Life is littered with hazards. Although we cannot prevent disaster from finding us, there are things we can do that will help us better prepare for the unexpected. It’s common for people in high risks jobs, such as the law enforcement and military, to have an emergency documents checklist, gather important documents, secure copies of them in more than one location, and have documents ready to grab and go in an emergency. This level of preparedness is worth emulating.
Within this article, you’ll find:
- 3 Steps to Disaster-proof Important Documents
- 6 Document Categories to Secure
- Printable Emergency Documents Checklist
It’s important to have a financial plan and organizing important family documents is a big part of that. Having an emergency documents checklist can help. You may have an idea of which documents you’ll want in an emergency situation, you may also know where to store important documents; but after taking a poll of my family and friends, several confessed they wanted duplicates of their emergency documents in their bug out bags but hadn’t got around to it yet. I believe it’s a good thing they haven’t gotten around to it yet. Here’s why…
Copies of Identification Shouldn’t be Stored in a Bug Out Bag!!!
Over 15 million victims of identity theft were reported in the U.S. in 2016. When personal information is so valuable to criminals, it’s not a good idea to have important documents unsecured in a bug out bag. However, there are several ways you can disaster-proof documents and keep them secure.
- Keep your emergency documents in a fireproof, waterproof, lockable container, also known as a safe. Many of you have completed this first disaster-proof method. If you have, give yourself a pat on the back. Great job keeping yourself and your family organized! However, you should be aware that there are safes which claim to be fireproof and waterproof but are really only resistant to flames and moisture. Don’t get me wrong, safes are a great option, but remember preppers cover themselves multiple ways, so start with a safe then implement a backup plan.
- After you’ve locked up all your original documents, back them up on a USB Thumb Drive. I prefer to store my documents on an External Hard Drive that has password protection. It’s stored in two faraday bag. Then I pass it along to a trustworthy friend that lives out-of-state who will store it in their fire safe. When disaster strikes, it can not only destroy your home, but it can devastate your place of employment, and your lawyer’s office, leaving no trace of a will or other important documents. A crisis is when you need them the most. Replacing them is a hard, lengthy process. Legal identification is necessary when you’re trying to rebuild your life. Most jobs require two forms of identification for new hires. Access to copies of these important documents will allow you to start rebuilding your life sooner rather than later. I have done this for many years now. It was useful when a virus wiped out my computer. I had saved some old photos that were important to me. I switch out an updated USB drive with the old when I go visit.
- If you can afford it, a safe deposit box is a great option for securing important documents. To make it a disaster-proof option, get a safe deposit box in a neighboring city other than where you live. That way if disaster strikes, it hopefully won’t get your home and your safe deposit box.
As I mentioned earlier, keeping identification in your bug out bag is risky. My brother-in-law had his car broken into while he was shopping. One of the items stolen was his bug out bag. ‘Smash and grab’ thieves target bags and backpacks. They love getting their hands on drivers licenses and social security cards which provides them the means to purchase things in your name with your credit. Birth certificates are sold on the darknet to cheat the immigration system. Identity theft is a real threat! Keep your important documents secure until there is a need to bug out. I keep a document bag near my safe in-case I ever need to bug out.
6 Document Categories to Secure
There are many great ideas on how to organize important documents. Grab & Go Binders are a popular method. I started out using this method, after running into a couple of problems, I developed my own method. The sheet protectors would stick to the pages sometimes damaging them when I tried to remove them. Also, the extra bulk of the binder made it too big to secure in my safe. I now use 6 manila envelopes to organize my important documents. The information is easy to access, compact, and fits perfectly in my safe.
- State Certified Documents – birth & marriage certificates, car titles, home deed
- Drivers License (replacement or copy)
- Social Security Card or Proof of Citizenship
- Church Documents – minister’s license or patriarchal blessing
- A List of the Contents of Your Wallet (in case it’s stolen)
- Estate Planning
- Prepaid Funeral & Burial Arrangements
- Survivor Benefits
- Organ Donation
- Court Rulings
- Emergency Contacts Directory
- Diplomas, GED, or Certifications
- School Transcripts
- College ID (replacement or copy)
- Paycheck Sub
- Taxes Returns for the Last 2 Years
- Car Insurance, Registration, Replacement Key
- Auto Coverage Policy
- Copies of Health, Eye, and Dental Insurance Cards + HSA Card
- Medical History & List of prescriptions
- Disability & Liability Insurance
- Homeowners or Renters Insurance
- Bank Account Statements
- Loan Statements
- Credit Card Statements
- Investment Statements
- Leases & Contracts
- A List of Passwords for Online Accounts
- Additional Assets
- Gun Receipts & Transfers
- Appraisals – jewelry, art, antiques, coins, guns
- Business Identification Records
- Royalties & Copyrights
- Heirloom Documentation
- Hobby or Trade Log – (save receipts for expensive tools or specialty items)