Personal Insurance

Compiling Your Essential Documents

In some cases, a disaster may create a need for you to evacuate your home.  Evacuations can be temporary and short lived, but in some cases, depending on the disaster, you may return to find your home significantly affected or possibly destroyed.

Despite the consequences of such emergency situations, normal life still goes on to some degree.  Bills need to be paid, purchases need to be made, and important records, documents, and memories need to be preserved.  In the event of an emergency evacuation, you won’t have a lot of time to gather everything of importance (files, pictures, other items).  It is important to compile your essential documents now and keep them in a safe place and in a way that you can grab them quickly if you need to leave in a hurry.

As an advocate of emergency preparedness, I recommend the creation of a “Red File.”  This is a binder or a folder where you can keep all of your important documents compiled in one place.

Depending on the nature of the document, the Red File may contain the original document, or it may simply contain a copy of the original document.  You can organize the Red File in a variety of different ways, including using sheet protectors, index tab dividers, and zipper pouches.  The key is to make sure the file contains your essential documents and is kept in a safe place that you can easily access in the event of an emergency.  While you want the file to be easily accessible to you, you still need to protect it from getting into the wrong hands or being destroyed by water or fire.  A fire-proof safe is a good location for storing your Red File.

I have personally been in a situation where having all of my essential documents compiled in an easily accessible file was crucial.  Taking time now to prepare will save you from unnecessary additional stress in an emergency situation.

Essential Documents to Compile

The following is a list of suggested documents to include in your Red File:

  • Identification
  • Passports
  • Immunization records
  • Pictures on a CD or flash drive
  • Prescription records (particularly for current prescriptions)
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Social Security cards
  • Deeds and titles
  • Insurance policies (homeowners, auto, life, health, etc)
  • Legal documents (as applicable), including: power of attorney; legal documents for care of underage children; divorce and/or custody paperwork; medical or breed registration paperwork for pets
  • List of phone numbers for friends and family in case your cell phone is lost or not working
  • List of phone numbers for utilities and service providers (i.e. banks, attorney, etc.)