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Personal Continuity Plan Can Defeat Disaster

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. (TheStreet) -- Just before Halloween the Northeast was hit with an early freak snowstorm. The storm toppled trees, knocking out power and heat in my neighborhood and those surrounding it. My power was out for five days. Since I work from a home office, this was a big deal.

Luckily I had a business continuity plan that allowed me to continue to work; my business was up and running Monday morning.

A storm or other natural disaster can take out your power for days, which might destroy your business.

My plan includes an offsite office where I can operate in the event my primary place of business is not operational. My firm's computer systems are automatically backed up offsite every night as well. Luckily, my computers were not damaged, but if they were I had a means of quickly recovering my firm's critical files. My point is that having a plan allowed me to continue to operate my business with minimal interruption. What would happen to you and your family if you were faced with a similar event or an even worse natural disaster?

If you answered "Who knows?" I suggest you create your own personal continuity plan.

I would recommend your plan include:

  • Key contact information, including for insurance agents (home, auto); your financial adviser; attorney; contractors (plumber, landscaper/tree companies, electrician, roofers); and utility providers (electric, gas, water)
  • Digital photos of your home and a list of items, with more digital photos, of your personal inventory
  • Recovery plan for digital files/records
  • Hotel preferred-guest numbers
  • Having emergency cash on hand

Here are some tactical things I would recommend based on my observations during an areawide multiday power outage:

  • Join a hotel preferred member program. This might be the only way to actually get a hotel room in an area affected by a storm or disaster.
  • Have a regular offsite backup of your critical digital files and documents.
  • Have a car phone charger. Everyone else will also head to Starbucks to charge their smartphones and laptops.
  • Do not overstock on perishable food.
  • Consider getting a generator if you absolutely can't afford to lose power due to health issues.
  • If you have a storm warning, fill the car gas tank. No power after a storm means no gas.
  • Make sure you have cash handy. No power also equals no access to cash via an ATM, nor electronic payments.
  • Have a sense of humor about it.

The time you spend now preparing a personal continuity plan will be time well spent. The plan will make your life easier in the event you and your family actually suffer a natural disaster. Even if you never have to use the plan, you will be extremely well organized.

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Michael Maye is the founder and president of MJM Financial Advisors (www.mjmfinadv.com), a registered investment advisory firm in Berkeley Heights, N.J. He is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and has been a speaker covering tax topics at NAPFA's national and regional conferences. Maye has also been a frequent contributor to the Star Ledger of New Jersey's "Biz Brain" and "Get With the Plan" articles. In addition to NAPFA, he is a member of Financial Planning Association, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, New Jersey State Society of CPAs and the Estate Planning Council of Northern New Jersey.

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