Day 19 – National Preparedness Month Challenge – Gather Important Information, the Evacuation Box
What documents and items will you want and need after a disaster?
It’s amazing how much paperwork we have to complete and keep throughout our lifetimes. It’s impossible to live without a paper trail or library. Most of that paperwork is trivial or trash, some sentimental – and a few are vital. In a disaster, the later two are the ones that we really will be concerned about. The sentiment is irreplaceable and most likely what we will miss the most. The vital information is what will make life and your ability to get back to it either easier or more complicated. Having all that information and paperwork organized and ready will save us a huge headache and heartache later.
I call this library of information and documents my evacuation box. This box has
everything that you would take with you if you have only 15 minutes to leave your home. This is strictly for if you have enough time to grab one extra box. If you have kids you won’t really have time to run around with a pre-made list of “grab and go” items. So having them together saves you time, and increases your ability to save them in an emergency.
- First priority – Vital Information (copies can go into 72 hour kit if you think they are important but since these are needed frequently I place mine here)
- Second priority – Sentimental Items – family history, pictures, letters, etc.
- Third – extra survival items – medical supplies, extra batteries, camp stove and propane, nicer food (only if there’s still room in your box, so I won’t talk about this)
What do you need to save and how do you save it? Loaded question! Many people have filing cabinets of paperwork, organized but not movable. Some have it scattered haphazardly and some don’t have what they really need. So let’s start with what you need (that vital information) that will help smooth out life after a disaster.
What to have:
- Certified Birth Certificates for each family member (be sure all information is correct and if it isn’t now is the time to fix, or amend, it)
- For infants if you haven’t gotten their birth certificate have their crib card and hospital papers
- Social Security cards for each family member
- Immigration cards, and visas, or passports
- Health record numbers, cards, and basic records (immunization, major issues, etc), prescriptions, list of medical facilities visited
- School records, transcripts, diplomas, etc.
- List of previous addresses
- Resume, and relative documentation, career-related awards, and honors
- Financial documents
- 3 years of bank statements (these can be stored in a separate location if desired)
- taxes for 7 years
- social security info
- retirement info and statements
- loan contracts
- credit card information and statements (3 years)
- stock certificates
- any other savings (CD’s, bonds, etc)
- Insurance policies – car, life, home, toys, rental
- Titles for home and cars
- Any other contracts that have been entered into
- Wedding certificates
- Church membership records and documents
- Applications and case info for government help (WIC, Medicaid, TANF, etc)
- Sale information from previous home(s) (keep for several years)
- Donor documents, DNR’s, legal documents, will
- Record of major home repairs and remodels
- Receipts and instructions for major purchases
- Home Inventory (optional but recommended for insurance)
Keep in Mind
Most of these documents are required after a disaster to verify information, identity, and apply for help or insurance. Having these on hand after a disaster will save you tons of time, a huge headache and speed the process of recovery. I recommend keeping all these papers in an easy to carry and completely covered container. This will help protect them from water damage, but make them easy to grab in an emergency. It also helps when you need to use this information and documentation for other purposes (school, loans, applications) since its all in a central location. Some people prefer to use a fire/water proof safe, but a simple Rubbermaid filing case will work great as well.
Whenever I think of a disaster my heart sinks, not at the thought of replacing my birth certificates and social security cards; it’s the pictures and mementos that are gone forever never to be replaced. My mother was 14 years old when the dam close to her home broke and everything she had was destroyed. She still talks about the pictures and artwork that were lost and having to pick them up and throw them away or trying to clean and salvage them. Maybe that’s why I’m so anal about storing things so particularly, but I have a much greater peace of mind knowing that in an emergency I have done all I can to protect or easily take them with me, in some form or another.
These items can be included in the same container as your vital documents or in a separate box for each person in the house. Just like the vital documents I recommend something where they are as covered as possible and sealed. Once again a fire proof box may be preferred, especially for these type of items.
Remember that you can’t pack all of your photo albums, great-grandmas antiquities, and your children’s artwork in a chest and drag it out with you in an emergency. Here is where you’ll need to make some tough decisions. If it’s bulky consider taking pictures or scanning items to store in your file/box. This is great for artwork, antiques, etc. It may not replace the original but at least you have a tangible memory you (and your posterity) can treasure. Going digital can save you a ton of space. Jump drives are bigger than ever and can hold albums of information, files, and photos in a tiny light little object. You can also use CDs or dvds of pictures and files in those handy pouches that can also be quickly grabbed.
Warning: All files and pictures should be opened every few years to ensure compatibility with current software, nothing is worse than having the rug pulled out from you when a file is lost because your computer was upgraded and can’t read it. If you really want to go all out for the piece of mind try Carbonite. Anything on your computer will be backed up and saved in a secure location where it can be quickly and easily recovered, even if the original computer is destroyed! Of course, if it is something that is incredibly valuable and needs to be kept original then taking a picture/scan for your file and then place it in a fire/proof safe or safe deposit box.
Today’s Challenge: Gather your Evacuation Box Contents
Good: Locate all your vital information and move them to one location. Make a list of what you still need to find or order copies of. Set a date to complete your box by.
Better: Have your vital information all in order and in safe keeping. Start working on the sentiment items. What are you keeping? Think what do you need to scan, or take pictures of? Also, what are you storing them in? Have a date to complete this section of your box and a plan of action for storing them (separate box from vital info, safety deposit, water/fire proof safe, etc).
Best: Finished! Enjoy the peace of mind knowing everything is safe and sound. Now if there’s still some space add a few survival items that you think you’d run out of in an emergency.