The beginning of a new year is the time to make resolutions to get organized. We have all read and heard about the damage Hurricane Sandy has caused. No one knows when the next natural disaster may strike. While you hope it will never happen in your neighborhood, you should see the news reports as a wake-up call to make sure you are well prepared in case a similar event occurs near you. Here are some steps you can take now to keep your home and possessions secure.

1. Keep your important financial documents off site.

Don’t keep your bank statements, investment information, insurance policies, powers of attorney and your will in your home. If your home is damaged or destroyed, you will lose access to this important information. Rent a safety deposit box at your bank for a nominal cost instead and move these papers to a secure location.

It’s a good idea to have digital records as a back up to the paper version. You can scan your documents and then store them as electronic files to use when paper records are not accessible.

2. Document your personal possessions.

Can you describe the contents of your home? Do you remember the make and model of each item? Would you be able to provide accurate information during a time of extreme stress? It would be very challenging to remember all the details at a time like that.

If you are going to make a claim against your homeowners’ insurance policy following a natural disaster to replace your contents, you will need to describe your loss accurately. You can start by recording the valuables in your home, especially the big ticket items. Make note of the details and place the information in your safety deposit box and/or videotape of all your possessions.

3. Review your property insurance coverage with your financial advisor.

You will want to make sure you have the right coverage in place before a natural disaster strikes. Be sure to ask whether your policy covers you for specific events like a flood (Vancouver residents need to be mindful as they say the next big earthquake is just around the corner). You will also want to make sure your policy provides enough coverage for any big ticket items you own, such as jewelry, art, or cameras.

4. Ensure you have enough life insurance and disability coverage in place.

No one wants to think about dying or possibly becoming disabled but planning for these things are part of making sure you are prepared for a natural disaster. It’s a good idea to review your personal insurance regularly and to modify your coverage when needed.

5. Make sure your will and power of attorney are up to date.

These documents need to be updated from time to time as circumstances in your life change. Your family may have grown or a beneficiary may have passed away since you drafted your original will. Your assets may have changed, and you will want to ensure that these documents reflect your current estate.

6. Have easily accessible emergency funds.

You will want to make sure you can access some cash in an emergency. You may not be able to use your credit or debit card right away if a natural disaster occurs. It’s a good idea to have an emergency stash somewhere safe so you will have a backup in case you have to leave your home in a hurry.

Do you have questions about preparing financially for a natural disaster? As an experienced financial planner, I would be happy to review your current plan and offer suggestions to make sure you are prepared for any eventuality. Please contact me for a personal consultation.