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Keeping Records Safe

Friday January 23rd, 2015

Protecting your Important Documents: A practical guide to keeping your records safe from disaster

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When a natural disaster strikes, your first priority is to keep your family safe from harm. But that doesn’t mean you can afford to overlook your most important documents and records. Almost any natural disaster has the potential to ruin or destroy things like medical and financial records. Many of your most critical documents cannot be easily replaced, and after a disaster is when you might need them most! Follow the easy steps in this guide to secure your irreplaceables today, and be prepared for any situation in the future.

GATHER

The first step is to collect all of the items you will need to protect. Try to think of items that would be difficult to replace, or that you might need after an emergency. Here’s a handy checklist to help you out:

Household

____  Life Records (birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, adoption papers, child custody forms)

____  Identification (passports, drivers licenses, school IDs, Social Security cards, green cards, military service IDs)

____  Pet ownership papers, pet ID tags

Financial and Legal

____  Housing (mortgage papers, property deeds, leases or rental agreements, home equity line of credit documentation)

____  Vehicle (titles, registrations, VINs, loan documents, warranty information)

____  Insurance Policies (homeowners, renters, auto, life, flood, appraisals, photos and lists of household valuables)

____  Financial Accounts (checking & savings statements, debit cards, retirement & investment account information)

____  Bills (utilities, credit cards, student loans, any other automatic payments such as gym memberships)

____  Sources of Income (pay stubs, benefits documentation, alimony or child support records)

____  Tax Statements (federal & state income tax returns, property tax records, vehicle tax information)

____  Estate Planning (will, power of attorney documents)

Medical Information

____  Medical Insurance (health & dental records, medicare/medicaid or VA benefits information)

____  Medical Records (lists of prescription & other medications, immunization records, allergy information, pharmacy records, lists of medical equipment & devices)

____  Living Will & Medical Power of Attorney documentation

____  Caregiver Contract or Service Agreement

____  Disability Documentation

____  Contact Info (doctors & specialists, dentists, pediatricians, veterinarians)

Contact Information

____  Close Friends & Family

____  Employers, Supervisors & Coworkers, Other Business Contacts

____  Schools

____  Houses of Worship

____  Home Owners Associations

____  Home Repair Services (contractors, plumbers, roofers, carpenters, electricians, painters, cleaners)

Physical Items

____  Priceless Personal Items (mementos, keepsakes, family photos, heirlooms)

____  Valuable Possessions (jewelry, art, collectibles)

SECURE

Once you have gathered your documents and other items, you have a few choices for how to safely store them. The most secure method is to produce copies of your documents. Then store each set of copies in a different location. For instance, at home, you should store records in a fireproof and waterproof box or safe. You could also place a copy in a safety deposit box at a bank. Or you could even send a set of copies to a friend or relative in another city for safekeeping. The more copies you have, the more likely your records will survive a disaster. You should also consider where your records are being kept. If you live in a flood zone or coastal area prone to hurricanes, you should move documents out of a basement to prevent water damage. One last thing to consider, you might want to consider creating digital backups of your records as well. You can scan your documents and save the files to a USB thumb drive, external hard drive, or even back them up to an online service. For more information about creating electronic copies of your documents, check out this article by Bankrate.com: Storing financial files digitally

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