Make sure you're financially ready to weather Hurricane Irene

Palm trees swaying in wind

If you live on the East Coast, you’ve probably seen a hundred stories telling you what supplies you’ll need to weather Hurricane Irene.

But what about weathering the financial storm? Here are 7 smart moves you need to take to make sure you're ready with everything from money to insurance policies.

Smart move 1. Get cash. Automated teller machines won’t work if the power is out. Credit card machines on cash registers might not either if stores open without power. So hit the ATM now before the winds and rain start.

Smart move 2. Take pictures of your home. Even if you did so when you first bought the home, do it again so you have an up-to-date record of your possessions. Then email those pictures to yourself and to a friend to make sure they’re not lost should your camera get damaged or waterlogged.

Smart move 3. Take copies of your important financial information, including mortgage, deed and insurance policies, with you if you are evacuating. Use the same tactic if you can -- scan and email copies to yourself and a friend. Then seal them in a waterproof baggie and stick them in your car. If you’re bringing your pet, bring his or her updated medical records. You might have to prove that your pet has up-to-date vaccines to take them with you into a shelter or hotel. Bring your pet carrier if you have one, too.

Smart move 4. Put your car and home insurance agent’s number in a place that will be with you throughout the storm. You will want to file claims as soon as possible. Writing it in black Sharpie on your hand or arm might even be a good idea.

Smart move 5. Pay your bills now. Do you think your big bank is going to care if you miss a credit card payment because your cable is out and you can't access your online payment system? Fat chance. Mail could be delayed, too. So pay your bills online ASAP in case the power’s cut or the mail doesn’t go through.

Smart move 6. Watch for -- and report -- gas gouging. Of course, people are going to try to profit from this mess, especially along routes where people are forced to evacuate. If that gas station is your only fuel option, you don’t have much of a choice at the time. But note the name of the station and the prices. If you have a camera or smartphone, take pictures. Each state has different ways to report. In North Carolina, for example, you can call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. The Department of Emergency hasn’t reopened its Gas Price Watch Hotline yet, but could in the case of an emergency -- and this is certainly it. Its website is:

Smart move 7. If you’re told to evacuate, do so. There's nothing to be gained by staying to watch your property.

So stay safe, stay dry, and we’ll see you on the other side of Irene.

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