Papers that prove identity, health, and finances are often not thought of as essential items in a disaster preparedness kit. These can be critical to register for benefits following a disaster. Having ready access to the documents necessary for completing application forms, as well as those which could be difficult to replace, will help reduce delay and frustration. Family Documents The ability to prove your identity is one of the single most important things anyone should be able to do following a disaster. You will want to gather any household documents that helps identify people in your household, including children and pets. Having the following documents at hand can ease this burden:
Social Security Cards
Birth certificates/Adoption papers
Marriage license/divorce decrees/child custody papers
Current military ID/military discharge
Emergency contact list
Valuables: photos of valuables, copies of family photos, photos of home
Medical Information If you need medical attention following an emergency or disaster, it is not likely that your regular doctor will be taking care of your needs. You also may not be able to communicate your medical history. Ensuring you have the information for you and your family will assist those providing medically necessary treatment:
Prescription information (drug name and dosage)
Pertinent medical history such as medication allergies, surgeries, and medical conditions
Health insurance identification cards
Physician names and phone numbers
Powers-of-attorney for health care and living will(s).
Financial Documents To obtain money from your bank accounts or credit cards you will need to have proof of your finances with that institution. Keeping copies of the following documents in your disaster preparedness kit will help:
A copy of last year’s tax return. This will assist in proving your income should you need to do so.
Account numbers for all your bank accounts.
Copies of your credit and debit card statements are also helpful to have, so that you can access your money following a disaster.
Copies of all investments, including stock and bond certificates and retirement accounts.
Insurance policies: including homeowners, renters, auto, life, health, disability, long-term care, flood, and earthquake insurance.
At a minimum, you should have the name of the insurance company, contact information and your policy number for each of your insurance policies.
Estate planning documents: wills, trusts, funeral instructions, powers-of-attorney, attorney names and phone numbers.
Property records: Real estate deeds of trust and mortgage documents (at least the two-page settlement statement provided by the title company showing the actual cost of the house and purchase expenses); rental agreement or lease; auto/boat/RV registration and titles; video, photos, or a list of household inventory.
Photos or video of all valuable to be able to document insurance claims.
Don’t forget your pets! Pet medical and vaccination records, current photos and microchip numbers can help ensure you are reunited with your pet following a disaster. Storage Make copies of documents or have them scanned and saved in electronic format. Keep them in a sealed, waterproof pouch in your emergency kit or in a small fireproof and waterproof safe that you can easily take with you in the event of an emergency. Storing documents in an off-site location, like a security deposit box is also an option. However, access to these documents may be delayed following a disaster. Ready access to important documentation will ease the burden of obtaining assistance and resuming a sense of normalcy following a disaster. The cost of collecting and storing these documents depends primarily on your method of storage, which can be adjusted to fit within your budget.