How to Prepare Financially for a Natural Disaster

After several days of storm-related clean up, Texans and other costal state residents are still working to dig themselves out of one heck of a mess. It’s heartbreaking watching the stories coming out of Hurricane Harvey’s warpath. So much grand-scale destruction.

Interestingly, we have a couple of friends who live in Texas. One owns a winter getaway condo in Port Aransas, one of the hardest hit areas.

Another family we know and cherish lives on the outskirts of the hardest affected inland areas of the storm. They had to deal with a lot of rain, but no flooding, power outages or imminent dangers. However, they are still being affected. Rising gas and food prices are putting a dent in their monthly budgets.

In our own world here in the Midwest, we got hit by a tornado in the middle of July. While the damage was mostly contained to several large downed trees, the incident – along with stories from our Texas friends – taught us a lot about how to prepare financially if you’ve got a large storm coming your way.

Natural Disasters are Often Predictable

The good news regarding natural disasters is that modern technology has made them largely predictable in this day and age. In other words, you will likely have advanced warning if a natural disaster is coming for your area.

This can help you to know in advance what to do to be prepared, provided you are at least glancing at the daily news regarding the weather in your area.

After living in the country for nearly five years now, we’ve learned to never take the weather for granted. Weather is often unpredictable.

The tornado that hit our area was definitely NOT expected. Although the weather service was expecting severe storms, conditions weren’t ripe for a tornado and the two that hit our area within an hour’s time were simply unexpected “popups”: Popups that destroyed hundreds of trees and several buildings.

Because we’ve seen a few unexpecteds like this in terms of the weather out in the country here, we take rain, thunderstorms and snowstorms seriously.

We take the usual prepping measures such as pulling items that might blow away inside the garage or barn and getting all of the animals safely in a sheltered area, just in case a mild storm turns into a not-so-mild storm.

Taking prepping measures like these has helped our property and animals stay safe during these storms-gone-wild.

Financial Preparation for natural disasters

But we learned this last week from our friends in Texas how important it is to be financially prepared for a potential natural disaster. Although they weren’t hit directly by the storm, they are having to spend more money than usual on necessity spending, as well as dealing with some electrical issues.

Here are some ways you can prepare yourself financially should you find yourself facing the threat of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, blizzard or thunderstorm.

*Note: You’ll want to make these financial preparations NOW, as you never know when you’ll need them. Our friends living in Cali and other earthquake prone areas know that there is often little-to-no warning for disasters such as earthquakes, so prepare now, and you’ll be glad you did.

Preparation Step #1: Keep Legal Items and Contact Info Close at Hand

You’ll want to have quick access to both legal docs such as passports and birth certificates, and to contact information such as your insurance company’s phone number and numbers for the authorities such as police, fire and the Red Cross.

Keep all of this info in a place where you can find it quickly. Phone numbers should be stored in your wallet or purse as well as posted prominently, like on the fridge.

Birth certificates and passports should be super easily accessible so you can grab and go if you need to leave your house quickly.

The easier you can locate these items and have them safe and accessible, the less money (and time) you’ll need to spend on replacing them and on reaching authorities.

Preparation Step #2: Have a Plan in Place

Depending on the type of natural disaster you are facing, you’ll need to create a plan that helps you stay safe. Determine the answers to questions such as these BEFORE disaster hits:

  • Will you hunker down at home or bail and go somewhere safer, such as to your cabin or to a loved one’s house?
  • How will you and your family members meet up?
  • Do you have a supply of food, water, snacks and other personal necessities?
  • Is your gas tank full and ready to go if you need to leave?

Create a plan for each potential scenario in your area and be prepared to fund it. Also, keep some cash on hand at your home at all times. There is a good chance during a natural disaster that ATMs and banks will be out of commission and that stores (if they’re open) will only be able to accept cash.

Cash is especially helpful if you need to leave town and drive far away to get to safety.

Preparation Step #3: Be Prepared for Extra Expenses

One of the hurdles our friends in TX discovered is that even if you are not directly affected by a large scale disaster but in close proximity to one, you will likely have extra expenses.

Here are some examples:

  • Power surges and outages destroy your appliances
  • Gas, food and prices for other necessities rise, whether due to bona fide shortages or profit opportunities by less-than-ethical store owners
  • Hotel costs, restaurant costs, etc. you may incur if you need to leave your home and don’t have loved ones you can stay with
  • Repair costs for items damaged from the disaster
  • Insurance deductible costs for damage directly to your home or property

These are often the types of expenses that people aren’t prepared for that can turn a natural disaster into a financial disaster very quickly.

The better prepared you are by having extra money around – both in your emergency fund and in cash on hand – the less these types of financial hindrances will hurt.

Financial Preparedness Brings Peace of Mind

Money certainly can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but as Rick and I have learned during our journey to debt freedom, the more financially prepared you are to handle these types of emergencies, the more peace you’ll have about knowing you can weather them without having to add a financial burden onto the situation as well.

Do yourself a favor and get financially prepared for whatever disasters may come your way.

22 comments

  1. We were thankfully just out of Harvey’s reach, so all we had to deal with was a tree removal. Thank you for mentioning Port Aransas, because so many people are focusing on Houston that they’ve forgotten the Texas coast was flattened!

    It’s opened our eyes to the fact that we need to have food, water, energy, rafts (our area is prone to flooding), and gasoline on hand at all times for emergencies. We’re experiencing the food and gas shortages and, lemme tell ya, it’s not fun. I’m grateful that we have the emergency savings to deal with high prices. I’m also veeeeery glad that I work remotely so we don’t have to use much gas in the first place.

    • Laurie says:

      So thankful you were mostly spared!! You guys have gone a long way in becoming prepared!! Thanks for mentioning the raft – I hadn’t even thought about that. And you’re right about working remotely too – no worries there.

  2. Lizzy says:

    These are great tips! Right now I am worried to death about my family and friends in S. Florida where I used to live.

    Keep in mind too that no matter how much shelf stable food you have for a hurricane, after a week of eating in the dark, in 90 degree heat, you are going to want to get out of the house and into airconditioning! I lost power for 10 days in 2004 after Frances with two elementary schools aged children. We were relieved to spend a few hours walking around the mall. Honestly, this is not my preferred form of entertainment, but they had air conditioning!! So do budget for finding a place to escape the heat.

    I am in the mountains now, and starting to stock up on essentials for winter blizzards!

    • Laurie says:

      Lizzy, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. This is one of those “extra expenses” I was talking about. Keeping your head sane – even if you have to spend money – is just as important as nourishing your body, IMHO.

      And you’re right about the blizzard stock up. It can be tough not being able to go anywhere for several days..

  3. Mr. SSC says:

    We avoided most of it. Our neighborhood was flooded in for a few days, but no water came in the houses. We put together a bugout bag with full elgal docs when we saw how much lake Houston was rising, as it was our neighborhoods “drain”. Once it got to 50′ the water stopped draining and started rising. That’s when we got really nervous.

    Unlike our neighbors – all 6 we talked to, we were the only ones with flood insurance. On our facebook neighborhood group, it seemed like only 1/4 or less had insurance and some of them were dropping it since “if I didn’t flood this time, I won’t ever need it.” To each their own, but for me it’s worth the $300 or so per year.

    Things we noticed – post-storm we ran out of gas (the area, not us) and it also went from $1.96 to $2.53 over night. When you could find it it was expensive. It’s still at $2.40. The grocery store was still fairly empty even 4 days post storm. For us, that was 7 days of nog rocery store and we had enough food to make it another 7 at least, but something to think about. We also had a full propane tank, and if it was forecast to hit us withs tronger winds – power outages more likely – I would’ve replace it for a full one and purchased a second. Post storm, the first things to go in Home Depot/Lowes were gloves (heavy and light duty), rubber cleaning gloves, tarps, eye protection, dust masks, etc… Having those things on hand prior to a storm is essential. If you really need them for cleanup, they may not be available to buy then. I’m bringing in some dustmasks for a co-worker tomorrow because I have some in the garage and he can’t find any in the city, and is cleaning out , now moldy and mildewy stuff from his house. His water just receded enough to start ripping stuff out yesterday. The rain stopped 7 days ago…

    Don’t underestimate how long things can take to get back to normal, because we’re not there yet. There are still highways and neighborhoods that have water in the houses. Beaumont, TX still doesn’t have running/drinkable water because their plant got flooded. Assume you are your only support and prepare accordingly is the best approach I’ve seen.

    • Laurie says:

      smart, smart words, Mr. SSC!! I always love, love, love hearing tips from people who have been there, done that and have had to live through it. Being this is National Preparedness Month, a fellow prepping blogger friend of mine is banning grocery shopping and living as if she and her family had no access to the grocery store, just to do a test run.

      Might be wise if all of us in currently unaffected areas do some sort of test run.

      Yeah, gas prices here in MN skyrocketed after Harvey too. I saw a $2.59 yesterday.

  4. Mackenzie says:

    I am in Southern California and like you said, with earthquakes we really have no advance warning. But you reminded me to have some extra bottles of water on hand and that bit about having the birth certificates, passports, etc… together, well, I need to get on that. Thanks for the reminder Laurie! 🙂

  5. Brian says:

    All about having a plan and communicating it to the family. The last thing you want is to have panic set in when an event like this happens. Let’s hope the latest hurricanes are non-events.

  6. katscratch says:

    I love, love love these posts. I ALWAYS learn something new from the post and the comments. I have a fledgling duffel bag supply in an easy-to-grab location next to a small fire/waterproof safe with documents, but I have a long way to go to truly be prepared.

    If anything catastrophic happened in the Cities I have an open invite to bike south to a friend’s very-well prepped (for hundreds if needed) farmstead. They are inspiring to me and even though I’d rather be able to be self-sufficient, it’s nice to know I have friendly faces within a day’s bicycle ride since my family is many states away.

    • Laurie says:

      That is so awesome that your friend has got everything in order!! And even more awesome that you have carte blanche to go there if you need to, Kat! I should really have Rick start carrying his bike in the back of the car – just in case!

  7. Love the post, Laurie. So much focus is (rightly) put on being prepared from a material & logistics perspective: food and water on hand, extra gas, flashlights, batteries, etc.

    But having a financial plan to go along with that is probably even more crucial. With the right financial plan, and a person ready to barter, you can often buy the things you forgot about, even at inflated prices.

  8. These are great tips Laurie!

    We just got back into our house this morning. While Irma passed to our West, we still had some really strong winds, lots of flooding, and a full day of no power yesterday in Charleston. Thankfully power came back over night and today we confirmed no damage to the house.

    Your steps are basically what we did. Since we had a lot of heads-up we collected all of our important documents and prepared them to travel with us. We made evacuation plans (and had to change them since the path moved) and incurred some unusual expenses to get ready. Thankfully we have an emergency fund to take care of things like that!

    Everyone should make note of these tips for future events.

  9. Harvey, Irma, Jose … What a nightmare! Good reminders here Laurie. Although I don’t consider myself a “prepper”, I’m happy to say that we have some of these suggestions in place. (Of course I hope we never have to use them for that purpose.) I’m sure that some people, after all of the recent devastation, shrug their shoulders with a “It’s out of my control. What will be, will be,” attitude. But preparation can make all the difference in many cases.

    • Laurie says:

      Prepping can make a difference!! I know that the few times we’ve been without power here have been scary. Having an electric well pump means no being able to flush the toilet, and no electricity means no access to heat. The preparation measures we’ve put into place helps us know we won’t have those issues now. Whew!

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