On August 28th, 1990, my wife and I were hit by a Level 5 Tornado in Plainfield, IL which killed 29 people and injured 353 others. The community was devastated, our first home was destroyed, and we lost several people in our neighborhood to this storm. This tornado became known as one of the worst on record, and there was almost no time to prepare for the destruction this storm wreaked on the southwest suburbs of Chicago.
Two years to almost the day (August 30, 1992), my wife’s family (living in Miami at the time) had a direct hit by Hurricane Andrew. Their homes were destroyed and it took them months to rebuild and years for normalcy to return. Unlike the Plainfield Tornado, they had a few days to prepare for this awful storm, which they did, but the effect of the devastation still took a huge toll on the family.
As I write this blog, Naples, FL is facing a possible date with Hurricane Irma. This storm could hit southwest Florida this weekend causing huge destruction. With the devastation of Hurricane Harvey so fresh in everyone’s minds, finding a case of water is already tough, gas stations are running out of fuel, and all flights north are booked. I’m trying to find someone to help me hang my hurricane shutters as this is all new to me being a sophomore Floridian!
WHAT CAN I DO TO PREPARE?
As a financial planner, I feel a little ashamed I didn’t have a plan for a massive hurricane and I’m putting it together now out of necessity versus proactive planning (which I advise our clients to do!). For those of us in southwest Florida or those in a current weather danger zone, here are a few things you need to establish to mitigate the stress of a natural disaster:
- Have a detailed evacuation plan
- Take a video of your home’s contents
- Buy large Ziploc bags for your most important documents and ensure everyone in the family knows where they are
- Put family keepsakes in large plastic boxes like family photos, etc.
- Have a healthy supply of cash on hand
- Have some backpacks ready to take your most important documents with you if you need to evacuate (especially stock certificates in the Green Bay Packers…ok, needed a little levity!)
Food and Water:
- Always have a healthy supply of bottled water
- Get a plastic sheet to line your bath tub, fill it with water, and this will enable you to flush the toilet if water goes out, or to use as an emergency drinking water supply
- Enough food for 7 days for your family – be sure to have a lot of non-perishable items as the power could be out for a while
Hygiene and Health:
- Do your laundry for a week
- Ensure that if you take prescription medication, you have enough to last a week or two
- Large plastic bags to keep clothing dry
- Have a good supply of wet wipes to keep clean
- Rainboots or waders
- Glasses, if you wear contacts
Tools and Supplies:
- Make sure your cars have a full tank of gas
- Have flashlights and batteries
- Get a portable radio with new batteries
- Use screws, not nails to board up windows – hurricane winds can pull nails straight out.
- Either charge up or purchase additional cell phone batteries
- A basic tool kit with hammers, screw drivers, pliers, etc.
- Board games, books, and other non-electronic entertainment
- Either bring your pets to a friend’s house who is out of the storm’s path, or ensure your pet’s tags are updated, that you carry a photo of your pet with you, and that you have enough food for your pet
I’M NOT IN HARM’S WAY, BUT I WANT TO HELP
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, we’ve seen so many Americans come together and reach out to help the people of Texas and Louisiana. It’s still amazing and heartwarming to see that when Americans need each other most, we’re able to put aside our differences and leap in to action.
That being said, you want to make sure that your donations are put to the best use and are going where they are needed. This past weekend, CBS Sunday Morning had an excellent report, “Best intentions: When disaster relief brings anything but relief” that showed how donations can sometimes cause more harm than good. The bottom line from this was that the best way to help is to donate money to legitimate agencies who know exactly what is needed and where.
Below is a list of vetted organizations you can donate to if you feel so inclined to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. These same organizations will activate and help those in Hurricane Irma’s path:
All Hands Volunteers – Works on damaged homes and removes debris
American Red Cross – Provides all kinds of relief
Americares – Provides medicine and supplies
Catholic Charities – Provides food, shelter, and supplies to people of all religious backgrounds
The Humane Society – Helps provide relief for displaced animals
The Salvation Army – Provides all kinds of relief
Save the Children – Provides supplies specifically for children and babies
Team Rubicon – Provides teams of first responders linked up with Military Veterans to physically respond to devastated communities
This is by no means a full list of charities, but before you donate to any charity, ensure you check them out using a website that vets charities such as Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or BBB Wise Giving Alliance.
I hope that everyone stays safe as Hurricane Irma approaches, but if the reaction to Hurricane Harvey is any indication, I know we’ll all be there to help each other as Floridians, as well as fellow Americans.
Rob O’Dell, CFP®, serves clients in our Naples, FL office. With more than 20 years of personal financial planning experience, Rob knows that successful financial planning involves a distinct process, not a one-time event.
Rob has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Planning Magazine, The Daily Herald and Money Magazine. He was a contributing author on the Third Edition of the Florida Domicile Handbook. Learn more about Rob O’Dell.
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