By Steve Jacobs
Chances are that you’ll never experience a tornado unless you live in certain parts of the country, like the Great Plains or the Gulf Coast, or you happen to chase storms for a living. And good for you if you never have to worry about them.
But if you’re ever one of the unlucky few who find themselves in the path of a twister, it’s a literal whirlwind that has the potential to completely upend your life.
Following are a few steps you can take now that will help prepare you for the aftermath, as well as a few things to do afterward to help you get things back on track.
First off, find a safe place to store all of your critical financial, medical and legal records. This can be somewhere outside of your home or in a storage container that’s protected from the elements. Having these documents in a safe place will ease your mind in case of any emergency.
Next, devise an evacuation plan to use during any natural disaster and include special considerations for pets or people with disabilities in your household. Make sure you have an emergency kit stocked with anything you’d need for a few days of roughing it. Also think about taking first aid and CPR training — you never know when those skills will be needed.
Other than these steps, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to prepare. Any other advice is for what to do after the tornado has come and gone, and finding ways to get back to normal – or a new state of normal, at least.
Once the immediate danger has passed and you’ve made certain it’s safe to enter the property – no downed power lines, no significant structural damage, etc. – you’ll want to assess your losses and start to rebuild the pieces. Hopefully, you have an inventory of everything in your home, which will make the process of discovering what was damaged much easier. Then you file a claim.
After you file the claim, it’s all about working with your insurance provider to make sure it’s handled as swiftly as possible. This is part of the process of getting back to whole financially. Assessing your financial hit is also important.
“Once back to normal, you have to make sure that you rebuild any savings spent during your transition and re-evaluate your insurance,” says Sean Scaturro, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM practitioner and USAA advice director.
You can be excused from being on your best financial behavior while getting back on your feet, but you don’t want to deviate from your long-term financial plans because of a disaster.
“Like with any natural disaster, the recovery process from a tornado is made a great deal easier if you take all the steps to prepare in the first place,” Scaturro says. “It’s easy to say this, but it’s important, since emergencies happen. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.”
Luckily, you aren’t alone.
If you need support getting yourself back to whole after a disaster, visit usaa.com/help for more information.