Author: Julia Jarema
One of the most important – yet easily overlooked – ways to be disaster ready is making sure you have critical information stored in a safe place. Having copies of your identification, financial and legal documentation, medical information and critical contacts in a secure, easily accessible location will help you more quickly recover after a disaster.
While it will likely take some time and effort to gather all of this information, it is one of the most important ways you can ensure you are disaster ready. You’ll want easy access to all of this vital information whether you are filing claims with an insurance company or seeking state or federal assistance.
Follow these four simple steps to assemble your financial first aid kit.
Step 1 – Gather Data
Initially this step is the most time consuming. However, once all of the information is gathered and organized, it can easily be updated. Be sure to gather and store all of the needed pieces of data for every household member, including pets! For a comprehensive list, see FEMA’s Emergency Financial First Aid Kit. Some of the most critical data includes:
Driver’s license or another photo ID
Birth or adoption certificates
Marriage license or divorce certificate
Social Security Cards
Passports, Green Cards
Current Military ID or discharge records
Pet ID tags, certificates for service animals (if you have one), proof of ownership
Name, birth date, phone numbers, email for every household member
Emergency contact name, relationship, phone numbers and email
Financial and Legal Documents
Bank name and account numbers (checking, savings, retirement, credit card, etc.)
Insurance policies – homeowners, renters, auto, life, flood, etc.
Mortgage and utility account numbers
Will, trusts, power(s) of attorney
Physicians names and contact information
Health insurance card
Immunization / health records
List of medications and dosage amounts
List of medical equipment (model, serial number, supplier, etc.)
Veterinarian contact, pet immunization records
Doctors, dentists, therapists and other providers
Landlord or mortgage representative
Family, neighbors, worship leaders
Taking photos or videos of the rooms in the home and any valuable items is also helpful to include with your records.
Step 2 – Review Information
Review your insurance policies periodically to be sure you have adequate protection. This is especially important when you have major life changes like adding a family member, or make significant purchases such as a house or vehicle.
Step 3 – Safeguard Your Data
It is crucial that you store all of the critical information together in a safe location whether you have paper or electronic copies. Store paper copies in a waterproof and fireproof safe or consider storing them in a bank safe deposit box. Electronic copies should be stored in a password-protected format on an external hard drive or removable flash drive. It also may be helpful to store information with your lawyer, financial advisor or trusted family friend.
Step 4 – Update Your Information
Having copies of identification, financial, legal and medical information is vital to recovery, but it is only helpful if the information is current. Designate a time each year to review your critical information and update the documents as needed.
If you have significant changes during the year – such as moving, changing doctors, change in marital status or insurance providers – be sure to also update the information in your financial first aid kit.
Gathering and updating this critical information may take some time, but the effort will pay tremendous rewards if your have an emergency. Think of your Financial First Aid kit as your Peace of Mind insurance.