Begin the New Year with a Plan in Case of Emergency
Management Profs See Financial Cautionary Tale in 2011 Natural Disasters

Last year was filled with natural tragedies – earthquakes and a tsunami in Japan, flooding in the Northeast, tornadoes across the South and raging fires brought on by a record-setting drought here in Texas.

Now is the time to take stock of what you might lose in such a disaster, says Jared Pickens, the assistant director for undergraduate finance at the UT Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management.

Documents to Preserve

Jindal School of Management experts suggest making digital copies of the following documents:
  • Wills, power of attorney, living wills.
  • Social Security cards, birth certificates and other original IDs such as passports.
  • Marriage certificates.
  • Bonds, if you have the actual documents.
  • Deeds to property and titles to any vehicles you may own.
  • Pet records or livestock records.
  • Past three years of IRS documents.
  • Copies of insurance papers, policy numbers and agents names and contact information.
  • A credit card for “loss of use” costs if emergencies require paying for lodging or transportation. Many insurance companies will reimburse those costs.
  • User names and passwords to all online accounts.

Why now? Because it’s a better time than when you’re told to evacuate your house in 15 minutes.

 “When I used to work as a financial planner, one of the things that I did with clients was put together a risk management plan,” says Pickens, who is a Certified Financial Planner, retirement counselor and accredited financial counselor.  “I strongly encourage people to use a video camera and walk and talk through their home for about 45 minutes and record every item they have. It is important to get model numbers, if possible, and just say basic things about each item. ”

He advises uploading the video to a server that is not in your home or giving a copy to a friend or family member for safekeeping.

Preserving key documents is also important, including items such as tax returns, birth certificates, Social Security cards and estate documents. Pickens suggests scanning files and storing them on a secured server for backup. Copies can also be stored on a password-protected flash drive and kept at the home of a trusted person. Making hard copies is another option.

Pickens said the personal inventory video is his top disaster planning recommendation. Though a simple idea, the majority of homeowners or renters don’t do it.

“People don’t like to think about the possibility of negative future events,” says Dr. Tracey Rockett, who teaches organizational behavior at the Jindal School. “We have a natural aversion to loss and tend to avoid thinking about negative outcomes, even if they are likely. It’s known as the Ostrich Effect.”

Rockett says the Ostrich Effect  also plays out in people’s responses to crises.

“This leaves people particularly vulnerable when bad things do happen because not only did they not plan in advance, but this also impacts their ability to respond in the moment.”

Jared Pickens, assistant director for undergraduate finance at the UT Dallas Naveen Jindal School of Management.


Dr. Tracey Rockett teaches organizational behavior at the Jindal School.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].