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Emergency Readiness

Irene is gone, but we still have more than three months left in hurricane season. Whether you live on the East Coast or not, the hurricane's passage offers important tips to better ready your home and finances. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for Smartmoney.com suggests what to do before the next big storm.

First you should reassess if your prepared. The number of damaging disasters has been on the rise in recent years. The cost to rebuild has gone up and there are more closely built properties, increasing the damage if a storm gets a direct hit. It's in consumers' best interest to make sure that they are prepared.

Look over your homeowners policy to make sure you have adequate coverage. First, is the amount enough to replace your property? Then reassess whether you need a rider for wind damage, flooding, earthquakes or other disasters that aren't typically included in a basic policy.

Some home improvement projects can make your house better able to withstand a natural disaster. A few, like wall brackets to secure heavy furniture for an earthquake, are cheap. Others, like hail and wind resistant roofing, are pricey but can come with a discount on your homeowners' insurance, depending on where you live. Some states also offer funding for tornado-resistant fortified safe rooms.

Pack an emergency kit. The Red Cross recommends keeping some emergency supplies on hand, and anyone who tried to find a flashlight or batteries this past week in NYC now realizes how smart that is. Keep some of the basics, like bottled water, canned food and a first aid kit, in one place so you can evacuate with them or use them to weather the storm in place.

Prepare financial paperwork. Some of the most important things to keep safe in an emergency -and grab in an evacuation - are irreplaceable papers like birth certificates, Social Security cards, homeowners' insurance policies and passports. Keep originals in a fire and water-proof box you can grab, and consider keeping some photocopies in that go bag.

For more information on preparing for an emergency and other consumer tips click here.