At the final performance of Fidelio a couple weeks ago our Master Electrician, also the Light Board Op, came on headset and said, “Did someone adjust something with the lighting levels? Everything looks a little different. Like it’s swaying.” All of us on headset look up and see all of the line sets, the pipes that run the width of the set that hold lights, scenery, and masking, swaying slowly. My mental rolodex swings to the last time I heard a story about something like this and I am reminded of Andy’s recollection of the Nasqually Earthquake in 2001, which registered at 6.8 on the Richter scale. He mentioned that prior to the actual ‘quake, the line sets started swaying and all his moving lights reset.
As if on cue, our Master Stage Carp says, “We might be having a little earthquake.”
My boss, the Production Stage Manager, quietly instructs me to get the bullhorns we have ready in case of an evacuation and I prep my fellow SMs belongings for a quick grab and temporarily stash them under the desk in case we need ID or cell phones.
I am convinced The Big One is coming and I immediately text Andy.
Facebook lights up. Theatres all over town are experiencing something similar and we find out we felt the residual rumblings of a 7.7 quake in Canada.
No Big One comes.
Then, Hurricane Sandy, now called Superstorm Sandy, smacks hard into the East Coast and I read everywhere about the devastation, not just those without power, water, and gas, both those who have lost homes, like all of Staten Island. The pictures are as eerie as those from Katrina and my own devastating storm experience, Hurricane Andrew.
So I want to take a moment to talk about something incredibly serious that you need to deal with now.
Whether you believe in climate change or the Mayan calendar, it cannot be denied to natural disasters are happening with more frequency and greater magnitude. And you need to be prepared.
You can find out information about natural disaster preparedness from a site like the Red Cross or my personal favorite, Ready.gov, which is the federal government’s site about readiness involving canned goods, water supply, gas in your car and how to store goods in prep for a hurricane or blizzard.
But what people often forget is important financial documentation. It is vital for when power is out and the only way to deal with your bills that still have to get paid is through a cell phone and no credit cards.
Here’s your checklist of what you need:
1. Cash– preferably the amount of a month’s rent or mortgage payment. Not necessarily to pay that, but because it is usually a good benchmark for how much your family will spend in the typical 1-2 weeks you may be living in less than ideal conditions post-disaster. If that number terrifies you, make it a goal and instead start socking away cash when you can. ATMs can’t run without power and neither can credit card machines. Your only option to get food and fresh water may be to pay cash.
2. Contact information for all your financial institutions– start with you bills (mortgage/rent, utilities, credit cards, insurance, loans) and write down their contact information and your account number. Add information about retirement or brokerage accounts and your banks for your checking and savings accounts. This information is your life line to your finances. It is how the day after disaster strikes you will know to call the places that are waiting on a payment from you and get your account put on hold. This is also where if in the unlikely event you lose your home or your belongings, you can call a utility company and tell them you no longer have a place for them to service. Stop charging me now. I’m serious, folks. Be prepared to make a call like that easier by having all your information in one place.
3. A list of all your monthly bills’ due dates– if you are struck on the 15th, you need to know that your credit card is due on the 19th so you can contact them first. Simple as that.
4. The average amounts in all your accounts– start with your largest accounts like retirement and brokerage, then savings and finally checking. Write down the account numbers, when you last checked them and how much was in them. Then write down the customer service number next to it. Again, this is so if you have a biller who will not waive your payment (some really don’t) you know your account number and can give them a routing number and checking account for them to pull from.
5. You homeowner’s/renter’s and car insurance policy– Hard copy.
All should be stored in a fireproof/waterproof safe, which can be found at any office supply store. And if you can create a Dropbox folder (or any other file sharing service) with e-copies, even better. Though it is unlikely you could access the e-copies if you are in a true devastating disaster, you can give a customer service rep your email address and password to access your information. Sounds counter-intuitive in a world all about protecting identity, but they are legally bound to keep that information secret and when you need to get money in order to take care of basic needs, you won’t be so worried about a password change down the line.
Everyone within my community and network of friends knows at least half a dozen people impacted by Sandy. Can you imagine if it were you? What would you need? How would you figure it out?
I hope this all gets you motivated to prepare for whatever natural disaster could strike you. Now would be a great time to not only get a renter’s insurance policy if you don’t have one (they’re usually around $10-$15 a month), but also to take an inventory of your belongings. This could be as simple as taking a video camera and walking around your house, speaking out loud the more expensive belongings and then storing this video in your fireproof/waterproof safe, and if you have an e-version add it to your Dropbox account.
Andy has a theory that if he comes up with a plan for something he’ll never actually have to use it. Take the few hours to come up with your plan and hope you get to pull an Andy and never have to use it.
Email questions about this to firstname.lastname@example.org or put them in the comments below.
Oh! One more thing. If you haven’t donated to a Sandy cause, donate to PetSmart’s pet rescue fund at www.petsmartcharities.org. Pets are usually not allowed to be evacuated into shelters, so donate to a cause like this one that has services to help misplaced or abandoned pets to help your karma to make sure you never have to deal with losing your best furry friend.
Sorry for the grim post. It’s serious stuff we’re dealing with and I just want y’all to be prepared. More fun will return soon, promise.