Preparing Documents in Case of an Emergency

Probably we’ve all mentally run through this scenario: If the house caught on fire & I only had a few minutes to grab things, what would I take?

The real answer to that question should be “nothing but the clothes on my back,” because fire (and smoke!) spreads unbelievably fast, but people usually answer “loved ones & pictures”.

Of course people, pets & memories are the most important, but there are a few things that could make things easier financially in the aftermath of a disaster — if you have time to prepare. (And if you’re not currently experiencing an emergency right this minute, you do have time to prepare.)

Basically, you want to be able to recreate your financial life from scratch, as well as have enough information on hand to get help when you need it. Prepare these items far in advance; when there isn’t an emergency at all, and update them regularly.

It’s also best to store them safely off-site. If you live in an area that’s prone to large scale disasters, you may want to consider storing them even further off-site, such as with a trusted out-of-state relative.

See Also

You’ll need copies of all important documents, including the following:

  • Insurance policies (or at least the policy numbers & customer service numbers)
  • Bank account information
  • Investment account information
  • VIN, license numbers, titles & registration for vehicles
  • Lease or the deed to your home
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce paperwork
  • Social security numbers
  • Passports
  • Driver license
  • Immigration documents
  • Previous year’s tax records
  • Wills and trusts
  • Prescriptions (for medication, medical devices, and eyewear)
  • Proof of payment for any large debts you have repaid
  • Partnership and business agreements
  • Any other important documents

You should also include:

  • A video or photo record of your belongings, updated at least annually.
  • A list of all your creditors
  • A copy of your contact list (phone numbers, addresses, who is most important to contact.) Also be sure you have memorized the number of the person or place that has this list.
  • Credit card customer service numbers
  • Copies of family photos on DVD
View Comment (1)
  • I didn’t realize until just recently that I hadn’t updated my will in quite sometime and after catching much grief from my significant other, I decided it needed to be updated.I couldn’t be happier that I finally decided to do so because I also found a few other documents that needed to be updated as well. Updating emergency related documents should probably be done at least once a year, kind of like getting a current copy of your credit report.

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