(Editor's Note: The following is Part 1 of a four-part series focusing on ways to prepare for a disaster.)

Americans at all income levels have experienced the challenges of rebuilding their lives after a disaster or other emergency. In these stressful circumstances, having access to personal financial, insurance, medical and other records is crucial for starting the process of recovery quickly and efficiently.

Taking the time now to collect and secure critical records will give you peace of mind and, in the event of an emergency, ensure that you have the documentation needed to start the recovery process without delay.

For more information, go to Ready.gov's financial readiness link below.