Imagine this: A chemical spill and potential fire forces a sudden evacuation order in your area. You have ten minutes max to grab your kids, pets, keys, wallet, and emergency supplies and be on your way. What’s likely to get left behind? One item often forgotten in the rush of any crisis is information. You may need such info as immunization records (Bill cut his foot: when was his last tetanus shot?), homeowners’ insurance policy and contact numbers, or health insurance cards. Keeping copies of important documents and info in a form that’s handy to grab along with your emergency kit is a smart step in your preparation efforts. During any emergency, you won’t have the time or presence of mind to rush around gathering up birth certificates, documents, and important phone numbers. Why not prepare copies ahead of time and tuck them into a pocket of your kit? Follow these simple steps to add to your peace of mind and readiness:
- Make a list of documents, certificates, and papers you wouldn’t want to lose in any emergency situation. Consider the following:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificate
- Social Security cards
- Driver licenses
- Life insurance policy numbers and phone information
- Homeowners insurance policy numbers and contact information
- Health insurance cards
- Auto insurance cards
- Up-to-date immunization records
- Account information for all your credit cards and bills
- Copies of prescriptions
- Pet documentation (license and medical records)
- Precious photographs, including a recent one of your whole family for ID purposes. Perhaps a picture with your pet(s) as well, for ID and proof of ownership.
- Flash drives containing any computerized material you want to save—family history, creative works, correspondence, financial records, work files, etc.
- Make a list of phone numbers and email addresses you’d want to have with you. Don’t depend upon numbers that are programmed into your cell phone, as phones can be lost or destroyed. Don’t forget to include employers, employees, relatives, close friends, out-of-state contacts, doctors, poison control center, clergymen, and business contacts.
- Make a list of all your accounts, with numbers and phone information.
- Gather up those documents from step 1 and make copies of them. Except for your driver license, put the originals in a safe, lockbox, or safety-deposit box at your bank. Consider making two or three copies instead of just one. You might want to leave one packet of copies with a trusted relative to keep for you. Think how grateful you’d be if (perish the thought!) your home had burned to have Grandma hand you a packet of all your most important documents and photos! Some people also tuck a packet into their car emergency kit or somewhere else in the car in case it’s needed when they don’t have their emergency kit on hand.
Seal your packet in a plastic bag to protect it from moisture and soil, and have only blank paper showing through the plastic to avoid advertising contents to would-be ID thieves. If you’re concerned about wrinkling or tearing, enclose a piece of stiff cardboard. Some people prefer to enclose each document in a plastic sheet protector and put them all into a binder, but while this would be perfect to hand to Grandma for safekeeping, it makes a more cumbersome package to tuck into your supplies. Your choice!
- Put your packets together and place them where they need to be. Take a deep breath and put your feet up. You’ve done well!
We keep all of our important documents in a pair of Fat-50 ammo cans, ready to grab in a minute’s notice.
Death certificate of former spouse. Name change documentation. Women now have to prove name from birth to get driver’s license if they don’t have a passport.
There’s another challenge here which you missed. After doing all that you mention. Please remember to put all this info where you can get it fast but not so someone else with bad intentions and quickly grab and run.
I actually have done this several ways for people. Just as you describe, but I back up by having copies shrunk down to wallet size. (It’s easier to hide and people won’t notice such a small bundle) I also have a couple of different flashdrives containing this info. Have places where you can get at them if you don’t have time to grab from home or you have to get back to your home to gather some of this but your home is no longer viable.
I worked for an insurance company and travel to many disaster sites. I’ve seen it happen. Your house is gone and you’re sitting in a motel or shelter, trying to recreate your important records by writing to the state recorder on a borrowed computer.
Just do it!
Thank You for the reminder.
Even if you are single you need to prepare!