Electronically Prepare for an Evacuation

Homeowners living in areas prone to natural disaster are likely well-prepared for the possibility of having to evacuate their homes on short notice. If you’ve never had to evacuate, consider yourself lucky. However, you never know when an unexpected circumstance may arise that will force you to pack up and leave your home immediately. Regardless of where you live – Seattle, Washington DC, San Jose, Albuquerque, Cleveland – it is important to always be prepared just in case. Being prepared in advance for such a contingency can help alleviate a tremendous amount of the stress involved with such situations. Even something as simple as creating a checklist beforehand can provide you with some comfort in the face of impending disaster.

In today’s digital world, you can prepare in advance for an evacuation or unexpected relocation by having your important documents and files stored electronically offsite. Computer experts have always recommended making backups of important files, so you might already have them saved on a separate hard drive from your computer. However, with today’s increasing affordability of storage media, you should consider multiple backups. For example, you can have more than one backup drive in your home. If you choose to go this route, make sure at least one of the drives is highly portable so that you can easily grab it and go in case of an emergency. Additionally, cloud storage has become increasingly popular as a format for storage and backup. With files saved on the Internet, you do not even need to worry about physically taking anything with you when leaving the house because you can easily access your documents from elsewhere later.

So, what should you store in a digital format? In addition to items of sentimental value such as digital photographs and videos, you should have electronic copies of important documents. First and foremost, your home insurance policy needs to be saved digitally. In many cases, insurance companies can provide electronic copies of your home insurance policy so that you do not need to worry about finding that paper file in an emergency. Along with your policy should be your home inventory to help support any possible property damage claim you will need to submit. Other important documents that cannot be easily accessed online through a provider should be backed up on your drives. For example, many banks and financial institutions will have your statements going back a period of time, but usually not as far back as you might need. Keep copies of those documents. Other files, such as your tax returns, may not be accessible unless you scan a copy of it yourself, so scan or download all of these files on a regular basis to keep your digital records current.

By reducing the amount of physical items that you need to take with you when evacuating, you can leave sooner and remove yourself from the path of danger. Additionally, you will have more room in your car for more important cargo, such as your family and pets. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a great website dedicated to emergency preparedness. In addition to tips and advice, they have a library of free publications you can download to use in preparing for emergencies and disasters.

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