BOSTON (CBS) – We are smack in the middle of hurricane season. The Hurricane Center is forecasting a below-normal season meaning fewer hurricanes.

Friday the 29th is the ninth anniversary of Katrina, which was the most expensive natural disaster to ever hit the US. Hurricane Sandy, which hit the northeast in October 2012, cost over $50 billion.

And we mustn’t forget hurricane Irene that hit New England and crippled Vermont on August 28, 2011. It was the worst storm in a century for Vermont and there are still bridges and roads closed along route 100.

Natural disasters often happen quickly and are unpredictable. If you are told you had an hour to evacuate your home, what would you do, what do you grab?

The kids, the pets, a few family pictures and medications anyone is taking. You’ll want your cell phone and don’t forget the charger and bring the one for the car as well. 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.

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 helpful information.

You will want to put together a list of the important documents you will need to put your hands on quickly. Keep 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.

I often recommend organizing your financial life so you know where your stuff is. This is a good reason to get organized.

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.

To get more information on what to do head to our website at CBS.

One more thing: Many of you think a catastrophe will never happen to you so why worry about it. Well from experience I know it can. My niece got a phone call alert in the middle of the night to evacuate your home in Colorado because of a fire. She was thankfully prepared, grabbed her son, their boots, her computer and some files and left within the hour. When they allowed folks back home she found her home gone.

June 2014: IRS Tax Tip: IRS Releases Tips for Keeping Records Safe in Case Disaster Strikes: With hurricane season officially starting, the IRS has issued a reminder of ways individuals and businesses can safeguard their records against natural disasters. Before disaster strikes (1) create a backup set of records (i.e., bank statements, insurance policies, tax records, etc.) electronically, (2) document valuables (by photograph or video), and (3) review and update the emergency plan at least annually. Store the electronic records in the cloud or somewhere outside the area that is likely to be impacted by a natural disaster. The IRS can provide copies or transcripts of lost or destroyed tax returns and has a disaster hotline dedicated to helping taxpayers with disaster-related tax issues.

FEMA suggested items you will need in case of a disaster:

  • 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 microchip do it. FEMA does not recommend that you leave your pets behind.

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.
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