Evacuation box to ‘grab and go’

Packing a box you can “grab and go” in case you need to evacuate could save you from financial disasters and hardships, according to LSU AgCenter family economist Dr. Jeanette Tucker.

“You may not be able to prevent hurricanes and storms that interrupt your routine or destroy your home, but you can make plans to keep them from disrupting everything,” Tucker says. “An ‘evacuation box’ that’s ready to ‘grab and go’ is one item every household should have to prevent financial disasters and other hardships.”

Calling it a “grab-and-go box,” for short, Tucker says it actually can be a plastic tub, a file box, a backpack or any other durable container you would like – although she says a fireproof and waterproof box or a waterproof backpack are recommended.

“The contents really are the important part,” she says, adding, “Just put it all in something that’s easy to store and easy to take with you, and make sure it’s something that will hold up and help to protect the valuable items you have inside.”

The LSU AgCenter expert says the contents should include copies of important papers, emergency cash or traveler’s checks, lists of emergency phone numbers, safe deposit box keys and backups of computer records. It should always be packed and ready to “grab and go” in case you need to evacuate, she says.

“After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, people around here have a renewed sense of why it’s important for every family and every individual to have evacuation plans in place,” Tucker says. “Although everyone’s emergency plans may be a little different, there are a lot of common elements – and some sort of evacuation ‘to go’ box should be one of those elements.”

Tucker says to keep the “box” somewhere in your home where you can get to it easily.

“Then if you must evacuate, keep the box with you at all times,” she says.

Among the items you’ll probably want to include are:

–Cash or traveler’s checks to cover several days’ living expenses, since power outages can make ATMs and debit cards useless.

–Rolls of quarters for vending machines, pay phones, coin laundries and other needs.

–Emergency phone numbers, including those to doctors, pharmacies, financial advisers, clergy, repair contractors and family members. Don’t forget to include cell phones of those who also may be away from home!

–Copies of prescriptions for medicines and eyeglasses, copies of children’s immunization records and copies of medical, dental and prescription insurance cards (or policy information).

–Copies of auto, flood, renter’s and/or homeowner’s insurance policies (or at least the policy numbers) as well as contact information for your local agents and the companies’ headquarters.

–Copies of other important papers such as deeds, titles, wills, trust documents, powers of attorney, health care directives, stock and bond certificates, recent investment statements, home inventory, birth certificates, death certificates, adoption certificates, marriage certificates, passports and/or other identity documents, employee benefit documents and federal and state tax returns (at least the first two pages).

–Backup copies of computerized financial records.

–Keys to safe deposit box.

–Combination to safe (if you have one).

–Negatives or digital copies of irreplaceable personal photos.

–Computer user names and passwords.

–Lists of Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, driver’s license numbers, loan numbers, investment account numbers and any other important numbers.

–List of debt obligations, due dates of payments and contact information for companies.

Tucker says it’s also a good idea to place papers in sealed, waterproof plastic bags.

“Some planning and a few relatively simple preparations can prevent the unexpected from becoming even more disastrous,” Tucker says.

For additional information about family financial matters or preparing for storms and hurricanes, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

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