It comes when you least expect it. Any home can have a natural or man-made tragedy strike at any time, but the challenges are multiplied if you live in an apartment. Apartment living may be commitment-free, but you do not have control over when repairs are completed, which contractors are used, or how secure your apartment is during the process. While empty apartments are easy targets for professional and amateur burglars when an entire building has to be evacuated in the wake of a fire, even well-lived-in apartments can be targeted by desperate looters in the worst case scenario of an economic collapse or major hurricane.
Even if you have renter’s insurance (which you should), some items are irreplaceable – not least of which being you and your family’s physical safety! You can buy a new laptop, but the files on your old one will be lost forever. Your identity could be stolen if someone rifles through your personal paperwork. You could lose photographs, family heirlooms, jewelry, and other items that are worth more than their monetary value. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Take a few moments to think about the important and valuable things in your home, and use the tips below to protect your family and your property before, during, and after a disaster:
1. Keep your valuable documents safe. Important documents that you don’t need on a daily basis, like passports, stock certificates, birth certificates, and tax records should be stored in either a bank’s safe deposit box or in a fire-proof safe somewhere in your home. If you opt for the safety deposit box, be sure to memorize important numbers you may need to reference on occasion, such as your social security and tax numbers. That way, if your home is robbed or destroyed in a fire, you can skip the hassle of replacing these documents.
2. Tag your stuff. Etch identifying marks, like your name or an ID number, into your valuables. Take photos of your items, and the identifying marks, so you can prove it is yours in case the police find it at some point. Two popular companies for this are MyAssetTag and ID My Stuff.
3. Use tracking and security apps for your electronics. Mobile apps such as Find My iPhone and Lockout search for your stolen devices using either the GPS inside the devices or an IP address when it is connected to the internet, to help you track down the location of your stolen devices. You can also use these apps to remotely wipe your stolen devices clean to protect your personal information, or to shut them down and render them useless. These services also back up your data so it’s not lost forever. Your laptop or desktop computer should have a backup service like Mozy, Carbonite, or Norton.
4. Get a security system with mobile access. There are wireless security systems out there which are perfect for apartments. LifeShield makes a great system, and offers free apps so you can arm your system and monitor your home from the web, no matter where you happen to be. You can also add a video camera which will record video when the door opens, or view live feed anytime you want. With this sort of system, you can keep tabs on repairmen and contractors, as well as catch burglars in the act.
5. Forward your mail temporarily. Apartment mailboxes are not known for their security features, so if you aren’t going to be in your apartment for more than a week, rent a post office box or a mailbox at a shipping store. You can also have your mail forwarded to a trusted friend who will be home. Credit card statements, personal information and important documents may arrive in the mail, and you could easily become a victim of identity theft or credit card fraud if your mail is stolen.
Dealing with the aftermath of a fire, a flood, or an economic collapse can be overwhelming if you are not prepared. Keep your most important items in a waterproof (and if possible, fire proof) box, and hide it somewhere that you can easily grab it. If you are forced out of your apartment for any period of time, take these things with you. It may seem like a hassle, but recovering stolen property and resolving stolen identities is a lot worse. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Author Biography: Max Oser has been a part of the prepper community for nearly a decade. He likes to add his own opinion to issues he writes about, and look at them from a different angle than others to find new insights. He also likes to write about general lifestyle topics, such as home improvement, safety, and social media.