Insurance

Prepare Yourself for a Disaster

Keep an up-to-date home inventory to get fast service on any insurance claims, and to minimize disputes.

Keep an up-to-date home inventory to get fast service on any insurance claims, and to minimize disputes. Take photos or make a video of everything in your home, then store a copy in a safe place outside the house, along with receipts for valuable possessions. The Insurance Information Institute's Know Your Stuff Web site can help.

Build an emergency fund. Keep at least three to six months' worth of living expenses in a money-market or savings account that you can easily access without penalty in an emergency. Bump up your savings if you have a high-deductible homeowners policy and might need more cash.

Store some cash and important papers -- including insurance policies plus contact information for your insurer, bank, lenders and others -- in a box that you can grab quickly if you're evacuated.

Make sure you have enough homeowners insurance. (See how to protect your home and valuables.)

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes offers advice on protecting your home in the event of a common disaster. Also look into insurance discounts or state assistance if you storm-proof your home by adding shutters or a reinforced roof. Florida's My Safe Florida Home program gives grants of up to $5,000 to help homeowners in high-risk areas.

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