Considering all the catastrophes that Iowa is currently facing, it is fitting that the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has named September “National Preparedness Month.” Between our ongoing struggle with COVID-19 and its associated challenges regarding health and employment, farm prices slumping over the past several years, and now the derecho, Iowa has certainly witnessed the importance of being prepared. As many of us have learned, sometimes even the best laid plans are insufficient. However, that caveat shouldn’t prevent any of us from taking steps to cushion ourselves from unexpected events.
The 2020 theme for Preparedness Month is, “Disasters don’t wait. Make your plan today.” We learned this lesson acutely 2 weeks ago when we had only 30-40 minutes notice of our inland hurricane.
So, what sort of things should we be preparing? What elements should our plan contain? DHS recommends taking concrete action steps each week in September. Week 1 advises making a plan to communicate before, during, and after a disaster. Week 2 suggests building a kit of emergency supplies to last your family a few days. Week 3 asks that you know your situation including the types of disaster that may strike your area and checking on your insurance coverage. For example, if you live in an area that might flood, it is better to find out if you have flood insurance before you are swimming in your basement than after. Finally, Week 4 requests that you clearly share your plans with your children including strategies for reconnecting or communicating if you become separated in a disaster.
As always, it is a good idea to have some degree of emergency savings readily available. The conventional wisdom states that a person should save enough to cover 3-6 months of living expenses, but this can often total in the thousands of dollars. If this number isn’t realistic for you at the moment, start small by setting a goal of putting aside $25 or $50 a month until you have a few hundred dollars on hand. Being able to cover some smaller emergencies can help keep you from experiencing the increased stress of cascading troubles.
If you find yourself struggling with your finances, you can always contact your local Extension office to get in touch with your Family Finance Specialist. We are here to help and can offer 1-on-1 consultations.
Guest Blogger, Kalyn Cody, Family Finance Field Specialist.