I summarized in the first 5 parts of this series about what constitutes an emergency and how you can deal with it. Reading back over what I have wrote, I can heartily say I agree with my earlier thinking and continue to strongly emphasize the importance of being prepared more than just financially. While the money is a very big part of being prepared for an emergency, I know many people aren't in a financial position just yet to have a big fund put away. For them, they might not do any preparedness for emergencies because they think money is the only thing they can do. But as I've written about earlier and more things I've experienced over the past year dictates to me that being as ready as you can be for an emergency is much more than having an having an emergency fund. These other things are just as important:
1. Keeping up with your family, friends, and community. If an emergency strikes your family, the first ones who will likely help you whether you have emergency money or not are your extended family, your friends, and you community. While a recluse might garner the sympathy of a few neighbors or strangers, a person who keeps in contact with his family, surrounds himself with friends, and is a contributing member to his church, synagogue, mosque, knitter's group, book club, soccer league, professional group, etc. if much more likely to have lots of support during an emergency, whether it's emotional, financial, physical or any other needed kind.
2. Have a written plan. We discussed the most typical type of emergencies. Of course things rarely happen the way you plan, even emergencies, but taking note of the ones that are common and having a plan on how to deal with them is a big step in being able to handle what comes your way. This could include things like having a will, having a fire espcape route, a place you would go if a hurricane/earthquake/tornado hits your area, where you would store precious items if your damp basement floods, what you would do if you lost your job, etc.
3. Be emotionally ready. Today, with the presence of nearly instantaneous news, it's hard not to be reminded of all of the things that could go wrong in our lives. We are exposed to earthquakes on the other side of the world, floods in anothe region of the country, health scares in a neighboring state, and dangers in our own town. We witness the upheavel that people have experienced due to these events. And while we are sometimes quick to think, "that cannot happen here or that won't happen to me" the more we see these types of events, the more likely we are to realize that at some point, something emergency-like IS going to happen to us. And while we might not know what that emergency will be, we should be prepared to expect the unexpected. It might just mean doing some talking to your self to build yourself up that you can handle anything, it might mean turning to your religion to help you be preapred for anything emotionally, or it might mean that having taken all of the stpes I outlines in the other posts will be enough to help you deal with most any emergency that comes your way.
Of course nothing can fully prepare you for a devastating emergency, but the first step to meeting it head on is to be as prepared as you can be in advance.
In Real Life (IRL): It has been just about 1 year since we moved away from our home in Virginia and we are settled in our new home and no longer in emergency -preparedness mode with regard to having a job or a place to live, at least for now. However, I feel like with better communication with old friends through Facebook, and the instantaneous and constant news we receive has done a lot to open my eyes to emergencies that people face every day in their lives. We were exposed to almost daily news reports of Hurricane Sandy for several weeks this past fall along with posts from friends and old classmates about flooded homes, loss of power, and downed trees. Living not too far south of where the storm hit, it's easy for us to say, "it could have been us." And it could have been - easily. And next time it might be. Will we be prepared for it? We've take precautions. We have a generator, we have family to turn to if we need a place to stay. We have insurance. We have an emergency fund. We will take warnings seriously. Our home and possessions are important to us, but our lives are much more important.
As I cam getting older - mid-40's now! - I am starting to hear more from friends and former classmates about diseases and illnesses. We are no longer in our 20's when we think we will live forever. People my age are getting high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, and other devastating illnesses. A good friend of ours just received a second cancer diagnosis within 1 year's time. I see him and wonder how prepared is his family - financially, emotionally, and logistically to deal with this? What plans do they have in place? And I realize the importance of our health before even dealing with any thing else on this earth. Through social media, I also learned of an old college friend who recently lost her husband suddenly to illness. I noticed in the obituary that in lieu of flowers they asked for a donation to their children's college fund. In the midst of tragedy, that seems like a logical way to prepare for her children's future.
The economy seems to be improving, so I am hearing less and less of job loss, and more about increases in home prices, so that is good news for many people. But the recession of the last four years is still at the forefront of my mind. The economy we left in Washington, DC is much better generally than where we live now in North Carolina, so for me, it hasn't been as easy to find a part-time job. And I realize what I lost when I gave up my career 5 years ago (although I don't regret for one minute staying home with my children). I am now behind on skills, have a gap in my employment, and I have few contacts in this area. We are fortunate with my husband's good job. And while his company is doing well now, one round of layoffs or another buyout could end his job and leaves us in an area of the country that isn't as well off. We do have our emergency fund should that situation arise, and we aren't expecting it anytime soon, but after what we've witness since 2008, we are definitely aware of the possibility.
Emergencies come to us in many different ways. And often the emergency we get is not the one we predict. But being prepared for it financially by having an emergency fund, emotionally by having friends and being part of a community, and logistially by haivng a written plan and procedures in place, we will be better off to deal with an emergency that comes our way.