Having an “evacuation box” packed and ready to go with important papers and other items can prevent financial disasters and hardships if a serious storm comes your way, according to experts with the LSU AgCenter.
LSU AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker says there often isn’t time to gather up such items when you’re rushing to evacuate, so she recommends packing them up now and refreshing them as needed.
“You can’t stop a hurricane or storm from upsetting your routine or possibly destroying your home, but you can make plans that will prevent it from destroying everything,” Tucker advises. “An evacuation box that’s ready to grab and go is one item every household should have to prevent financial disasters and other hardships.”
Calling it a grab-and-go box, for short, Tucker says it actually can be a plastic tub, a file box, a backpack or any other durable container you would like — although she says items such as a fireproof and waterproof box or a waterproof backpack are recommended.
“There are all sorts of potential containers out there, but the contents really are the important part,” she says. “Just make your grab-and-go box something that’s easy to store and easy to take with you.
“Also, make sure it’s something that will hold up and help to protect the valuable items you have inside,” she adds.
The LSU AgCenter expert says the contents should include copies of important papers, emergency cash or traveler’s checks, lists of emergency phone numbers, safe deposit box keys and backups of computer records. It should always be packed and ready to grab and go in case you need to evacuate, she says.
“People who went through hurricanes Katrina and Rita certainly learned the importance of having evacuation plans in place,” Tucker says. “Even though everyone’s emergency plans are a little different, there are a lot of common elements — and some sort of evacuation to-go box should be one of those elements.”
Tucker says to keep the box somewhere in your home where you can get to it easily. “Then if you evacuate, keep the box with you at all times,” she says.
Among the items you’ll probably want to include are:
• Cash or traveler’s checks to cover several days’ living expenses, since power outages can make ATMs and debit cards useless.
• Rolls of quarters for vending machines, pay phones, coin laundries and other needs.
• Emergency phone numbers, including those to doctors, pharmacies, financial advisers, clergy, repair contractors and family members. Don’t forget to include cell phone numbers of those who also may be away from home!
• Copies of prescriptions for medicines and eyeglasses, copies of children’s immunization records and copies of medical, dental and prescription insurance cards (or policy information).
• Copies of auto, flood, renter’s and/or homeowner’s insurance policies (or at least the policy numbers) as well as contact information for your local agents and the companies’ headquarters.
• Copies of other important papers such as deeds, titles, wills, trust documents, powers of attorney, health care directives, stock and bond certificates, recent investment statements, home inventory, birth certificates, death certificates, adoption certificates, marriage certificates, passports and/or other identity documents, employee benefit documents and federal and state tax returns (at least the first two pages).
• Backup copies of computerized financial records.
• Keys to your safe deposit box and the combination to your safe (if you have them).
• Negatives or digital copies of irreplaceable personal photos.
• Computer user names and passwords.
• Lists of Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, driver’s license numbers, loan numbers, investment account numbers and any other important numbers.
• List of debt obligations, due dates of payments and contact information for companies.
Tucker says it’s also a good idea to place papers in sealed, waterproof plastic bags.
“Some planning and a few relatively simple preparations can prevent the unexpected from becoming even more disastrous,” Tucker says.
For additional information about family financial matters or preparing for storms and hurricanes, go to www.lsuagcenter.com. You can find a complete fact sheet on preparing your grab-and-go box, along with other helpful information, by searching for “disaster information resources series” on that site or by going directly to Hazards in Louisiana.