Preparing for the Catastrophic

A couple weeks ago, I received some devastating news- family friends lost their home and everything they owned to a fire. Luckily, they, along with their two dogs were able to get out of the house unharmed. In the weeks following, I’ve been thinking about my own family and whether we’d be prepared in the case of a fire, tornado or any other catastrophe. Have I done the things I preach to my clients like making a list of all valuables and videotaping my belongings? I did…once, but that was a couple years ago before we had moved into our current home.  That information is really outdated now.  Thanks to my lack of cooking skills, the one thing I know for sure about my new home is that the smoke detectors do work. So, in an attempt to get my own house in order, I’ve compiled a list of important “to-dos” NOW when there seems to be no time to do it and a million more important things on my list. I’m sure you know what I mean, but what doesn’t seem like the most important use of your time now may just be the best thing you ever did for your family! I’d like to share my list with you below.

  1. Know where your smoke detectors are and test them regularly. (Smoke detectors should be replaced every 10 years.)
  2. Know where your fire extinguisher is and how to use it.
  3. Identify at least two escape routes from your home and ensure that each member of the household is familiar with these. If you have children, you may even want to perform drills to make sure they understand safety procedures and the escape route.
  4. Videotape or take pictures of the contents of your home. Don’t just focus on the big items. Open drawers and film all items, especially those of value, like jewelry, antiques, art, etc.
  5. Create a written inventory of your assets to accompany the videotape or pictures.
  6. Create a list of important usernames, passwords, phone numbers, medications or any other data that could be lost or destroyed.
  7. In order for 4-6 above to be useful, you need to keep this information in a safe place. Invest in a fire-proof safe or a safety deposit box. In addition, keep all important documents like wills, Social Security cards, birth certificates, etc. in the safe or safety deposit box.
  8. Look into online backup storage for your computers.  There are many options these days, which include Mozy, Carbonite, Justcloud, and Dropbox to name a few.
  9. Last, but surely not least, periodically review your insurance to ensure it still meets your needs. Don’t just focus on the homeowner’s policy, but also consider your valuables (jewelry, furs, antiques, etc.) and whether any of them should be covered by their own property policy.

I hope you find this list useful as you begin to get your own house in order. It will take time and patience, but it will be invaluable if you do face a catastrophe.