In the kind of emergency where you need to grab-and-go, it’s critical that important legal documents and records are at hand and ready to go with you. Hopefully, you won’t need any of them and you’ll be back at home in no time. However, we’ve all learned lessons from Katrina – and having documents that prove you are who you say you are and you own what you say you own can mean the difference between getting the government aid that you deserve and being on your own.
Keep reading for tips on how and where to store these documents, but for many of them you’ll want to gather originals or copies, put them in a sealed, durable waterproof container, and keep them next to your Grab and Go emergency food. In some cases, you may be able to scan them and email them to yourself. (Just beware of emailing yourself anything that could be used for identity theft.)
- Style and serial number of adaptive or medical equipment (in case it needs to be replaced)
- Proof of ownership or lease of your residence
- Social security numbers of family members
- Vehicle identification and license numbers
- Bank account numbers
- Insurance policy numbers
- Securities, deeds and loan numbers including company name, address and telephone numbers
- Will/living trust and letter of instructions
- Photos or video of all valuables for documentation of insurance claims
- Important business documents
- Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)
- Emergency contact lists including a few people in different geographies
Storing Emergency Documents
- Store emergency contact list and emergency documents in a tightly sealed freezer bag – or check your local outdoor, scuba or boating supply store for durable waterproof boxes.
- Send a copy to an out of state contact and keep another copy in your bank’s safety deposit box.
- Be sure to update every six months or as needed.
Storing Emergency Documents Online
These days, services like Mozy, Carbonite and Dropbox (there are dozens more) make it easy for anyone to backup their photos and important documents online. If you’ve got old photos, family photos or videos that are sentimental, they are very easily converted and saved safely off of your home computer. Though they may not be considered “emergency” documents, technology makes it so easy to preserve them that there’s no reason to put them at risk. If you’re concerned about privacy or storing financial documents of any kind, be sure your online backup is encrypted.