you can get solar charging stations now, that will do in a pinch)
One of the best things you can do is get a fireproof/waterproof safe that is easy to transport. You can get a small safe and keep all of your important financial documents, including passwords and account numbers, in the safe. And, if it is easy to transport, you can take it with you if you have to leave. If you can get to it, the right safe will protect the information from floods and fires, as well as other disasters.
If your emergency is strictly financial (and even if it has a physical component to it), you should be ready with a liquid emergency fund. You can augment with other emergency sources as well. I have some money in a savings account that is easy to get to, in case I need it immediately. However, I also keep emergency funds in a taxable investment account. If I need to, I can use the liquid assets to hold me over for three to five days while I wait for my stock transactions to go through for more long-term problems.
Think ahead, and prepare for emergencies. You’ll be in a better place over all, and reduce the chance that an emergency will devastate you financially.