- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2005

With the arrival of hurricane season, it’s a good time for families living near the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf Coast to make sure they’re prepared financially if they have to flee a storm.

The same is true for families elsewhere in the country, since natural disasters from earthquakes to floods, tornadoes and fires can force families to abandon their homes on short notice.

Beyond planning an escape route, setting aside food and water and designating a meeting place, families need to make sure important papers are secure and that they have access to cash with which to live.

“Unfortunately, most people tend to do nothing until they hear a warning about an approaching storm,” said Ken Strauss, a certified public accountant who specializes in personal finance.

Mr. Strauss, who works with the firm Berkowitz, Dick, Pollack & Brant in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said families should consider setting aside enough cash to cover several days of basic expenses.

“If the power goes out, you can’t get money out of the ATMs,” he said of the automated teller machines on which many rely for day-to-day cash needs.

It’s also important for families to gather copies of key financial documents, he said.

A new publication, “Disasters and Financial Planning: A Guide for Preparedness,” prepared by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the AICPA Foundation, the National Endowment for Financial Education and the American Red Cross includes a list of documents best stored in a safe-deposit box and a list of other documents a family should include in a disaster kit. The booklet is available at www.redcross.org/financialplanning or can be obtained from local Red Cross chapters.

According to the guide, documents to include in safe-deposit boxes include birth, marriage and death certificates; divorce and child-custody papers; military records; passports; mortgages and property deeds; car titles; stock and bond certificates; and copies of wills and powers of attorney.

Among the documents a family should keep handy if it needs to evacuate include:

• Copies of recent tax returns.

• Copies of important medical information, including health insurance cards and prescriptions.

• An inventory of the family’s possessions.

• Home-improvement records.

• Recent checking, savings and investment account statements.

• Retirement account statements.

• Credit-card records.

• A list of emergency contacts, including doctors and family members.

• Safe-deposit box information, including location, list of contents and key.


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