Adding a possible nor’easter this week to Superstorm Sandy’s effects from last week would draw a flag for “piling on” in a football game. With any luck, the oncoming storm will either weaken or head out to sea, but luck has been in short supply lately.
Watching the post-storm cleanup and truly feeling like those of us in the Washington, D.C., area mostly dodged a bullet (and yes, I do know many lives were disrupted), gave me pause to think through some critical issues for retirees and seniors who may have to face future natural disasters.
Listening to the people I know (mostly on Long Island) who Sandy blasted, either through Twitter or Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), I found what they’ve gone through to be instructive about how to prepare — as much as possible — for such calamities, particularly for retirees who may have their own physical and financial needs.
Here are 5 planning tips I hope you’ll never need:
Don’t just look at the bill when it comes every year, and pay it without some thought. As Sandy showed, damage and destruction come in many flavors: water, wind, fire and debris just to name the most obvious.
Check to make sure that your homeowner’s insurance policy covers as many events as possible. A big bone of contention may be deductibles for “hurricane” damage. Ordinarily, that deductible is a percentage of the total damage payment, and it can run into the thousands.
In this case, however, the region’s governors stepped in to negate hurricane deductibles. New Jersey’s Chris Christie, for instance, declared that Sandy “did not meet the regulatory threshold to trigger the application of hurricane deductibles by insurance companies in New Jersey.” Therefore, deductibles will be based on a lesser standard, and that should help save thousands of people many more thousands of dollars.
No matter: Check all your policies (including automobile) to get a better idea of what is and isn’t covered, and what your deductibles are for different kinds of damages.
Many people left their homes in a rush, without thought to some critical items such as credit cards. True, they aren’t very useful when the local Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) or Citigroup (NYSE:C) ATM is down, but remind yourself to bring your card(s). Somewhere along the line you’re going to need either money or a way to pay for an item, even if it’s just batteries. If the local Home Depot (NYSE:HD) is operating, flexing your American Express (NYSE:AXP) card will help you get through.
Ultimately, the ATMs will come back up, but in the meantime, a trip to the bank ahead of time for a withdrawal makes some sense. “How much is enough?” That’s a great question with no perfect answer. So, take what you’re comfortable carrying if you have to evacuate, or holding in your home if you don’t. It’s a judgement call, but make sure to give yourself some way to pay while cash is all that’s usable.
This one can be really rough for seniors in particular because critical-need medications are literally lifesaving. Only you and your doctor understand what’s critical, but share that information with any family or friends you may need to call on for help when a storm is coming. If you use a larger chain pharmacy like CVS (NYSE:CVS) or Walgreen (NYSE:WAG), it will have your information on file. But keep a list of medications and prescriptions up to date, and keep it with you in case they lose records.
I knew my Long Island-based brother and his family were at least safe by checking my niece’s updated Facebook postings. If you’re on that social network, use it as soon as possible (understanding that safety, not “posts” comes first) to alert people to your status or to find out about others’.
Eventually, the power companies will get the juice flowing again, Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T) will get up and running, and your texts and tweets will be welcome rings and dings on someone’s phone.
You can’t really fight the weather, but being as prepared as possible is the best defense. Of course, these are just a few suggestions. Any more you can think of? Just drop us an email, and we’ll share the details.
Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing he is long VZ.