K-State Research and Extension has an excellent fact sheet to help you prepare for disasters.

K-State Research and Extension has an excellent fact sheet to help you prepare for disasters.  

We've heard about the Greensburg, Kan., and Reading, Kan., and the Joplin, Mo., tornados.  Would you have been prepared to take action if you were in one of these situations? To be prepared, you should have a household inventory, check your insurance coverage, and prepare a grab-and-go box. And after a disaster, do you know how to keep your finances in order?

Prepare a household inventory

A household inventory is an itemized list of the contents of your home, including basement, attic, and garage. It could also include a list of the contents of storage areas, such as sheds or other small buildings on your property. If you have a rented storage unit off-site, consider completing an inventory for that, as well. An accurate inventory is a necessity whether you are a homeowner or a renter.

An inventory of your belongings helps set an approximate value of items owned to determine needed insurance coverage. In case of a loss, your insurance company will require a listing of all items lost or destroyed in order to settle the insurance claim. It is often difficult to reconstruct a list of belongings from memory because it is easy to overlook items that are out of season or hidden away, as well as those you use regularly.

The initial investment of time and effort in preparing the inventory may seem significant, but once completed the inventory will be useful for a long time with regular updating. As new items are obtained or others discarded, change your inventory accordingly.

When making an inventory, photograph or videotape every wall in each room of your home and storage areas. Photograph open closets, cabinets, cupboards, and drawers. Take close-ups of unique or expensive items to document their existence and condition. Date the photographs and use them to show all furniture, furnishings, accessories, and other items —  large and small — in the room. When videotaping, verbally describe the contents as you move around a room. Photos or video to accompany your written inventory will be useful. Both can serve as a record of ownership and document the condition of items. Each can also characterize the uniqueness and extent of a collection, such as coins or musical instruments.

Unique items such as antiques and textiles can be fully represented by a photo or video. Save photos or video on a flash drive or other media storage device. Photos could be printed and stored with your inventory in a safe place.

Be as specific and accurate as possible when describing your furnishings and equipment. For furniture, include the color, wood type, and size. For appliances, record the manufacturer, model, serial number, and size. Product manuals will provide much of this information. When listing items include the original cost, the date purchased, any alterations or repairs done on the item, and the corresponding cost.

Include this information in your written inventory or scan a copy to keep this information electronically.

Also include any personal items owned by family members but not always stored at home, such as sports equipment stored in school lockers. One format for recording an inventory can be found at www.extension.org/pages/11274/household-inventory. Find the Household Inventory Interactive Form.

After you download the form, print it and hand write the inventory information, or fill out and save it on your computer. Be sure to back it up with external memory, and keep that copy in a safe place, away from your residence.

Consider creating the inventory in a software program that is stored online, so that the inventory can be accessed from any computer. For example, "Know Your Stuff " is the Insurance Information Institute's free online home inventory software, at


Storing your household inventory

Keep a working copy (paper or electronic) in the home file. Keep one copy if of your household inventory away from the insured dwelling, such as in a safe-deposit box, with a trusted person, or stored online, so that it can be accessed from any computer.  

Remember to keep all copies up-to-date and review them on a semi-annual basis. Add newly acquired items to your inventory and include a new photo or video. Update the inventory when items are discarded.

If you should get caught in a disaster, you will be glad you took the time to get prepared.

The publication Get Financially Prepared: Take Steps Ahead of Disaster is available free of charge at the McPherson County Extension Office, 600 W Woodside, or you can get it on-line at www.ksre.ksu.edu.  

Contact the McPherson County Extension Office at 620-241-1523, or check our website, www.ksre.ksu.edu