Although over 60% of Americans think that a natural disaster will have an impact on their lives within the next five years, many are unprepared for the financial and legal consequences of such an event. Last year alone, the US experienced a total of 90 destructive natural events, including 50 major storms, so it is a good idea to draw up a plan for such an emergency. There are a number of practical steps you can take to minimize the physical damage caused to your home by storm damage.

However, it is equally important to be ready for the worst, and protect yourself from financial difficulty, potential disputes over insurance claims, and fraudulent behavior. Being able to easily access proof of identity, essential legal documents and comprehensive cover can help you recover more quickly from the potentially devastating effects of a natural disaster.

Prepare Your Paperwork

When preparing your home for a hurricane or other natural disaster, take some time to put aside important documents and keep them handy in a plastic wallet or other waterproof container. If you have to quickly evacuate your home, your driving license, passports and health records will allow you to deal efficiently with securing alternative accommodation, accessing medical treatment, and any other urgent issues. Further legal and financial documentation such as wills, powers of attorney and insurance policies should also be kept safe. The originals can be left with an attorney, and copies on a secure digital platform. Being able to quickly locate your personal, financial and household records will make getting your life back on track much easier.

Protect Your Identity

Ensuring that important paperwork is secure will also help you to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft or other fraudulent behavior. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there is a surge in fraud and scams when natural disasters occur. Fake aid workers, bogus charity volunteers and unscrupulous builders take advantage of homeowners, claiming to help them with application forms or offering to repair damage to property. To protect yourself and your property, always ask for references, read through contracts before signing, and avoid giving out any personal information such as bank details or your social security number.

Insure Your Property

When disaster strikes, federal assistance may provide some temporary aid, but for long-term security, comprehensive home insurance is essential. Most insurance policies cover some natural events, but extra policies should be added on for flooding or earthquakes, especially if you live in a vulnerable area. If your home has been damaged and you are ready to start rebuilding, be wary of fraudulent contractors or Insurance scams. Avoid unsolicited offers, and instead contact your insurer before agreeing to any work being done. Keeping a record of all correspondence and delaying payment until work is completed will protect you if you experience any problems further down the line.

Natural disasters can be devastating to your property and personal life.  As well as preparing an emergency plan to protect your home or evacuate it safely if necessary, think ahead to ensure you have the paperwork and policies that will make the process of rebuilding and recovery much easier.

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