INSIGHT: 4 Steps to Help You Plan for Wildfires and Other Natural Disasters

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Updated March 20, 2017


Four years ago, when a wildfire overtook a neighborhood near Austin, my sister-in-law had to be rescued from a smoke-engulfed home, and my in-laws, who had spent the day at the lake, were left shopping for a change of clothes in their bathing suits at 8 p.m. As my in-laws replaced their clothing, they anxiously hoped a lifetime of family pictures weren’t about to go up in flames.


Fortunately, their home sustained only minor smoke damage. But a few of their neighbors suffered both property damages and severe financial losses.


Wildfires and other disasters can be challenging because you rarely get enough warning to develop a plan to protect your family and minimize property damage, much less execute that plan. Thinking ahead can make all the difference — increasing your family’s personal protection and minimizing property damage and financial impact.


Four steps that can help:


  1. Prepare your family, whether you are at home or traveling:
  • Establish a family communication and evacuation plan that includes a remote meeting place in case you’re separated.
  • Stock an emergency kit with essentials and must-haves.
  • Sign up your primary phone for Reverse 911 notifications so you can receive up-to-the-minute catastrophe bulletins and instructions. Contact your local police or fire department to inquire whether the service is available in your area.
  1. Protect your finances:
  • Review your insurance policies annually (or more frequently when major life changes occur) to ensure you have the right type and amount of coverage.
  • Establish an emergency fund. Try for three to six months of living expenses, if possible.
  • Store important documents on a secure Internet site or in a safe-deposit box that requires an ID and key.
  1. Ready your home:
  • Create a fire-free zone by trimming branches near the structure. Also clear leaves, debris and dead trees, and keep your grass mowed.
  • Properly store flammable materials and fuels.
  1. Access community help:

More Resources:

Visit USAA’s Disaster Recovery page for help after a crisis.


Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP® and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in the United States, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete the CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.


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