More than Half of Americans are Unprepared for Natural Disasters: Are You?

(StatePoint) Only 39 percent of respondents in a FEMA survey say they have developed an emergency plan and discussed it with their households.

When a natural disaster strikes, moving your family to immediate safety is always the top priority, which means there is often little time to think about the financial details that can make the recovery process go smoothly. That’s why it’s crucial to be proactive and prepared for whatever comes your way.

 “Disasters occur during every season and on all different scales,” says Rullah Price, senior vice president and community outreach director, Wells Fargo Home Lending. “That is why being prepared is so critical in today’s environment.”

Committed to helping its customers impacted by all types of natural disasters, Wells Fargo is offering the following tips, to help plan in advance for worst-case scenarios:

• Save important financial documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, wills, deeds, tax returns, insurance policies and stock and bond certificates, on a thumb drive. These records are often needed for tax and insurance purposes.

• Make a visual or written record of your possessions, including cars, boats and recreational vehicles. Or, use an inventory booklet and make a simple list.

• Photograph your home exterior, including landscaping, making special note of any improvements, such as a patio, fencing or outbuildings, as these may increase property value.

• Consider setting up online banking, mobile banking, bill pay and electronic account alerts. This will help you stay on top of your accounts and bills if you’re displaced from your home.

• Lastly, have cash or an emergency fund. A disaster can shut down local ATMs and banks. After a disaster, you may need cash for the first few days, or even several weeks.

It is also important to know that when a disaster is approaching, many financial institutions will send updates. This will help pave the way for a speedy recovery. For example, once Wells Fargo is aware of a pending disaster, the bank begins communicating immediately with customers who might be impacted, using numerous virtual channels, such as email, text, ATMs and social media -- to alert them where to call for information and assistance should they suffer sustained damage.

After a disaster, wait until it’s safe to return to your property. Then, assess for damage, including your automobiles. Call your lender and insurance company to file a claim as soon as possible if you have sustained damages. It is also helpful to know in advance if and what resources your financial institutions provide. For example, Wells Fargo customers --  including  those with home mortgages, home equities and auto loans -- can contact 800-TO-WELLS or visit wellsfargo.com/recovery

Don’t wait until disaster is at your doorstep to plan. Preparation today can pave the way for a smoother financial recovery process in the wake of a natural disaster or emergency scenario.

*****