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When disaster strikes

Unfortunately, natural disasters can happen to anyone but you can make sure that you and/or your family is prepared in the wake of a disaster. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods and fires may force people to evacuate their homes or damage and destroy property. You may need to have a plan for your family's safety, basic needs like food, water and shelter, and any other financial emergencies.

What to have ready

Below is a quick checklist with more details to follow:

  • Forms of ID

  • Checkbook

  • ATM cards

  • Cash

  • Numbers to financial providers


Forms of Identification

Driver's licenses, state I.D. cards, insurance cards, Social Security cards, passports, and birth certificates. These documents will be extremely important if you or your family need to rebuild lost records or prove to a government agency, bank or other business that you are who you claim to be. It is best to have the originals, but it is also important to have photocopies of these documents in case originals are misplaced or destroyed. Remember to never keep the originals with the copies.

Your checkbook with enough blank checks and deposit slips to last at least a month.

Your need for checks will vary depending on how long you may be displaced and how often you write checks. Even if you never write checks, consider having your checking account number and information handy in case you need to authorize payments.

ATM cards, debit cards and credit cards These cards give you access to cash and may help you pay outstanding bills. Make sure you know the personal identification numbers for all cards. Never write your PINs on or near your cards in case they are lost or stolen. Also, don't assume that businesses, merchants and ATM's in areas affected by a disaster will immediately be functioning as usual.

The amount of cash you should have available will depend on the number of people in your family and your ability to use cards to get more cash or to make purchases.

Phone numbers for your financial services providers.

These include local and toll-free numbers for your bank, credit card companies, brokerage firms and insurance
companies. You may need to defer a payment, replace lost cards or documents, open new accounts, or request assistance. If you have people that you regularly deal with be sure to have their contact information on your list as well.

Working with someone who knows you can speed things up.

Where to keep your items

After you've gathered your most important financial documents, secure them while making sure that you still have access to them. Use the following strategy:


  1. Make back-up copies of important documents.

  2. Make an electronic image of your documents using a computer scanner so you can more easily store the information.

  3. Give a copy of your documents to your trusted loved ones or let them know where to find the documents if needed.

  4. Store your back-ups some distance from your home in case the disaster impacts your entire community.

  5. Always seal your most important original documents in airtight and waterproof plastic bags or containers to prevent any possible water damage.

A safe deposit box is best for protecting sensitive papers that can be difficult or impossible to replace. Don't store papers that need to be accessed immediately. Items that you should consider storing in a safe deposit box include a birth certificate and originals of important documents. Consult your attorney before putting an original will in a safe deposit box because some states do not permit immediate access to a safe deposit box after a person dies.

Other things to consider

  • Sign up for direct deposit

  • Arrange for automatic bill payments from your bank or through your creditor

  • Sign-up for internet banking services

  • Review your insurance coverage

For additional information on financial preparedness when disaster strikes, visit and type disaster preparedness in the search box.

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