This past week, many of us in the United States had our eyes on the southeastern part of the country as Hurricane Matthew set its sights on the Caribbean and the US coast. A number of my friends were in mandatory evacuation areas, and one shared on Facebook that they were loading up all of their important papers and their pets and getting out.
That small statement made me realize that while I have done plenty of emergency preparations for if I get stuck in my house for 72 hours or more and I have an emergency go backpack with food, water, and other necessities, I haven’t given much thought to the documents needed if I do have to evacuate.
First off, how should you store all of this important paperwork? Right now, I have a lot of my important paperwork stored in a locked fireproof safe. This seems like a good start, but it means I have to be sure that the key for the safe is also part of my evacuation plan. A better option would be a fireproof safe with a combination lock. Why a fireproof safe? While you likely won’t need it for the evacuation itself, it’s a good place to keep important paperwork while it’s stored in your house. It’s pretty heavy, so it’s fine if you’re evacuating in your car, but if you’re going to end up on foot, you may want some plastic document holders as well so everything stays dry.
But what all should go in there? Remember, it’s not just what you might need while evacuated, but things you don’t want to risk getting destroyed. Here’s my list so far:
- Birth Certificate, Social Security Card and Passport (Marriage certificates also fall into this category)
- Wills and Power of Attorney Paperwork
- Mortgage Information
- Insurance Policies
- Financial Information – Account details for bank accounts, credit cards, retirement accounts and investment accounts
- Basic Medical Information
- Tax records
- Car Title
- Educational Information – transcripts, certifications, etc.
- Work Information – Resume, hiring information, etc.
- Emergency Contact Information
- Home Inventory (something I personally need to update)
I have plenty of work to do to get this all into the proper order. I definitely have all of this information, but it’s stored in various places around the house, and some of it isn’t even stored in hard copy. Since I do an online backup of all of my data, some of this may be superfluous (I have scans of my resume and educational information), but it’s not a significant amount of information and it’s never bad to have a hard copy backup.
In fact, I should probably scan a lot of this and create a digital evacuation document box as well.
Of course, there are plenty of other things I would want to load up if I were evacuating. Sentimental items and photographs. Not something I would be able to do if I were quickly evacuating, but something I could do if I were evacuating for a hurricane and had a bit of warning.
Still, it’s never bad to be prepared and to have a plan.
What items do you have in your emergency evacuation document kit? What do you think I should add to mine?
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.