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In recognition of National Preparedness Month, the Independent Community Bankers of America® (ICBA) would like to remind Americans about the importance of getting their financial affairs in order and offer tips to help them prepare before a natural disaster strikes.

“Having access to pertinent documents and emergency funds is critical in the days and weeks following a natural disaster,” says ICBA Chairman Rebeca Romero Rainey, chairman and CEO of Centinel Bank of Taos, N.M. “Devising a strategy ahead of time can help alleviate victims from undue pressure during an incredibly stressful time. Doing so will also help minimize financial uncertainty, and limit the long-term impacts from damaged, destroyed or lost financial documents.”

ICBA offers the following tips to help consumers prepare for a natural disaster:

  • Store important documents such as proof of identity, property ownership, insurance policies, bank and investment account information, and three years of tax returns in a bank safe-deposit box. Encase these items in plastic bags to prevent moisture.
  • Prepare additional copies of critical documents such as birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage licenses and the deed to your home for safekeeping and inform a trustee, relative or attorney of their location.
  • Print out key contact information for executors, trustees and guardians and store it in a secure location, either in your safe-deposit box or with a close relative.
  • Inventory personal and household valuables (take photos and keep receipts) to help evaluate replacement costs.
  • Include surplus cash, preferably small bills, in your home emergency kit. The kit should also include a three-day supply of food and water, a first aid kit, can opener, radio, flashlights and batteries.
  • Create digital copies, which can serve as a supplement or backup to paper documents.  Scanned or electronic documents can be uploaded with secure online backup services.
  • Contact your insurance agent or visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website at fema.gov to determine if a flood insurance policy is right for you.

“Your local community banker can also serve as a valuable resource in helping assess your financial preparedness in the event of a natural disaster,” Romero Rainey adds. “Remember that your community bank is always with you—in good times and in bad.”

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