BOSTON (CBS) –  Hurricanes are big news right now. Tropical storms have increased this year and the hurricane season started early. It has been warmer than usual and the experts are predicting 12-17 named storms. Three or more severe. The 29th is the seventh year anniversary of Katrina which was the most expensive natural disaster to ever hit the US.

Living here in New England, we are at times smug about disasters for they always seem to happen somewhere else. But we have had our share.

Last year we had a tornado rip through central Mass and earlier this month one hit Block Island. On August 23 last year, we experienced an earthquake that originated in Virginia and could be felt as far north as New Hampshire.

Following that, a week later hurricane Irene, downgraded to a tropical storm, hit Vermont with a fury and caused the worst flooding in a century. The flooding rivers wiped out roads, bridges and homes. Some still in need of repair.

Natural disasters often happen quickly and are unpredictable. Think about trying to evacuate Cape Cod if a hurricane was going to hit. The traffic would be backed up past Hyannis.

My niece lives in Colorado and was told she had an hour to evacuate her home due to the encroaching fire. If you are told you had an hour what do you grab?

The kids, the pets, a few family pictures and medications anyone is taking. You’ll want your cell phone and a charger for the car as well as one you plug in. The computer back up disk or just grab your laptop with a battery charger. If the kids are old enough let them pack their overnight bag stuffing into it what’s important to them including sensible shoes for everyone.

It’s a good idea to know where your most vital information is and hopefully it is easily accessible to toss in a Disaster Bag. The FEMA website has some great information but I am not sure anyone bothered to look at it before Katrina. Red Cross as well has good information and guess who else? The IRS.

On the FEMA website, they have put together a list of the important documents you will need to put your hands on quickly. They recommend gathering the documents and items and keeping them, or copies of them, in an easily accessible place where you can grab them quickly and take them with you if you were told to evacuate.  Some of it’s common sense type stuff and others are there because of FEMA’s history with families in crisis dealing with catastrophes.

  • Personal identification (i.e. drivers’ license and/or passport)
  • Cash (including some coins). It doesn’t have to be a lot, but enough for you to be able to live on for at least a three days. Without electricity your credit/ATM cards won’t work.
  • Credit cards
  • Checkbook
  • Extra set of house keys and car keys
  • Copies of the following documents:
    – Birth certificates
    – Marriage license
    – Driver’s license
    – Social Security card
    – Passport
    – Wills
    – Health Care Proxys
    – Deeds or mortgage information for your home. A copy of your most recent mortgage payment statement will have your account and lender information.
    – Inventory of household goods.  Preferably list and take photos of your biggest or most important possessions (i.e. appliances, electronic equipment, collections, jewelry, furniture, etc.).
    – Insurance records/policies
    – Health records if you have a medical condition that requires medication, treatment or a doctor’s supervision.
    – Copies of your prescriptions.
    – Immunization records for your children
    – Bank account and credit card account numbers and phone numbers
    – Account numbers and contact information for any financial investments you have such as stocks and bonds
    – Loan information for any outstanding loans you have in addition to your mortgage (i.e. personal loans, car loans, student loans, etc.)
    – Emergency contact list with phone numbers of family, close friends, and doctors
    – Map of your area with phone numbers and potential places to go
    – Nonperishable food like granola bars and bottled water.
    – If you have pets, pack a copy of your pet’s vaccination records; a current photograph; leash and collar with ID. If you have ever thought about getting Fido a micro chip, do it. FEMA does not recommend that you leave your pets behind.

By taking the time now to know where all of this information is, you and your family will be able to leave your home quickly and safely with the peace of mind that you have what you need to survive.

More thoughts on the subject:

Plan for Pet Disaster Needs

  • Identifying shelter. For public health reasons, many emergency shelters cannot accept pets. Find out which motels and hotels in the area you plan to evacuate to allow pets — well in advance of needing them. There are also a number of guides that list hotels/motels that permit pets and could serve as a starting point. Include your local animal shelter’s number in your list of emergency numbers — they might be able to provide information concerning pets during a disaster.
  • Take pet food, bottled water, medications, veterinary records, cat litter/pan, can opener, food dishes, first aid kit and other supplies with you in case they’re not available later. While the sun is still shining, consider packing a “pet survival” kit which could be easily deployed if disaster hits.
  • Make sure identification tags are up to date and securely fastened to your pet’s collar. If possible, attach the address and/or phone number of your evacuation site. If your pet gets lost, his tag is his ticket home. Make sure you have a current photo of your pet for identification purposes.
  • Make sure you have a secure pet carrier, leash or harness for your pet so that if he panics, he can’t escape.

By taking the time now to know where all of this information is, you and your family will be able to leave your home quickly and safely with the peace of mind that you have what you need to survive.

One more thing:  With the threat of hurricane season hitting the Northeast coast, the Massachusetts Oilheat 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 and



You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.


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