Many East Coast residents, specifically those in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and several other surrouding areas, are being warned about the need to prepare for the onslaught of Hurricane Irene.
In this day and age considering the fact that so many of us rely so heavily on fail-safe electronic systems in order to conduct numerous aspects of our daily lives, when faced with the prospect of such a potentially large-scale storm such as Hurricane Irene, we need to make sure that we are financially prepared to ride out the storm until systems return to their normal capacity.
Given that Hurricane Irene is being referred to as a "historic" storm, worst-case scenario preparations are being made by state and local agencies as well as utility companies throughout the East Coast. In fact, earlier today the Chairman and CEO of the utility company PEPCO issued a statement indicating that the expectation is that there will be 'widespread and multi-day outages'. Even Wall Street is bracing for the possibility that trading may be interrupted in the event that the magnitude of the Hurricane exceeds the capacity of back-up generators and other contingency planning systems set aside for precisely these kind of emergencies.
In addition to taking traditional emergency preparedness precautions (click here to access FEMA's Emergency Management Plan for you and your family), here are some smart financial moves to consider making ASAP before Hurricane Irene's landfall:
1) Ensure your access to cash: In the event of a multi-day widespread electronic shutdown, it is very possible that ATMs and credit card processing systems could be adversely affected. While you have the chance right now, plan out how much cash you might need to have on hand for a few days in the event that there should be widespread outages. Make the withdrawal of cash from the ATM now - don't wait until the storm has hit as it could be too late. If you've already stocked up on food, water and medical supplies, consider having some extra cash on hand to cover emergency expenses which could arise during the storm-related outages, especially if they last for several days.If the cash goes unused, you can easily put it back in your bank account once everything is back to normal.
2) Pay bills with upcoming due dates ASAP: So many individuals manage their bank accounts online which includes paying recurring bills and making credit card payments. Especially if you have credit card bills which are due in the next handful of days, pay them immediately. Sure, there are far more important things to think about in the midst of an impending hurricane than staying on top of bills and credit card payments. The upside of paying the bills a few days ahead of time and getting them out of the way is that you'll be able to ensure peace of mind by doing so and won't have to stress out about the ramifications of a ding to your credit report during a large-scale hurricane. Instead, you can relax knowing that your creditworthiness is in tact which will allow you to devote your full attention to your individual safety and to the safety of your loved ones.
3) Make sure you know how to locate your important (financial) documents: Aside from bank and credit card related documents, this would also include any titles to vehicles, any real-estate related documents, insurance documents, and legal documents. Especially for those individuals who have filed for an extension of their 2010 taxes (due in mid-October 2011), make sure that you can resume with your tax prep once the storm has passed by securing your W2's, 1099's, receipts, and any paperwork documenting the deductions which you plan to itemize on your tax return. For additional information on how to protect tax documents, click here to visit a resource from the IRS website.
FEMA Ready.gov website: http://www.ready.gov/
IRS disaster preparation tips: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/
New York Utility Company Con Edison website: Hurrican Irene update
Pepco Utility Company: Storm/Severe Weather Prep Advice/Info
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