Natural disasters leave a wake of disarray once they are passed. Life is different than you knew it. Things that you took for granted as every-day conveniences are no longer available. Some of those things include: Paying for goods or services, your children’s (or maybe your own) schooling, and employment.
When disaster hits and you have been a credit or debit card-carrying member of society, life as you know it will stop…at least for a while. Credit and Debit card machines rely on internet/phone connectivity and when that connection is lost – cards do not work. The world is then a “cash only” world.
We knew that we would want some cash on hand. The amount will depend on your own circumstances and your own comfort level after the storm. We figured our cash would need to pay for things like food and gas…we weren’t sure about anything else. We prepared with about $200 cash in smaller bills. This was something a friend told us about. If you got to the ATM or the bank and get $200 in cash and all you have after a disaster is two $100 bills…things might be difficult for you. Break it up and go with smaller bills.
Getting cash BEFORE the disaster is absolutely necessary. AFTER the disaster, the banks were not open. ATM’s were not available. Once the curfew was lifted (see here about the curfew), there was a 4-hour wait for access to an ATM. Then the ATM’s ran out of cash. Again….getting cash BEFORE the disaster is absolutely necessary.
Once connectivity was restored to some stores we could start using our cards again. However, I still kept a supply of cash on me at all times because at any moment (and this happened at least twice) while I was in the store, they made an announcement that their card machines had lost connectivity and they would only be accepting cash. I think there was only one time that I didn’t have enough cash to cover my purchases.
Stewart had finally gotten a job. He had applied for many different positions. His job was fantastic and again (it being the school where our children attend) they were back after only 9 days. He is also a salaried employee. We had a pay day right before Maria hit and had set it up so our monthly bill obligations happened at the beginning of each month.
If you are employed, is your place of employment somewhere that could easily begin work after a disaster? Are you an hourly or salaried employee? How do you receive your payments? Direct deposit? Check? Would you be able to cash a check or get your income if you were unable to go to a local bank? What if your place of employment were destroyed during the disaster? Would you have enough in savings to support yourself and your family until you were able to secure employment?
Are you self-employed? How do you make your money? Is it with an online business? Do you have a brick and mortar business? Did you sustain damages? Will you be able to keep your business open? If it is online, do you have a way to have connectivity if you lose internet at your home?
If you are not employed, do you have a way to provide for you or your family in the event of a disaster? Do you have a skill that could be used to help in recovery efforts that would allow you to gain employment?
No matter your employment situation it is important that you have a way to continue to meet your obligations. This world has gotten small with the invention of the internet. That means that although you may have been through a Category 5 hurricane you still have a monthly Netflix bill or an insurance payment that have to be paid on time. If you pay for them through the pay check you get that is direct deposited to your bank account – you had better hope that the company you work for can make that deposit and that you then have either automatic payment or can make a payment someway. I spent quite a lot of time on Facebook chat (because our phones wouldn’t work and that was the only way to contact them) with customer service representatives explaining to them my experience and asking for some grace periods in paying our bill or talking to them about not paying for services that I didn’t actually use.
We have two young boys. They had spent roughly two weeks in school prior to “Irma/Maria.” After the storm, they obviously did not return to school right away. The school where they attend returned to a modified schedule a mere 9 days after Maria. This was amazing! The public schools on the island did not return until the middle of October. Many of the schools were condemned and so the schools are on a split schedule where one group of students from one school attend for half of the day then they switch with another group of students. It is hard for me to imagine how that is impacting the students, faculty, and staff.
If you have children, or perhaps you attend school yourself, what is your plan for continuing education? If your children are not able to go back to school, do you have an alternative? Would you homeschool? Could you homeschool? Would you worry about keeping them on track?
If you attend school, are you concerned about how you will progress? Many senior students in the upper school that I spoke with while I was substituting were very concerned about being able to graduate on time. They also worried about the standardized tests they were supposed to take. The dates were pushed back several times due to the storms. This then also affected their ability to meet deadlines for college applications. These are all things that are unforeseen and have had exceptions made for the extenuating circumstances. It is something to keep in mind as you are planning and preparing.
Being aware of your plan for these simple but very important details will help in returning to normalcy after a disaster.
What is something new or interesting you have learned
from this series so far? Comment below!
Sarah, I love your insight. Having survived a major disaster, you have information we all need. Thanks
Thanks, Carole! I really appreciate it! I really hope it is providing some un-thought-of questions.