September is National Preparedness Month, and this year’s theme is “Disasters don’t plan ahead. You can.” Take some time to determine which ways you’re prepared for a sudden disaster, and in what ways you’re not. Start with these three types of preparation:
1. Prepare your family for natural disasters
As people in Texas and across the Southern U.S. experience the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it’s only natural to think about how important it is to keep your home and family ready for a natural disaster.
One of the best things you can do ahead of time is have a go-bag prepared. This is a pre-packed waterproof duffel that holds your essentials, and it’s a good idea for any natural disaster – not just hurricanes. The Weather Channel suggested packing:
- Your identifying documents – you wouldn’t want to lose your or your child’s birth certificate, for example.
- Some cash – you never know if power outages will affect credit card machines.
- Spare keys – to your home or car.
- A first aid kit.
- A radio – this may be the only way to get updates during a major natural disaster.
- Medications – think long term about this. Depending on the disaster, you may lose access to your home indefinitely.
- Clean clothes.
- Phone chargers – if you and your family get split up, make sure you have enough battery to get ahold of each other again.
In addition to having a go-bag, it’s important to make sure all members of your family are clear on what to do in the event of an emergency. Review what each person needs to do; maybe Mom is responsible for the go-bag, Dad is in charge of turning off all the lights and locking the doors, and Junior is expected to head straight to the car and get buckled up.
2. Prepare your finances for emergencies and major life events
Emergencies don’t always come from the sea or the sky. Sometimes a broken leg or a garage door that got in the way of a driver-in-training is the disaster you need to face. In situations like these, it’s important to have some savings set aside.
If you don’t already have an emergency funds account, now is the time to set one up. Open a savings account dedicated to emergency fund only; keeping it separate will make it harder to accidentally spend some of your just-in-case cash.
Most financial experts recommend having at least three months’ worth of living expenses in your emergency fund. This will ensure that, if the emergency you’re facing is something like an unexpected layoff, you and your family will be able to recover with little disruption to your everyday lives.
Starting to save is simple once you have the tools to do it. After opening a new savings account, put a little piece of every paycheck into it. You can either set up direct deposit so you won’t have to remember to make the transaction every month. Or, using a mobile app like Bank Midwest’s, you may be able to manually move money over to your emergency fund account as it suits you.
Some major financial expenses might seem sudden, but are actually easy to predict. One major example of this is retirement; everyone knows that, one day, they’d like to retire. But, according to a report released by the Economic Policy Institute, about half of American families have little to no retirement savings to speak of. The median savings for a 30-something couple was just $480 – not a lot to live on in your post-career years.
If you haven’t already started saving for retirement, begin now – your future self will thank you.
3. Prepare your devices against cyberthreats
In today’s increasingly online world, some disasters may be completely intangible but highly destructive nonetheless. Consider a hacker who gains access to your personal or financial information, or a sudden computer failure that leaves an important document or project for work unreachable – either situation can cause serious harm and brings plenty of stress.
Always employ sound cybersecurity practices when you’re using your smartphone, tablet or computer. Never access personal bank account information on an unsecure network. An unsecure network is any Wi-Fi access point or hotspot that’s public or shared. So, next time you’re at your favorite coffee shop and you want to check your bank statement with your phone, make sure you disconnect from the local network first. If you really want to do your mobile banking right then, sacrifice some data to keep your information safe.
Having strong passwords is also essential. Though most people have heard this repeated time and time again, according to Keeper Security, the most common password in 2016 was “123456” – not a tough code to crack, to say the least. Combine letters (upper and lower case), numbers and special characters to create a strong password. Try to mix it up for different accounts. If a hacker guesses your password to one account, the criminal could target you with the same password on others.
Keeping your files safe from accidental deletion or hard drive failure is easy to do and can save you a lot of headache in the long run. Recovering data from a failed hard drive is challenging, if not impossible. Many people use an external hard drive to backup their files. LifeHacker recommends backing up your files to an online program. This way, if your computer and your external hard drive are both lost to a fire, you’ll still be able to access all your pictures, music, movies and, of course, work projects.