What can one do to be prepared financially in case of blackouts or other potential emergencies?
PG&E has been on a campaign to inform the general public to be prepared during blackouts. The reason behind this information is that PG&E will be more likely to instigate preemptive power outages in the future due to the horrible wildfire disasters we have experienced in recent years. These outages may or may not affect us directly but certainly could touch other family and friends whom we care about.
Getting your home ready with all the necessities for a prolonged power outage goes beyond batteries, flashlights, water and canned goods. Financial planners are always preaching the need for emergency funds to handle any unforeseen expenses but, the need to be financially prepared during a power outage or other emergency is also worth your effort. There are some things you can do to prepare.
Keep some cash on hand. Yes, there are still many businesses that will accept cash and without power the electronic cash register will not work and therefore may come in handy. It is hard to say how much to keep on hand, but it would be wise to have enough to cover seven to ten days of food, gas and other potential incidentals. It never hurts to have more than you might need. Credit cards may be helpful if you found yourself in a lodging situation away from home for an elongated period. Family and friends may be willing to take you in for a while but to quote the sagacious Ben Franklin “Guests, like fish begin to smell after three days”.
Protect important documents. Every household should have a fireproof box for any important documents. Keeping digital copies is a good idea and easy to do. Most documents can be replaced over time but, in an emergency, you may not have that luxury. Being able to grab a small fireproof box with these important items and head out the door to safety would be more than convenient, it is wise.
Insurance protections. This subject suggests the importance of reviewing all your insurance protections. For example, a homeowner’s policy should cover replacement costs and not be limited to original values and should be updated over time. We recently helped elderly family members renew their homeowner policy and found out the policy had not been reviewed in years, was out of date and insufficient to protect them in the case of a large loss. Other than your property concerns, other protections such as life and disability should also be reviewed periodically. Anytime there is a major life change, insurance protections should be reviewed.
Communication concerns. Of course, contacting loved ones will be top of mind. Cell phones may be your first line of communication. Another way in which cell phones may come in handy is to set up your phone for alerts. You can set up alerts to be emailed and or texted to cell phones at both PG&E www.pge.com and the City of Lodi www.Lodi.gov . Even I was able to complete that task. Most cell towers do have back-up power systems which could give extended use during a power outage. It is also a good idea to have portable chargers for mobile devices which are widely available and reasonably priced. Many households do not even have land lines anymore but those that do may come in handy in an emergency.
The goal of today’s article was to bring awareness to the community regarding the financial preparedness in such cases but not to suggest any impending event. Our firm’s purpose is to enhance people’s lives by reducing stress and adding peace of mind. With that in mind here are a number of resources to help you prepare beyond the financial concerns: PG&E emergency checklist at www.pge.com/beprepared; City of Lodi has information including a PDF with tips on how to “Protect yourself during a power outage” at www.Lodi.gov; and the San Joaquin Office of Emergency Services www.sjgov.org/department/oes. Until we talk again, be prepared and be well.
Dale Immekus is the owner of Dedicated Financial Services and an Accredited Wealth Management Advisor. Registered Representative offering securities and advisory services through Independent Financial Group, LLC (IFG), a registered broker-dealer and investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC. Dedicated Financial & Insurance Services and IFG are unaffiliated entities.