Rocked Like a Hurricane: 3 Things You Need in an Emergency That You Probably Don’t Have

Wow. That was nasty.

If you’re living on the East Coast like me, you just lived through Hurricane Sandy, a.k.a. Frankenstorm – 72-hours of rain, wind and flooding. Wherever you are, I hope you’re safe and dry.

Thankfully, we were warned days ahead of time about the impact of the storm. That gave folks a chance to evacuate and someone like me enough time to load up on a week supply of instant Indian food, canned pumpkin and wine.

But even with my stash of supplies ad advanced notice, I felt unprepared.

It was one of those moments where I felt like a real adult. With my family over 3,000 miles away, I was totally in charge of my own personal safety. And I realized that I wasn’t ready.

Luckily for me, even after three days of intensely stormy weather, the apartment didn’t lose power and no damage. I survived Sandy unscathed. But a freak, late-season, hurricane got me thinking:

What would I do if my entire life flipped upside down by a real emergency?

Expecting the Unexpected

Unlike the advance notice we had for Hurricane Sandy, most emergencies would sneak up on me. And honestly, as much as I feel like I have my life together, I probably wouldn’t be prepared.

Over the past few days, I had a few worst-case scenarios running through my head. What if…

  • A tree crashed through the window and landed on my laptop?
  • My apartment flooded and I had to buy new furniture or stay in a hotel for a week? 
  • I couldn’t use my debit or credit cards because the power was out?

I’m not ready for most of those things. Are you?

3 Things You Need for A Hurricane-Like Emergency

After Sandy, I realized that I need to revise my emergency financial plan to include these major items:

1. An emergency fund for a real emergency.

I’ve got a few thousand set aside in my “emergency fund.” Sure, I call it an emergency fund, but I’ve dipped into it a few times for non-emergencies like an apartment downpayment or airline tickets (important purchases, but definitely not emergencies).

How much money do you have set aside for a true, legitimate emergency? And how sacred is that account?

You may feel like you have enough “just-in-case” money set aside, but you may also dip into this money whenever you want to pay off some extra debt or make a large purchase.

Take a few seconds to write down your definition of an emergency, and stick to it when you’ve got the urge to raid your account. Don’t touch unless it’s a life-or-death situation, you can’t pay your bills or survive the week without the extra money.

2. Insurance for the big stuff. 

If you’re like me, I bet you have some pretty sweet electronics: a laptop, an XBox, maybe a plasma TV. I bet you have a suit or two in you closet that’s worth a pretty penny. And if you’re really fancy, you might even have some nice furniture that you didn’t buy from IKEA.

If any of this is in your house, you owe it to your sanity and your wallet to get renter’s insurance.

For me, renter’s insurance is mandatory for anyone living in this apartment complex, so I’m covered. But I have no idea what my policy protects and what I need to cover on my own through warranties or other policies. That’s something I need to look up ASAP.

If you don’t have renter’s insurance, it’s less than $20 a month to protect all the valuable things you own. The alternative? Sell your crap so you have nothing you need to insure 😉

3. Backed-up files and cash.

If my power went out, I couldn’t tell you what my bank account numbers were. Even scarier? If the ATMs weren’t working and the computers were down at the grocery store, I couldn’t buy food. Oops.

I know it’s scary, but think about your life without a computer. Now think about all the stores you love without working computers. Sucks, right?

What would you do if you couldn’t access your computer for days or weeks? What if you lost everything when a tree branch smashed into your laptop? Make sure you have bills and other financial information backed up on a hard drive or somewhere safe online. And if there’s a chance you could lose power, try writing things down with a paper and a pen (it’ll feel weird – just go with it).

Finally, if the apocalypse were upon us and you had to use (gasp) cash to pay for everything, would you have some on hand?

Next time I’m at the ATM, I think I’m going to take out a few $20’s and throw them in my sock drawer.

After Hurricane Sandy, how do you wish you were more prepared?

Also, I realized after writing this post that a lot of people might still be without power… so thanks for using the last 6% of your battery life to visit the Empowered Dollar and stay safe out there!

Original photo: Spongebob Wiki.

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