So as I sat down and started think about where I should start on my journey toward being emergency prepared, frankly I was pragmatic. I started with what I thought I could easily gather or make or had at my hands ready for the most part. So I thought I would start with the Emergency Binder. There are several topics I will be working my way through as I work on my emergency preparedness project and you can see that list on my Emergency Preparedness: Getting Started post. But this seemed like the most logical place to start since I in fact already had many of the essentials with in my grasps.
Many of us moms out there have put together family binders filled with information from medical, meal planning, schedules, and so much more. An emergency binder is different. This is a binder filled with essentials that should you find yourself in a position that you need to “bug out” you are not having to gather all these different items. While these two types of binders may have some of the same or similar information within them, please keep in mind their purpose and design are different.
Supplies are pretty simple and you may have them lying around from other projects. They include: a three ring notebook (depending on the size of your documents it may need to be between 1-2″), dividers, a three ring zipper pocket/pouch, clear protector sheets, and time.
I suggest trying to not do this all in one sitting. I know most of my readers are busy so give yourself permission to do this is steps. I suggest dividing this by sections.
Sections for your emergency binder are:
- Emergency and Identification Information
- Medical Information
- Vital Documents
- Insurance Information
- Financial Information
- Electronic Information
Taking each section one at a time while take an overwhelming project to a do-able project.
Emergency and Identification Information
You will want a separate tab for this section of work. This section will include your evacuation plan (however I recommend your grab list from your plan be on the front of the binder), emergency contacts, and identification cards. I will do a separate post on establishing your evacuation plan (hehehe…is it my sneaky way to make sure you will come back or my sly way of giving me more time to get mine together?)
For Emergency Contacts you will want to make sure to include everyone that is coming to you or that you are going to as a part of your evacuation plan. You will also want to include family both local and long distance. I remember getting text and Facebook posts and emails with the fires from family as far as the east coast. Having their contact information handy will help reduce their worry once you get settle and can contact them…but only if you have their contact information. You will also want to include numbers for local fire departments, police stations, emergency evacuation centers, and hospitals. 911 may be overwhelmed during an evacuation situation and these numbers sometimes have recordings during emergency situations filled with information. Trust me the news is not always accurate.
Lastly, you will absolutely want to include identification sheets for adults, children and pets in the home as a part of your binder. Heaven forbid that something should ever happen to you or a family member but these can aid police. I suggest including full names, nick names, date of birth, SSN, school and school contact information, features such as eye color, hair, color, distinguishing marks, doctor, etc. I most definitely recommend having current photos of each family member and pet. I also highly recommend having their fingerprints as well. I have read that you can do this at your local sheriff’s department for free or a nominal fee. Call your local department and see if they offer this service. Better to have a professional as to not mess up loop and whirl patterns. You will also want to include microchip and id information for pets. I have free PDF downloads at the bottom for you to use for your personal use only.
This does not have to be a separate section. In fact I recommend including on the back of each individual person and pet’s identification sheet. This should include all allergies with reactions, medical conditions, and lists of their medication, vitamins, over-the-counter medications taken regularly. Medications should be listed by proper and generic name, use, dosage and dosing instructions, prescribing doctor and pharmacy ID# and phone number. I would highly suggest listing their blood type (A,B, AB, or O), RH factor (+ or -), height, and weight. This should also be done for pets as well. FREE PDF download at the bottom for you to use for your personal use only.
Vital Documents, Insurance Information, and Financial Information
There are tons of lists out there and I am sure mine is not exhaustive. As I am putting our family’s binder together I am asking myself two questions, “If there is an emergency and I do not have this item, will I be frustrated I don’t have or be hindered by not having it?” and “If this item was destroyed in a disaster, would I be annoyed at having to replace it or frustrated at the process?” If I can answer yes to either of these questions, then it is going into my binder. You can put these in clear protective sheets. For passports, put them in the three ring zipper pouch or seal the top of the clear pouch with tape. Each section should have a separate tab in my opinion for easy reference.
- birth certificates
- death certificates
- marriage certificates
- baptism certificates, confirmation records and other religious records
- school transcripts, diplomas, honors and important educational records
- SSN cards
- driver’s license (copy)
- copy of will and/or living trust, powers of attorney and advanced health care directives
- immunization records
- legal contracts
- military records
- adoption papers
- divorce records – judgments, stipulations, custody and support orders, QDROs, DROs, etc.
- pet Records – registrations, copies of tags, rabies and vaccination records, microchip registry
- proof of citizenship or immigration status
- homeowner or renter’s policy
- auto policy – include current picture of vehicle
- other vehicle policies and photos such as RVs, boats, motorcycles, etc
- life insurance policy and certificate
- disability and accident insurance policies
- medical and dental insurance policies and copies of cards – including medicare, medical, etc.
- pictures and lists of all personal belongings such as jewelry
- pictures and lists of all furniture and belongs in house by room s(some have suggested videos)
- contacts for all policies
- copies of credit cards front and back
- recent bank(s) statement(s) with account numbers and contact information
- retirement account(s) statement(s) with account numbers and contact information – 401K, IRAs, Deferred Compensation accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
- internet passwords including personal accounts, credit cards, email, banking, utilities, etc.
- recent utility statements with account numbers and contact information
- loan and/or lease agreements – home, auto, personal, apartment, etc.
- deeds and titles
- warranty Information for vital items that have thief or lost of property clauses
- vital tax or work information that would be difficult to replace
- list of paid off items
- contact information for 3 credit bureaus
Though I was very young at the time, I know one of the most challenging things our family faced was the loss of our home to fire. We lost a lot that day both in a home and furniture that can be replaced. But the fire destroyed photos, mementos and personal items destroyed that could never be replaced. For me, photos are some of the hardest lost of those things as they mark memories and journal them. We are lucky in our digital age that photos are no longer just pieces of paper but rather digital data that can be stored anywhere. If you use an online backup service that’s great but I suggest also having a backup for your backup. Have backup waterproof flash drives, hard drives or CDs to store irreplaceable electronic photos or documents. These are usually pretty inexpensive and can easily be stored in a waterproof and fireproof safe with or without your binder. And this is a good idea even if you are not preparing for emergencies. A good friend recently lost about 40,000 photos that cannot be replaced of her young son (2 years worth from birth to now) because her iPhone had not properly backed up.
Cash and Atlas
Two other things that I consider to be very important to have in your binder are cash and an atlas. Cash should be in small bills. One of the biggest things I read online with the recent storms back east is how people didn’t have access to ATMs or credit cards for purchases since electricity was out. Additionally, for those that had cash, they often were paying well over actual cost of items since markets and stores ran out of small bills. Can you imagine paying $20 for a gallon of milk…and I think$3.19 is highway robbery. I personally suggest storing $1 a week per person in your home and $1 per week for each pet or if they are small like my Yorkies who don eat nearly as much as a Great Dane, $1 per every two pets per week. I would say a good amount would be to shoot for $100-$200 per person and pet. Think about this cash as cash for a fill up, extra supplies, extra foods, an emergency within your emergency situation. If a $1 per week per person is too much for your budget, save what you can, just start saving. Keep it in small $1 and/or quarters. You can stick this in your three hole zipper pouch.
An atlas may seem way out dated in our modern world of smart phones and tablets, but what happens when your phone dies and there is no electricity. An atlas will still help you navigate without relying on technology.
I know a lot of people have suggested storing this binder out in the open where it is easily visible and can be seen if it has been taken. Most say their binder is non-descript and doesn’t give way to what it is. However, I err on the side of caution. The binder should be easily accessible and easy to grab BUT it should be safe when you are there and when you are not. Fires and disasters don’t just happen when you are around. They also happen when you are not. My personal suggestion is to have a fireproof safe big enough to hold the binder. That being the case, when there is an emergency, you can just grab the safe. Plus it keeps your personal and private information locked up. If you need it to pull out say your passport or SSN card, your safe should be in a secure but easily accessible location. For other items such as auto policies, divorce documents, insurance policies, that you may reference more often, copies can be placed in your files or home/family binders.
I hope this helps as you work on becoming more emergency prepared. If we stick with it, then one task at a time, we will get it done.