Create an emergency binder and protect your family.
I live in Florida. June 1st is the start of hurricane season, so there is always a lot of buzz about emergency preparedness this time of year, and creating an emergency binder is one of the best things you can do now to prepare your family for an emergency.
We are reminded to prepare, just in case we lose utilities or have to evacuate, by having extra water, emergency candles and generators, extra amounts of any prescriptions and important documents kept safely together.
Since I am a librarian, I’ll let you in on a secret. Most libraries in Florida use very large rolling garbage cans to store hurricane supplies including lots of plastic sheeting to cover bookshelves and electronics from any water damage and lots of masking tape to tape up windows. These can be tucked away in storage for most of the year and brought out when needed.
Now, we haven’t had a hurricane in central Florida for 12 years. The last time was in 2004, and that summer we had 3 come right through the Tampa Bay area. So, even though it’s been quiet for over a decade, we know not to underestimate the possibility of another one heading our way.
But just because you won’t be affected by hurricanes doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create an emergency binder.
As a professional organizer, I often see people struggle with organizing their important papers. They know they need to, but just keep putting it off.
Unfortunately, bad weather, flooding, and fires happen everywhere, and it makes it so much easier to already have all the important stuff you need to take with you, should you have to leave in a hurry.
So, I’d like to help you create your own emergency binder. It’s just one less thing you have to think about in an emergency situation, where everything seems to happen so fast.
What Is an Emergency Binder?
Your emergency binder keeps all of your important papers together in one place so you can take it with you quickly in the event of an emergency such as a tornado, hurricane, fire, or flood.
I also recommend scanning all of your documents AND important photos onto 2 flash drives.
What Should Go Into the Emergency Binder?
The categories I recommend for most families are: Family, Medical, Insurance, Education, Auto, Finances, Housing, Employment and Pets. Everyone’s needs are different, so customize this binder with categories to fit your specific situation, but these categories are a great place to start.
How To Assemble the Emergency Binder.
- Large binder (3”) preferably
- Package of sheet protectors
- Section dividers with tabs
- 2 flash drives
- A zippered pencil pouch with holes (to fit in binder)
Fill the binder:
Fill your binder with the sheet protectors. Gather your papers for each category and place them in the sheet protectors. *Note: For social security and passport cards, you can purchase a few business card holder sheets to keep the cards from sliding out, like these. Use a tabbed divider in between each category and label each tab for easy access once the binder is complete.
The 2 flash drives:
Once you have gathered all of your important papers, I recommend scanning them and saving them onto 2 flash drives.
One stays in your emergency binder.
Keep one flash drive in the zippered pencil pouch in the binder so you will have it with you.
The other goes to another secure location.
Keep the other one away from home – in a safe deposit box or at a trusted friend or relative’s house. I would also recommend saving important pictures (such as baby pictures, wedding pictures, and pictures of house inventory) on a CD or flash drive and store that off site as well.
Where to Keep Your Binder.
You want your binder to be quickly accessible in case of an emergency, BUT you also need to make sure it is secure the rest of the time. If you have a lockable fire safe, keep it in there. Otherwise, keep it in either the master bedroom or a child’s room but out of sight.
Good places to store your emergency binder that are nearby but still secure are:
- in a dresser drawer
- on a high closet shelf in a box or under folded clothes
- under your mattress
- or even taped to the underside of chair in your bedroom
Remember, this is sensitive information!
Important Paper Checklist for Emergency Binder
Keep your papers together by category to find them easily.
This can seem like an overwhelming task, but if you take the time now, you will have one less thing to worry about in an emergency.
- Recent photo of each family member and vital statistics sheets for each child, such as height, weight, hair and eye color, blood type, fingerprints (using black stamp pad) & distinguishing marks
- Birth, marriage, and death certificates
- Divorce and alimony agreements, adoption papers
- Social Security cards
- Copy of driver’s license
- Military records
- Voter’s registration card
- Citizenship documents
- Concealed weapons permit and firearm serial numbers list
- Genealogy information, irreplaceable pictures (baby, wedding, etc.)
- A current list of all usernames and passwords
- Copies of wills, living wills, organ donor wishes, advanced directive/ power of attorney for health care, cemetery/funeral home prepaid fees documentation and contracts for each person
- Contact information and account info for all doctors, dentists, optometrists, and specialists
- Copies of all health, dental, vision, and prescription insurance cards
- Immunization records
- Medical history for each family member, including allergies, current prescription information, and current test results.
- Authorization of consent to health care for a minor
- Auto, boat, RV policies
- Health insurance policies, including Medicare/Medicaid
- Life insurance policies
- Long term care policies, including disability insurance
- Homeowners/renters insurance policies
- Other (such as travel insurance, pet insurance)
- Registration (copy)
- Title/ lease agreement
- Warranties or lifetime service info
- Inspection and service records
- Bank account numbers and bank phone numbers
- Copy of front and back of all credit and debit cards
- Statements for mutual funds, annuities, money markets, stocks and bonds
- Copies of IRA, pension, 401k, other retirement statements
- Safe deposit box #, location, and list of contents
- Current credit report (you can get one free annually)
- Financial power of attorney statements
- Tax information – 7 yrs of tax records (incl. tax return, W2 forms, and receipts for claims such as tax-deducible donations, energy-saving items, 1099 info logs, mortgage interest statements, and property tax statements)
- Mortgage statement or lease agreement
- Recent property taxes bill
- Land survey
- Title policy
- Home inventory list (including photos/videos and appraisals)
- Most current report card for each child
- College fund statement
- Student loan information
- Employment contracts
- Current pay stub
- Business license
- Copy of business insurance if business owner
- Employee benefits information
*A quick note about your pet information.
Many emergency shelters will not allow pets at all, but even those that do require proof of updated vaccinations. It is a good idea to have extra cans or bags of food, feeding and water bowls, and extra jugs of water stashed with your other emergency supplies to provide for them if you have to leave quickly. Work out a plan with friends or relatives in a safer location. I had some good friends that lived right on the Gulf of Mexico and I live farther inland, so even though we might have damaging winds and rains we don’t have to worry about storm surge here. They lived in a mandatory evacuation area very prone to storm surges and flooding during hurricanes. They raised pedigree ragamuffin cats, so they always had a standing invitation to bring the whole menagerie to our house if they needed to evacuate. 🙂
- Immunization records
- Microchip information
- License records
- Copies of medications and dosages
- Vet contact info
- Pedigree papers
- Recent photo of each pet
- Stat sheet on each pet (height, weight, color, eye color, microchip number, medications, allergies)
Click below for a printable version of the checklist.
So, even though you might not live in an area where you need to prepare for hurricanes, like me, you should still organize your important documents all in one place, just in case you do need to evacuate your home quickly.
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