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The smoke has settled, but the impact of the October fires remains.

Friends who lost everything are now starting the rebuilding process. It will be a long and tedious experience.

The magnitude of the fires will most likely stretch everyone’s patience. Certainly, there will be nightmares along the way for many.

So let’s take an inventory of the events that may have left many in financial doldrums.

We have had the big fires of 2017. We have had several recent earthquakes. What else?

Other than last year, we have been facing a serious drought. Business cutbacks or relocations have left many unemployed.

These events have had a far-reaching and negative impact on our community, but on a micro basis, there have been many other catastrophes.

I know several families who have lost loved ones suddenly to accidents or illnesses. I know of others who have had major health issues that have put economic stress on the household finances.

Each of these emergencies has created emotional and financial stress on the survivors or loved ones.

Will there be more of these events? Certainly! Knowing this, how can we prepare for it.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has come up with a tool from which we all can benefit. It is called the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit, or EFFAK.

It is a 40-page booklet that could help all of us prepare for or deal with these emergencies.

The use of this kit may help us prepare for or deal with the emergencies that seem to overwhelm many families.

First, the kit suggests that we compile important documents and contracts.

If documents are destroyed by fire or other events, the kit helps us replicate our accounts, papers and contracts by having duplicates at another location. The compilation steps remind us of all the records we should maintain.

Second, the EFFAK asked us to document all of our insurance and financial paperwork. This includes estate planning documents like wills, trust, living wills, insurance policies or health insurance policies.

The third step in the EFFAK booklets asks us to store paper or electronic copies in safe locations.

They suggest storing paper copies of these documents in a fireproof and waterproof box or safe, in a safe deposit box or with a trusted friend or relative. They even address electronic copies of vital documents.

They should be stored in password-protected format on flash or removable hard drives.

The last step is to keep all the information updated. Updating is essential if events occur like the death, divorce or births.

Change is constant in our economic lives. Keeping our records up to date is equally critical.

The EPPAK provides forms, checklist and other helpful tools that ensure you have thought of everything.

You can access the EFFAK at

Tom and John Mills are registered investment advisers and certified financial planners. Reach them at 254-0155, Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group (SWAG), a registered investment adviser.