BOSTON (CBS) – Most folks think a catastrophe will never happen to them so why worry about it. I do know that catastrophes happen!

My niece in Colorado got a phone call alert in the middle of the night to evacuate her home immediately because of a fire. She was thankfully prepared. She grabbed her son, his favorite teddy bear, their boots, her computer, her files, some pictures and left.  When they were finally allowed back she found her home was gone.

We may not get serious fires here in New England but we do get flooding and hurricanes. If you were told to evacuate within the hour would you be able to gather up the kids, the important papers of your life, the cat, sensible shoes and leave in under an hour?

You should be able to. Don’t worry about clothes for the Red Cross will provide some, just grab the important stuff and remember to turn off the furnace.

Planning for a catastrophe means you will need to be organized. Set up a filing system.

Sort through all the places you have stashed those important papers. Organize the stuff into piles and begin to catalog the stuff you have gathered up.

Set up a master file and list. Think of it as the table of contents of your life. Where are the important documents of your life stored? On your computer? Which would be the best place with a back up to the cloud. In a filing cabinet? At the attorney’s office? Safety deposit box?

List the document and where it is located. Also put together a list of all your investment and retirement accounts, insurance policies, EE Bonds, credit card accounts.

Create a list of all your passwords. Experts advise not using the same password for everything. You want the list safe and accessible. Next a list of your advisors with their telephone numbers. Include your doctor, financial planner, attorney, tax preparer, plumber, electrician. A list of all the medications that anyone in the family takes.

And while you are in the organizing mode, take inventory or video tape the contents of your home.

Keep this master file in a safe and accessible place. You want to be able to grab the master file if you ever need to evacuate.

One more thing:

On my website, there is worksheet entitled the Document Locator. Download the information and use it to record where your important papers are kept.

Also with the threat of hurricane season hitting the Northeast coast, the Massachusetts Oil Heat Council (MOC) and Energy Communications Council (ECC) remind heating oil consumers about the importance of disaster preparation and safety tips to follow before and after a storm or flood.

Because water can damage your heating system, the right preparation for possible flooding can significantly help protect your family, your property, your business, and your heating equipment. MOC and ECC encourage homeowners and businesses relying on heating oil to remember the following tips:

Preparation before a flood

  • If you must evacuate, turn off the heating oil supply valve at the tank before flood waters rise.
  • If you must evacuate, turn off furnace or boiler emergency switch.
  • Properly installed heating oil tanks are bolted to the ground/floor to ensure they will not move during a flood.

After a flood

  • If oil heat equipment has been flooded, be sure to shut off the tank service valve if you did not do so before evacuating.
  • Look for any visible structural damage. If the tank has shifted, lines are bent or damaged, or you notice anything else unusual, contact your heating oil retailer immediately.
  • Damage to pumps, filters, and electronic controls is a significant problem caused by flooding. Heating oil appliances and equipment that have been underwater should be inspected by your professional retailer before being placed back into service.

For more information regarding safety tips, contact your local heating oil dealer, your state or regional heating oil association, or visit www.heatingnews.org and www.oilheatamerica.com.

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