Are you ready for a hurricane?

Hancock Bank in Pass Christian was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It has since been restored.
Hancock Bank in Pass Christian was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It has since been restored. Sun Herald 2005

Hurricanes Camille and Katrina both hit South Mississippi in August, which is why officials say it’s time to prepare homes and businesses now for possible evacuation.

Each year South Mississippi residents and business owners are encouraged to stock up on hurricane food and know the evacuation routes.

“We want to make sure people understand there needs to be a financial component to that,” said Keith Williams, president of Hancock Bank.

Technology has changed dramatically since Katrina in 2005, providing ways to pay with a smart phone, keep bills current with online banking and store password-protected financial documents in the cloud.

Those who lived through Katrina know power will be out to ATM’s and electronic cash registers. To offset that, “We do encourage people to go on and sign up for ebanking,” Williams said.

In his blog “Are your finances hurricane-ready?” Williams encourages people to have a a 3- to 5-day supply of cash on hand, sign up for direct deposit for payroll checks and set up automatic bill pay to keep accounts current during evacuatation.

Williams encourages residents to talk to a representative of their bank if they are unfamiliar with online accounts or setting security codes.

“Now’s the time to do it,” he said.

He also suggests residents take pictures of their houses and contents. “We all remember when we went back to the house that wasn’t there,” he said.

Business owners also should take photos and videos of their buildings and equipment, he said, and make secure efiles of their insurance policies, deeds, bank statements with account numbers and routing number.

“Hard copies of it would be great,” he said, and information also should be stored in the cloud or on a zip drive.

He also encourages people to make sure they can access their bank’s social media.

“That’s where we’re going to give live updates,” he said, including what branches are open. Following Katrina that meant doing business from a folding table and chairs but Williams said, “We will get open as soon as we can.”

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency also encourages the use of mobile apps and social networks during hurricanes to get emergency information from local, state and federal agencies along with nonprofit and faith-based organizations.

MEMA uses primarily Facebook Twitter and YouTube, along with television, newspaper and radion and Executive Director Lee Smithson said, “These networks help distribute up-to-date information about disaster response and recovery.”

What to do before a hurricane

Go digital:

  • Sign up for mobile and online banking.
  • Save digital copies of important financial papers you may need to access remotely or replace.
  • Collect password protected e-files of recent tax returns, property deeds, recent bank and credit statements, mortgage papers, insurance policies and declarations, account numbers.
  • Save updated photos of your home and personal property to your mobile device or the Cloud.

Make a plan:

  • Review current policies with your agent, including personal property, deductibles, and restrictions. Insurance Information Institute provides an online insurance checklist to ensure homes and businesses are protected.
  • Confirm your premiums are paid. Most insurance companies won’t issue a policy when a storm is in the Gulf
  • Discuss evacuation, communication and finances with family and employees.
  • Know how you’ll contact each other if separated, share a family and employee contact list and consider turning on GPS locators on mobile devices.
  • Assemble and store your hurricane kit — including a flash drive of digital financial documents — in a waterproof container.
  • Get cash. High winds and tropical rains can knock out swipe technology and ATM.

Paul Clement, Hancock Bank and Whitney Bank business continuity director