You never want to find yourself in a disaster situation, period—whether it’s an EMP attack, a solar flare, or a hurricane. But if you do, then you owe it to yourself and your family to be prepared to the best of your ability.
Before you can say “Houston, we have a problem,” it’s too late to get your passport renewed, have your financial statements faxed to you, or call your mother to mail you your birth certificate.
In Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, flight director Gene Kranz, played by Ed Harris, says, “What do we got on the spacecraft that’s good?” Sy Liebergot (Clint Howard) responds, “I’ll get back to you, Gene.”
What do we got that’s good? First, I’d tell my wife Becky we’ve got our and the kids’ passports and birth certificates, our licenses, full tanks of gas, and plenty of U.S. dollars, silver, and Canadian dollars. Plus the marriage license—more as a reminder in case she tries to ditch me.
How will you prove that you are who you are or that what you say is true? You should have up-to-date pictures of your family and your home. Up-to-date pictures of family members are vital if you’re separated, and pictures of your home are all the proof you’ll have if you need to file insurance claims.
Have copies of bank account and brokerage statements, including those for your kids, such as UGMAs, UTMAs, or 529s. In addition, make sure you’re banking with a company that has made sufficient disaster preparations. For disaster preparedness, the two companies that make me most comfortable are Fidelity Investments and the Vanguard Group.
As an aside, I’ve considered opening a bank account in Canada. I made some calls this week. One was to Bank of Nova Scotia. They tell me I can have an account set up in a couple of weeks without leaving my desk. But after further thought, I don’t want to be hassled with fees, account minimums, and the added responsibility.
So I redoubled my efforts at reviewing Fidelity’s and Vanguard’s disaster plans.
I remember from my days working at Fidelity how serious disaster planning was to the company. For one, Fidelity has multiple campuses, not just little retail outlets spread around the country. It also has plans for certain degrees of outages.
I know they have a team dedicated to hacking their own systems. My friend there tells me there’s a continuous review of potential weak spots that get revealed with mock outages and cyber-attacks.
There are a lot of good commonsense reasons to have your own contingency plan. It makes all the sense in the world to back up your docs and accounts properly and have some cash on hand. If you’re asked to do what the guys on Apollo 13 did—the equivalent of driving a toaster through a car wash—at least you’ll be in the best possible position to come out the other side.