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Thursday December 12, 2019

Washington News

Washington Hotline

Protect Yourself from Hurricane Dorian

At publication time, Hurricane Dorian is spinning rapidly in the Atlantic Ocean. Strong winds are expected by the time it makes a Tuesday morning landfall on the east coast of Florida.

After making landfall, Dorian is expected to slowly track up the Florida peninsula into Georgia and the Carolinas. It may move quite deliberately, as was the case with Hurricane Harvey in Texas. If that does occur, there could be major rainfall and massive flooding.

Many individuals in the path of Dorian are preparing to evacuate. These Florida residents will need to gather their personal items and key records if they are forced to move to higher ground.

In IR-2019-147, the Service offered tips on preparing for a natural disaster. These tips are helpful to all Americans. The prudent preparation tips apply to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

If you are a resident of Florida or Georgia, the potential floods could require you to vacate your home for weeks or even months. Residents of other states where there may be natural disasters may also face evacuation situations this year. How should you prepare for evacuation? What records and papers should be gathered? There are several helpful actions you can take to protect yourself and your family.
  • Time May Be Short - While there is ample warning for a hurricane, with a fire, flood, earthquake or volcanic eruption, you may have an hour or less to gather records, personal mementoes and key papers. You should be prepared with a list of key items and know how to gather them quickly.
  • Key Documents - Your "financial travel kit" should include IDs: driver's licenses, passports, Social Security cards, Medicare or health insurance cards and your emergency contact person's phone number and address.
  • Medical Items - Retain records and copies of prescriptions and contact information for your doctors. Take prescription drugs with you. Remember to include any medical devices needed for your care. If you depart using public transportation, it is best not to place your medicines in checked luggage, but to keep them in your carry-on bag.
  • Financial Items - You will need your checkbook and sufficient cash for a week or two. Following a natural disaster, banks or ATMs may be closed for several days. Merchants may be reluctant to accept credit cards, but will always provide goods and services for cash.
  • Personal Items - If you have valuable art or personal collections, document these items through photographs. You can keep photos on a smartphone or USB drive. Alternatively, you can upload pictures to the cloud. Popular cloud services that store pictures include Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud.
  • Safe Deposit Box - A bank safe deposit box is usually protected in most natural disasters. Another option is to store key documents on an encrypted cloud service. Search for "encrypted cloud service" and review the available options. Most cloud services that encrypt your financial and estate planning documents charge from $3-$8 per month.
  • Passwords - You could prepare a spreadsheet on a USB drive with all of your passwords. You should use a master password to secure the spreadsheet file. Another option is a cloud password program. It is a secure way to transfer and encrypt all of your passwords. Because you may have 20-80 different finance, retirement, bank, commercial and social media accounts, a password program can be a valuable tool. All of the password programs or the spreadsheets on your USB drives are opened with a master password. You should give the master password to a trusted family member or a professional advisor.
Editor's Note: Natural disasters can occur without notice. All Americans should plan ahead by following these helpful tips. If you do experience a flood, fire, windstorm, earthquake, tornado or volcanic eruption, your preparation will be essential to successfully weathering the storm.

Published August 30, 2019

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