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Community Banks Offer Tips to be Financially Prepared for a Natural Disaster

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 2, 2008)—September is National Preparedness Month, and with the recent onset of Atlantic hurricane season, the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) has some tips to help individuals put their banking and financial documents in order to prepare for a hurricane or other natural disaster.

"While the first priority is the physical safety and well-being of you and your family, knowing that your banking and financial papers are in order can ease your burden during times of duress," said Cynthia L. Blankenship, ICBA chairman and vice chairman and chief operating officer of Bank of the West, Grapevine, Texas. "Hurricane Gustav's strike to the Gulf Coast and Hurricane Hannah and Tropical Storm Ike gaining momentum in the mid-Atlantic are reminders that everyone needs to prepare ahead of time for the possibility of a natural disaster occurring. Putting together a financial preparedness plan is what you can do now to protect you and your family from the long-term effects hurricane or flood damage may cause to your financial documents."

ICBA offers the following financial preparedness tips to help consumers prepare before an emergency occurs.

  1. Keep marriage and family records, including adoption papers, property deeds, birth certificates, wills, insurance policies, passports, Social Security cards, immunization records, credit card account numbers, car titles or lease contracts, bank and investment account numbers, and three years of tax returns in a bank safe-deposit box. Put each of these documents is a plastic bag that can be sealed to keep out moisture.
  2. Make and safeguard official copies of critical documents such as birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage certificates and the deed to your home for safekeeping perhaps with an attorney.
  3. Inventory and keep a list and photographs of household valuables.
  4. Start and regularly contribute to an emergency fund that can cover at least three to four months worth of expenses. This fund should be separate from your savings or investment account.
  5. Include extra cash in your home emergency kit, which should include a three-day supply of water, food, a first aid kit, can opener, flashlights, radio and extra batteries.
  6. Notify a trustee, close relative or attorney where your important financial information is located.
  7. Identify the records that you keep only on computer. They may not be available if electrical power fails, so make a printout and safeguard them.
  8. Keep names and contact numbers for executors, trustees and guardians in a safe place, possibly in your safe deposit box or with a close relative.
  9. The Web can serve as a supplement to paper copies. Scanned or other electronic documents can be attached to e-mails and stored in your e-mail account, or with secure online back-up services.

For more information and resources, including a copy of an Emergency Preparedness Guide, visit the consumer education and resources section of www.icba.org.