Make Disaster Preparation Part of Every Client's Plan

2017 has already delivered an onslaught of natural disasters to the U.S. and the world than most of us can remember. The immediate cost in lives, property, and physical and emotional strain has been devastating. And while the financial burden of recovery is hitting many families hard, clearly some people were more prepared than others. If there is a lesson to learn from recent events, it’s that disaster preparation is critical.

As a financial advisor, ensuring your clients have taken the necessary steps to prepare for disasters is often overlooked. By adding disaster preparation to your planning to-do list, you can help every client be more physically and financially prepared for the unexpected. Urge your clients take important steps right away and include the following guidelines in your quarterly newsletter or in a special alert. No matter where your clients live or what disasters are most likely in their part of the country, your support has the potential to make a significant difference—perhaps even saving a life.

Now is the time to prepare for the unexpected.

Financial emergencies aren’t the only disasters that have the potential to wreak havoc on your family. Hurricanes. Floods. Earthquakes. Fires. Lately, it seems there’s news of new devastation every day. Even if a natural disaster has yet to affect your own life, some basic preparation today can have a significant impact on your ability to recover from the worst, both physically and financially. Please use this guide to help establish an emergency plan today and help build a safer, more secure tomorrow—no matter what nature throws your way.

Gather the basics.

A well-stocked and maintained emergency kit is vital to ensure you have the basic necessities of life in case a disaster interrupts basic services. Be sure you have enough to care for every member of your family, including your pets, for at least one week, and check expiration dates regularly (put a reminder on your calendar!). For a complete list of what to include in emergency kits for your home and car, visit the Build a Kit guide at

  • Water. It is recommended that you keep one gallon per person per day on hand. Many companies also offer emergency water pouches that last up to five years and are much more portable than bottled water.
  • Food. Focus on items that do not require refrigeration or cooking. High protein items like peanut butter and nutrition bars are wise choices, as are canned juices and non-perishable pasteurized milk that offer valuable fluids and nutrition.
  • Shelter. If you are forced to leave your home, you may need to bring shelter with you; keep a tent on hand along with one sleeping bag per person just in case.
  • Protect what’s important

    If you haven’t recently assessed your insurance needs, it’s time to schedule a review.

  • Review with your homeowner’s insurance and be sure you have adequate protection for your home and valuables. If you live in an area that is prone to floods and earthquakes, remember that while flood and earthquake insurance is often optional, it may be the only way to protect your home and your lifestyle in the aftermath of a catastrophic event.
  • Know what’s covered. To help ensure your coverage will allow the structure of your home to be replaced (up to the policy limits), have your home periodically appraised to ensure coverage matches the current value of your property. Consider adding policy riders to cover more expensive items, such as jewelry, artwork, or electronics, and be sure to create and maintain an online, up-to-date list of all of your possessions. This list can help you assess damage, record any losses, and help you recover those losses more quickly. Of course, appropriate medical, disability, long-term care, and life insurance protection is always recommended.
  • Check your in-home fire alarms. According to FEMA, the average number of injuries from home fires in the U.S. is nearly 13,000, and annual property losses exceeded $7 Billion in 2016. Making sure your alarms are up to code and functioning properly is the first step to protecting the people and belongings you care about most!
  • Create a family emergency plan.

    Planning before an emergency occurs is the key to protecting your family during and after a crisis. Begin by outlining specific steps to take in a variety of circumstances. What should each person do if a fire breaks out, the earth starts shaking, or a storm strikes? Be sure every family member—even young children—understands what action to take, including where to go immediately to stay as safe as possible. Make these steps part of your plan:

  • Post emergency phone numbers in a central location and add emergency contacts to every cell phone.
  • Establish a central meeting place , including two separate locations where your family can meet if you are separated during a time of crisis. One location should be near your home. Another should be outside of your neighborhood in case your entire neighborhood is impacted.
  • Choose an out-of-area check-in contact. Select a relative or friend to receive and communicate your family’s status. Instruct every family member to make every attempt to contact this person to report his or her location, safety, or need for assistance.

  • Related: The (Not-So) Secret Tool to Help Save Your HNW Clients a Bundle

    Safeguard your financial house.

    Putting your financial house in order before disaster strikes can help you quickly restore normalcy in the days, weeks, and months afterwards.

  • Keep emergency cash on hand. In a disaster situation, cash may be the only means of commerce. Keep a minimum of $500 in cash in your emergency kit (more is better if you can afford it) in small bills to make purchasing supplies as easy as possible.
  • Organize important financial documents. When in crisis-mode, determining which documents are the most important—and finding them—may be the last thing on your mind. Collect important paperwork, including your will, insurance policies, retirement account statements, loan statements, and deeds, and place copies in a waterproof, fireproof filing box in your emergency kit.
  • Establish a solid emergency fund. Being financially prepared includes having funds to cover normal household expenses for up to six months. Be sure that these funds are in an easily accessible, liquid account, such as a bank savings account, and include a spare ATM card in your emergency kit.
  • While some emergencies can be anticipated, not all disasters are kind enough to provide warning.

    By taking the time today to gather the basics, ensure appropriate insurance coverage, and create a thorough emergency plan, you and your family will be as prepared as you can be for whatever comes your way.

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    Disclosure: The information and opinions herein are for general information use only. The opinions reflect those of the writers but not necessarily those of New York Life Investment Management LLC (NYLIM). NYLIM does not guarantee their accuracy or completeness, nor does New York Life Investment Management LLC assume any liability for any loss that may result from the reliance by any person upon any such information or opinions. Such information and opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security or as personalized investment advice.