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Are we prepared for hurricane season?

DEMOPOLIS &8212; With hurricane season officially beginning last Friday, already there have been two storm systems in the Atlantic: subtropical depression Andrea and tropical storm Barry. Both storms were downgraded and did not cause extensive damage.

However, the National Weather Service hurricane division has released a report that indicates that the 2007 hurricane season will be above average. This leaves many people in the area wondering, &8220;Are we prepared?&8221;

According to Kelley Smith, the president of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, the city and its businesses seem poised for any kind of occurrence.

Given that Demopolis is located on a hurricane evacuation route, up U.S. Highway 43, there may be an influx of people coming through the area, should the weather get bad.

Smith indicated that the success of any disaster relief is in the planning and preparations. A report last week from the IRS encouraged taxpayers to safeguard any tax and financial documents in case of a storm.

Some tips from the IRS on how to safeguard important documents and how to be prepared include:

Paperless Recordkeeping: If you receive any kind of bank statements or documents online, keep these in electronic format for later use. If you have a scanner, use it to make electronic copies of other documents that can be sent to someone else in a safe area, or they can be stored on portable, easy to carry flash drives, CDs or DVDs.

Documenting Valuables: If you have valuables that you would like a record of, one way to do that is to photograph or videotape the contents of his or her home, especially items of greater value. The IRS has a disaster loss workbook, which can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings. This will be helpful later if you need to prove the market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims.

Check on Fiduciary Bonds: Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if they have a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.

Update Emergency Plans: It is recommended that emergency plans be reviewed annually. Personal and business situations change over time as do preparedness needs. Individual taxpayers should make sure they are saving documents everybody should keep including such things as W-2s, home closing statements and insurance records. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes.

If you would like to contact the IRS for help, visit the following websites:

Tax Relief in Disaster Situations (http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=108362,00.html)

Reconstructing Your Records (http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=152317,00.html)

Publication 552, Recordingkeeping for Individuals

(http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p552.pdf)

Publication 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p583.pdf)