Disaster Preparedness Part I

Disaster Preparedness, earthquake, forest fires, Santa Rosa, CalCPA , EmergencyAs I reflect on the recently passed 2017, I’m tallying those things that I am most grateful for.

One of them is my involvement with the California CPA (CalCPA) organization whose mission is to educate, build knowledge and foster excellence and advance individuals and the profession.

Last year we saw many “Calls to Action”, among them that prompted this article were the Santa Rosa and Southern California forest fires that created a lot of anxiety and caught many of us off guard and made the case for Disaster Preparedness.

Disasters are simply so disruptive to people that I feel it is our obligation as fellow citizens to help out.

As the fires raged near our San Jose office and then through Southern California in late October, I heard and answered the call for CalCPA members’ to help and provide California fire victims with pro bono tax and financial services. Time to step up and do our part for the Community.

The CalCPA organization quickly issued a call for volunteers as the extent of the Southern California wildfires became apparent. CPAs from around the state volunteered their time to help victims in ways that firefighters couldn’t; by providing expert financial disaster advice in the aftermath of the devastation.

I have known CalCPA members who have shown themselves to be dedicated to public service. We should applaud the volunteers who have come forward to aid the victims of the devastating Southern California fires. We also take our hats off to those members who have been counseling their clients who suffered losses as a result of the fires.

In the end, fires claimed 20 lives, burned more than 745,000 acres and destroyed almost 3,400 homes in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura and San Diego counties.

But the physical losses tell only part of the story. Disasters take a serious financial toll on their victims.

Many families and businesses have lost everything; their homes, offices, personal belongings, vehicles, important tax and financial documents, and more. And while some consider themselves lucky; to have escaped with their lives, if nothing else; they face numerous challenges in the months ahead as they attempt to put their lives back together, piece-by-piece.

Fortunately, CalCPA members have come to help — offering pro bono financial disaster advice on everything from dealing with insurance companies to applying for government relief to managing property loss.

“I remember the Loma Prieta earthquake,” when asked why I chose to help those affected by fires hundreds of miles away. “I had a client at the epicenter of the Northridge quake, and another who lost everything but his house in the Canyon Fire of 2001 –disasters are simply so disruptive to people that I feel it is our obligation as fellow citizens to help out.”

As the fires began to die down, I received my first call from a minister, looking to help a member of his church.

I used [CalCPA’s Volunteer Handbook] and reminded him to search for children, friends, and relatives who might have pictures of family gatherings to help remember what they had … that they must visualize each room and think about not only the big stuff but the little stuff–from small tables, linens and knick-knacks–to outside items like tools and equipment. We reflected upon the importance of family and safety, and where these possessions fell in that pecking order.”

NOTE: When a wildfire, earthquake, or flood can affect folks like us and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) declares a disaster, you may you be eligible for certain tax and other benefits because of this.

Regardless, your safety comes first and it is a good idea to be prepared for a disaster beforehand. This is the first of a series of articles that I will help to explain and help you plan for something we all hope never happens.

Information: Do You Need Help : CalCPA Volunteers Are Available
CalCPA has collaborated with the Red Cross to develop a handout for fire victims as they made their way through service centers, letting them know the types of assistance CPAs could provide along with directions on how to access the pro bono CPA network.

Every CalCPA member volunteer has received a comprehensive Volunteer Handbook to assist their efforts to help fire victims and volunteers are still busy handling call-in questions from fire victims and their families via CalCPA’s hotline at (800) 922-5272, ext. 5115.

CalCPA’s Accounting & Auditing Answerline is available to those CPAs with disaster tax and financial questions at (800) 922-5272, Option 4. And the CalCPA MAP Disaster Recovery Guide is easily accessible from CalCPA’s home page, www.calcpa.org.

Daniel Morris
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