Across the Gulf Coast, June 1 marks the opportunity to dust off preparedness plans and anticipate what Mother Nature has in store for the next six months.
We’ve seen it all—wind, storm surge, flooding; and know it only takes one storm to change our communities drastically. At Hancock Whitney we believe in the importance of proactive preparation and strive to share our lessons learned and best practices to help our friends and neighbors. While each hurricane season is unpredictable, there are things you can do today to ensure your property and finances are in order, allowing you to focus on you and your family’s safety should the storm clouds gather.
Our Lake Charles associates who faced the impacts of Hurricanes Laura and Delta set up a mobile financial center within 24 hours of landfall to serve clients.
Consider these preparedness tips to weatherproof your finances and property.
- Protect and digitize your financial documents: In the event of a disaster, you’ll need identification and important documents to begin the recovery process. Consider creating digital copies of important documents (i.e. car titles, deeds, insurance declaration pages, etc.) on a laptop, mobile device, and/or password-protected flash drive. Even if you keep your documents in a safety deposit box, have digital backups. If your financial institution’s building sustains damage from a storm, you may be delayed in accessing your box.
- Check your coverage: Review your insurance coverage for you home, vehicle and other personal property. Read up on your deductible--some policies have a higher deductible for hurricane damage and contact your agent if you have any questions. Also remember that standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding. Whether you’re a homeowner or renter, you’ll need a separate policy that can be obtained through your insurance company or the National Flood Insurance Program at floodsmart.gov. Act now, as flood insurance requires a 30-day waiting period before the policy goes into effect.
- Document and safeguard your personal assets: Take updated interior and exterior photos of homes and several photos of automobiles to verify pre-storm condition. It’s also helpful to time-and date-stamp photos or take home photos with the TV turned to an all-news channel that shows the date and time. This invaluable documentation will help jump-start the claims process following a storm. When storm warnings take effect spend some time securing windows and loose furniture and clearing storm drains.
- Enroll in online and mobile banking: To have access to your accounts anywhere, enroll in Hancock Whitney's Online and Mobile Banking. Services like electronic bill pay, funds transfers, direct deposit and account alerts can help you stay on top of your finances and ahead of late fees.
- Have funds on hand: Withdraw cash, especially small bills, to have on hand for necessities. Also consider having a credit card specifically for emergencies. It may help you document disaster-related expenses for reporting and insurance purposes.
- Increase your emergency fund: If you’re able to pad your emergency savings now while skies are clear, your emergency fund can go a long way in helping you stay out of debt post-storm. Consider an automatic transfer from each paycheck to your savings account to help cover out of pocket expenses such as insurance deductibles, evacuation and hotel costs, and immediate recovery services.
- Create a communications plan: Make sure to have updated emails and cell numbers for important contacts: emergency contacts and family members; insurance agents and help lines; emergency response centers or assistance organizations such as Red Cross; and key employees (for business owners).
- Engage social media: If you use social media, follow @HancockWhitney for up-to-date information on financial center closings and re-openings, disaster assistance and resources. In the event of a storm, make sure your profiles are updated and use the emergency functions several sites engage during crises. Use caution, though, in posting too much information to avoid inadvertently letting would-be criminals know your whereabouts or that you’re not at home.
Looking for a personal preparedness hurricane playbook? Visit ready.gov for information on disaster supply kits, evacuation details and more.
You can rest assured that Hancock Whitney is prepared to weather the storms that may come our way. We’re here to help you prepare and will be here to help if disaster strikes.