Are You Prepared for The Next Disaster

Question: A few years ago you published an article on what you should take with you (records, etc.) in case of a disaster, like a fire, earthquake or flood. With El Niño and possible flooding, I could certainly use a refresher article on that subject.

Answer: It has been a while since I addressed this subject, so thanks for prodding me. It’s a good time for a refresher. Most disaster kits contain items including water, batteries, food, candles, a flashlight and a first-aid kit. But you will need to function financially once the earthquake, flood, fire, power outage or terrorist attack is over.

You should gather the items on the following list and put them in a container you can carry.

1) Copies of the past four years’ tax returns.

2) Cash. As much as you need for a week or more. Credit card machines and ATM machines won’t be working if the electricity is out.

3) Copy of final escrow for home purchase if you own your home and a list of any major improvements to the home and their cost. You may need these to prove the pre-disaster value of your home.

4) Copies of important papers such as wills, trusts, birth certificates, citizenship papers, Social Security cards, green cards, etc. It is true that you can probably get new certified copies of these documents, but think of the time and money you will save if you have copies to work with.

5) Copies of the front and back of your ATM and credit cards.

6) Electronic backup of the data stored on your computer if you don’t use a cloud service such as Carbonite.

7) Copies of driver’s license(s) for all drivers in the family and the titles and registrations for all the cars you own or lease.

8) A list of all your current prescription medication, including the name and strength of the medication and the telephone numbers for family doctors and pharmacies.

9) A notebook containing negatives of important family photos and photos of the inside and outside of the house if you don’t have them saved on a DVD or your computer backup.

10) Copies of all insurance policies (home, life, auto).

11) Important telephone numbers for family members, doctors, baby sitters, schools, work numbers, and the telephone number for an out-of-town contact (relative or friend). These may already reside on your cellphone.

12) A list of investments and bank accounts with telephone numbers for each.

If you need help getting your information organized and in one place, Hospice Foundation offers an online organizer titled “Notes to My Family.” Among other things, the electronic .PDF binder has separate sections, which they call modules, to help you catalog important information including health, financial and legal documents. You can visit the Hospice Foundation website at or call them at 831-333-9023.


Kenneth B. Petersen is an investment adviser and principal of Monterey Private Wealth Inc. in Monterey. Send questions concerning investing, taxes, retirement or estate planning to 2340 Garden Road, Suite 202, Monterey 93940 or