Stephanie - Natural Disasters: Can You Keep Your Finances Afloat?

Thank you for viewing my presentation. Here’s what I would like from you: Do you have a disaster survival plan? If not, where would you start formulating a plan?

Informative Speech Final Draft, October 24, 2011

1.      Stephanie Veron

2.      Natural Disasters: Can You Keep Your Finances Afloat?

3.      To inform

4.      As a result of my presentation, my audience will be able to financially survive a natural disaster.


[pp:  coverslide] This is a video taken in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on the campus of the University of Alabama during the F-5 tornado that came through Tuscaloosa and the Greater Birmingham area on April 27th, 2011. While you watch this video, I want you to think about what could happen to you if this or any other natural disaster occurred close to home. [pp:  tornado video]. As college students we can all relate to students at the University of Alabama. Whether it is hurricanes or tornados, a disaster is a disaster.  As college students, we are especially at risk of losing financial control in the midst of situations like this. [pp: Fultondale] My mother, Denise Rowe lives in Fultondale, Alabama, a suburb seven minutes from downtown Birmingham. The tornado demolished our hometown. She experienced this tornado, and physically survived. Financially, she didn’t do so well. She ended up paying over $6,000 out of pocket because her insurance company did not consider her damage as “structural damage” around her home. Also, because she went seven days without power and 21 days without phone and internet she racked up around $800 on her cell phone trying to get her life back in order. Almost six months later she is still recovering financially. Seeing my mother go through that really opened my eyes that no one is safe from a natural disaster. Almost overnight, the woman who gave me spending money for 15 years was asking me for money I barely had. It’s scary to feel that this can happen to anyone. So today, I want to talk to you about how to make sure your finances will survive after disaster strikes. I will explain how to prepare prior to a disaster, give you some steps on how to acquire an emergency fund, and how to get financial help after a disaster.


I.                   Prior to Disaster
The most important part of recovering from a natural disaster is preparing before the disaster happens. There are many different ways to secure yourself and your belongings if or when you are put in this situation.

A.    Important Documents
Store important documents in a durable and fire proof box. [pp: imp.documents] A copy of your driver’s license, social security card, proof of residence and insurance, wills, deeds, birth, marriage, and death certificates, tax records, and pictures of any large valuables are some of the documents that need to go into the box.  If you get evacuated grab this box along with a pre packed disaster survival kit.

B.     Home Owner’s Insurance
If you own your own home, make sure to keep your flood, fire, tornado, hurricane, and earthquake insurances up to date. Yes, I say earthquake, because these days it doesn’t really seem to matter where you live, they seem to pop up everywhere.

C.     Renter’s Insurance
 If you rent your home, make sure you have renter’s insurance to protect your property.

1.      Lack of renter’s insurance
The International Independent Agents and Brokers of America, or the IIABA, says that nearly two thirds of people living in the United States in rented properties are at a huge risk of major financial loss for going without renters insurance.

2.      It’s not expensive
If you think it’s too expensive think again. The IIABA also estimates the average cost of renter’s insurance in the U. S. to be about $12 a month for around $30,000 worth of coverage. Renter’s insurance can protect everything you own, from curtains and rods, to cell phone chargers, to 60” flat screen TVs. It’s important.

3.      Landlord’s Insurance
A common misconception renters often have is that if their landlord has insurance, the tenants’ valuables are covered. This is not true. You will need to get your property inside the dwelling insured as well as any outside items that are not part of the structure itself, such as patio furniture, gazebos, hammocks, outdoor grills, or even tiki bars..

Another great way to improve financial survival prior to the disaster is an emergency fund.

II.                Emergency Funds

Emergency funds are an extremely large asset for your finances in any type of emergency situation. Clear Credit Counseling Solutions, or CCCS; agree with most financial advisor, in that they traditionally like to see at least 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses set aside. With the current economic crisis in the U.S., they currently hope to see 6-12 months’ worth set aside. CCCS lays out a four step process to building an emergency account.

A.    Step One
Step one of getting this account is to figure out how much you will need in the account. There are many ways of doing this from finding free budgeting calculators on the internet to going to financial counselors and doing a budget face to face. You will need to figure out what you actually need, as in food and essential bills like power and water; and things you want, such as new clothes, cable, and internet. This help you get a base line of what you actually need to survive.

B.     Step Two
The next step is to check out your current budget status and see where you can make changes to start building this fund. CCCS also determined that most people found between five to 15% of their income they can start putting away.  Setting aside 15 dollars a paycheck can go a long way in establishing yourself in the future.

C.     Step Three
The third step is deciding where to put your money. You need to make sure it’s a highly liquid asset, as in you can access it at any time without any penalties to your account. A regular savings account through your current bank is usually the right fit.

D.    Step Four
The final step is getting the money in your account.

1.      Natural Disaster Defined
Since we are focusing on natural disasters, let me take the time to define this term. defines the term natural disaster as “An emergency situation posing significant danger to life and property that results from a natural cause”. So this doesn’t mean that because you get  paid on Monday, and you really, really want to go to the John Mayer concert on Friday, that you go yank money out of your emergency fund to pay for your ticket. This is set up for devastating moments in life when you need food, shelter, clothing because everything you have left is gone or unreachable for an extended amount of time.

2.      Direct Deposit
So, now that that is clear, you should treat this account like any other bill. Most banks have direct deposit so your money can go straight in the account without any temptations for new shoes or dinner and a movie.

E.     These steps and more on becoming financially secure can be found on

Now that we’ve talked about the things to accomplish prior to the disaster, let’s talk about how to get financial help after the disaster.

III.             After the Disaster
When a person loses everything or part of everything in one fatal swoop it can affect thinking processes. Natural disasters can take everything you own, sometimes in three minutes or less. So these are some things to remember if that happens to you.

A.    Disaster Recovery Centers
On the FEMA website, there is a lot of information about Disaster Recovery Centers. [pp: FEMA DRC] DRCs can help with things such as registering for financial assistance, getting guidance on disaster recovery, Housing Assistance and Rental Resource, and statuses of applications being processed by FEMA.

B.     Applying for Help
There are many ways to apply for disaster assistance through FEMA. You can apply online, on the phone, and even through a mobile app for you cell phone.

1.      Phone
To apply by phone, dial 1-800-621-FEMA. If phone lines are down, try to go online.

2.      Online
To apply online, go to The website will guide you through the process.

3.      Things You Will Need
Before you apply, you will need to have a few things. [pp:  FEMAapply]. A pen and paper, Social Security number, current and pre-disaster address, working phone number, types of insurance coverage, total annual income in your household, and your banks routing and account number to receive money are important things to have before you try to apply. If you don’t know your bank’s routing number the Federal Reserve Financial Services website will help you retrieve that information.

C.     Red Cross
[pp: red cross logo]The Red Cross website says you will also need to contact you insurance company so you can report the damage. Get a list together of damaged or lost goods and provide receipts of those goods when or if you can. Taking pictures or videos is a good thing to do to further support your claim. Do not throw away any of those items until an adjuster has been to your property to survey the damage. Also, keep receipts of any lodging, repairs, or supplies you needed during you claims process to receive payback for those.

D.    Replacing Documents
Also on the Red Cross website there is a great list of vital documents, like credit cards, military discharge papers, birth, marriage, and death certificates, government IDs and Driver’s Licenses; and who to talk to about getting those documents replaced.


[pp: Welcome] So there are a lot of things to think about with finances and natural disasters, especially as college students in a proven disaster area. The best way to survive is to be prepared beforehand. Keep those important documents in a good, durable box. Keeping your home owner’s and renter’s insurance current is probably the easiest way of securing your finances and property. Another great way to secure yourself in the wake of a natural disaster is to start working on an emergency fund. As I mentioned earlier, these steps toward financial security can be found on After the disaster try and find a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in your area.  If you can’t find one, there are many ways you can apply for financial assistance from FEMA, whether by phone, internet, or mobile app.  Be sure to contact your insurance agency to report any damage to your home or property, excess lodging, supplies, or repairs that have taken place. The Red Cross website has a great source for replacing important documents lost, in case you decided not to store those documents prior to or they were lost in a disaster. Securing your finances is a serious step to take in locking your finances for the future. Robert Lawless of the Nevada Law Journal estimated that bankruptcy filings rose almost 50% in the three years following a hurricane in states that had a direct hit There are many ways to prevent this from happening to you or your family beyond what I have mentioned today . With the NOAA National Hurricane Center predicting that in 2012, there will be 17 named storms, nine hurricanes, and five major hurricanes, it is even more important to know what your options are before and after a natural disaster strikes.


Clear Point Credit Counseling Solutions. (2011, February 14). Budget For Your Emergency Savings. Retrieved from

Clear Point Credit Counseling Solutions. (2011, March 1). Sheltering Your Personal Finances in a Natural Disaster. Retrieved from

International Independent Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA).  (2011, October 4). New National Survey Finds Nearly Two Thirds of United States Renters Living Without Renters Insurance. Retrieved from

Natural Disaster (2005). In Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, Department of Defense. Retrieved from

Storm Tight Windows. (2011, April 26) 2012 Hurricane Predictions. Retrieved from

The American National Red Cross. © Copyright The American National Red Cross. All rights reserved.

The Weather Channel. (2011, May 19). Extreme Close-Up of Alabama Tornado. Retrieved from