How to Be Prepared if Disaster Strikes
Although no hurricanes have hit since the season began in June, that doesn't mean we're in the clear. Remember Hurricane Andrew? It was the second-strongest storm to hit the U.S. in the 20th century and the first named storm of 1992 -- yet it didn't hit until late August. Actually, hurricane season peaks August through October, so make sure your disaster plan is ready.
1. Make sure you have enough insurance coverage. You can estimate how much it would cost to rebuild your home at Accucoverage.com for $7.95. And make sure you have flood coverage, which you have to buy separately from a homeowners policy.
2. Build an emergency fund. Set aside several thousand dollars in a money-market or savings account to cover potential out-of-pocket costs. Many common storm-related expenses -- such as removing fallen trees, which can cost thousands of dollars -- generally aren't covered unless the tree lands on your house.
3. Take inventory. You need to know what you have in your home -- and the replacement value of those items -- so you can file an insurance claim. Take photos of possessions or videotape your home room by room. Store the proof on a CD or flash drive and put it in a safe place.
4. Make a portable survival kit. If a storm is coming and you have to get out of town fast, you'll need food, water and supplies to last several days. Also make sure you keep your car filled with gas during storm season.
For more tips, see Your Essential Emergency Kit.