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Be ready to take care of yourself: Get finances, paperwork, home in order

Hurricanes in recent memory have hammered home no message more important than: Don't count on immediate help from emergency crews, charities or the government. Be ready to take care of yourself at least for a few days, maybe longer. Here's a checklist to help you:

Cash up. If power is lost, ATMs will not work, nor will credit card networks.

Get your car ready. Gas up. Inflate the tires. Check the spare. Know where your jack and lug wrench are. Stow an empty gas can. Stash a cell phone charger in the glove box.

Charge cell phones and cordless tools that may come in handy.

• Have a land-line phone. (In case the cellular network goes out and a power outage makes cordless phones that require electricity useless.) Have change or a phone card available in case a public pay phone is your only alternative.

Take photos of your house and yard before the storm. Be ready to photograph storm damage after the hurricane passes.

Store important paperwork. If you have to evacuate, you'll want to take necessary and hard-to-replace documents. Here's what you should store in a waterproof, lockable container:

• Checkbook, savings passbook, credit cards

• Safe deposit box key

• Birth, death, marriage certificates, divorce decree

• Will and power of attorney

• Social Security card and records

• Medical records (living will, health surrogacy, etc.)

• Insurance policies and cards

• Retirement account records

• Recent pay stubs, in case you have to document employment to collect benefits

• Tax returns

• Car titles and registrations

• Mortgage deeds or rental agreements

• Warranties and receipts

• Passports, green cards

• Food stamp, WIC or other benefit cards, paperwork

• Important phone numbers (relatives, bank, insurance company)

• Disc or flash drive on which you back up computer files just before you shut down the computer and evacuate

• Home inventory (on paper, disc, flash drive or video; you should keep another copy in a safe place, maybe at work or at the home of a relative out of state)

Bring in outdoor furniture, potted plants, garbage cans, accessories.

Trim loose branches and overgrown shrubbery. Harvest fruits and vegetables that could do harm if wind-borne. Bundle the cuttings and put them in a garbage can in an enclosed area.

• If you have window protection — plywood, shutters, fabric — install it now.

• If you have a large permanent propane gas tank for heating and cooking, tie or chain it to a fence or other anchored object. Propane is lighter than water, so the tank could float away in flooding.

Prepare to turn off supply valves, appliance pilot lights, control valves and manual shutoff valves on gas or oil-related items.

Gas grills may be your only cooking option if power is out, so refill those tanks. Secure the grill to a post or fence so it doesn't blow away. The Propane Education & Research Council strongly discourages keeping grills and their fuel supplies in the garage.

Be ready to take care of yourself: Get finances, paperwork, home in order 05/21/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 21, 2010 9:37am]
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