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    September 17

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KRYSTLE CLEAR: Budgeting for Natural Disasters

KRYSTLE HOWELL,

Added 26 August 2019

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Every year, Barbadians are faced with the arduous task of preparing for a natural disaster.

Often, we find ourselves scrambling to obtain required necessities. Last minute preparation can be a financial and mental strain, leaving us with holes in our budgets that are difficult to fill until our next pay check. 

There are some things we can do to be better prepared, if not for this one, the next:

 - Prepare a Plan and Budget

Winston Churchill’s popular saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail” can be aptly applied. We should have a disaster plan so that we can prepare our budgets. Use the Internet to identify essential items, but ensure your list is practical from a Caribbean and individual context. You likely won’t be able to afford everything on your list, but with time you can work towards having everything in place.

  - Maintain an Emergency Bag

Once you have identified your essential items, ensure that they are accessible and mobile. A back pack or small, manageable suitcase could be used for storage. Critical documents such as identification, travel documents, medical requirements, hard cash, insurance policies and other essentials should be stored in waterproof bags.

 - Identify Alternatives

Do you have a back-up if your electricity or water goes off? This can be as simple as having a lamp / flashlight or buckets of water stored away to more complex solutions such as solar panels and batteries, generators or water tanks. The alternative should be one that suits your budget and household’s needs.

Generators and solar systems can be helpful to power key appliances or an entire room. It is also essential to identify the quantity of water required for each member in your household, as well as other household needs such as sanitary, cooking and basic cleaning.

If a water tank is within the budget, will it be used solely to capture rain water or will potable water be utilised? Have a discussion with your plumber to identify what is best and feasible for your existing structure.

 - Check Your Vehicles

The last thing you need in an emergency is for your vehicle to fail on you. Whether it is having a near empty tank of gas, tires not properly inflated, or the oil light flashing, there are minor maintenance issues that you can check before a potential emergency.  Ideally, a maintenance trip to the mechanic, if one has not been done for some time, would be best.

 - Manage Your Insurance

Review your home insurance policy to ensure that it is paid and that you have the coverage you expect. A disaster is not the time to find out that your coverage is less than expected or does not include your key contents, especially if you have made purchases since you bought your policy.

Have a discussion with your insurance company to ensure that your coverage matches your expectations and shop around to ensure that your plan meets your family’s needs.

 - Discuss and/or Practice Your Emergency Plan

It may seem obvious what should be done in the event of an emergency, but I have seen, in a state of panic, persons searching for their loved ones and being uncertain as to their whereabouts, especially if mobile service stop working. Some essential questions to consider include:

 

  • Does your family know what to do if a disaster strikes?
  • Is there an identified meeting spot to minimise the time taken to get to safety or a shelter, such as the family vehicle?
  • Who grabs the emergency bag so that it isn’t inadvertently left behind?
  • Who takes care of the pets?
  • What is the action plan if everyone isn’t at home?
  • Who in the family is responsible for collecting the children if they are at school or day care?

 

Waiting for an actual emergency to ask these and other essential questions is not ideal. Where possible, have a practice session, so that your plan becomes second nature. Practice also helps you to identify whether the plan is practical and can be executed quickly.

A natural disaster is something we all hope we will never have to experience. We have been fortunate for several decades that we have not had a significant disaster such as Hurricane Janet. However, even less severe weather systems can cause untold damage and although we can never be prepared for every eventuality, having a plan would help with some emergencies if the worst comes to past.

*Krystle Howell, CPA, CIA, COSO, ALMI, ACS, aka Mavis, is an Internal Auditor by profession, avid artist and a lover of dance.

 

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