Documents that help you manage your home and connect you to organizations, medical services, banks and your legal identity are extremely hard to replace if destroyed. When you invest the time and resources to protect these documents, you make an almost invaluable contribution to stress management in the event of a disaster.
Your document cache should be protected against water damage, portable and crush-resistant. A hard case is generally a good starting point. There are many varieties of portable cases that are waterproof and very sturdy. However, if you are more concerned with waterproofing than with keeping things flat, consider using a dry-bag that functions as a basic duffle or as a backpack.
When you are storing your documents at home, consider placing them in a fireproof box or safe as long as the storage space is reasonably accessible. Think about the natural disaster you might be facing – for example, in an earthquake, you would need to get to the storage space and get the documents out as quickly as possible. The alternative is using an extremely durable box (such as a safe) and hope that it does not get crushed if your residence collapses. If you are living in a high-rise building and you might have to evacuate, consider making your documents secure but, more importantly, portable.
Notarized copies of documents are useful to have while residing overseas. This offers you the option of storing the originals in a safe deposit box in a bank in your home town.
Documents to include in your emergency records kit
- Immunization records
- Passports (along with multiple notarized copies of the information pages for each one)
- Financial inventory (see the information below on the EFFAK)
- Home inventory – you can improve the accuracy of this by creating an image inventory or video record of the property in your home
- Current addresses for emergency contacts, family members, friends and colleagues – consider keeping an online address book as part of your email account or a separate contact manager (e.g., Plaxo – http://www.plaxo.com)
- Insurance policy numbers
- List of bank accounts numbers and contact information
- Credit card numbers and emergency contact information
- Financial records (Stock certificates, Bonds, Certificates of deposit)
- Copy of your will/living trust and letter of instructions – it is a good idea to have the original document(s) stored with a legal representative or attorney in the event that the document must be used
- Proof of ownership or lease for any property you own
- Family records (Birth certificates, Marriage certificate, death certificates, divorce agreements, military discharge papers)
Documents that help you plan for emergencies
Aside from the documents you want to rescue, there are some key documents that can help you plan for and respond to emergencies.