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Protecting Important Documents in the Event of a Disaster

Being without your birth certificate, social security card, or bank account details after a large or minor disaster may be a tremendous problem, as victims of recent disasters have discovered.

However, using this checklist, you'll be able to create an easily accessible repository for all of your critical papers and communications, which you can utilize whether you're dealing with a minor medical issue or a catastrophic tragedy that requires you to start over with your key records.

Let's get started by gathering all of your relevant papers. Here are some of the documents you'll need to keep safe:

  1. Bank account information (and PIN numbers, passwords and toll-free numbers)
  2. Investment account information (and PIN numbers, passwords and toll-free numbers)
  3. Medical records
  4. Credit cards (copies of the card, account number, toll-free numbers and credit limit)
  5. Income tax returns
  6. Insurance policies
  7. Stocks/bonds
  8. Student identification
  9. Wills
  10. Living Wills
  11. Power of Attorney
  12. Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions
  13. Driver's licenses/ID/Medicare Card
  14. Marriage certificates
  15. Birth certificates
  16. Auto registration
  17. Citizenship papers
  18. Death/burial certificates
  19. Warranties
  20. Family Immunization Records
  21. Family Social Security cards/numbers
  22. Property titles or deeds
  23. Company Benefits
  24. Contact information for your doctors, lawyer, accountant, broker etc
Optional
  1. Health and Medical Records
  2. Safe Deposit Box Key
  3. Photos/Videos of your possessions and registration numbers
  4. Household Inventory
Because you want to be sure you have everything you need in an emergency, keep this information in areas where you can get to it even if you can't get inside your house.

Make two copies of all of the information you acquired from the list above and store them in two secure locations as a first line of protection. In your own city, the initial site should be a safe deposit box or a water/fireproof safe. A safe deposit box outside of your neighborhood or state should be the second site. Many banks became as inaccessible to consumers as their houses were during Hurricane Katrina.

Even if such places are safe, physical copies can be damaged. With identity theft on your mind, you might be hesitant to keep sensitive information like identification and credit card details out of sight.

So, how can you keep your important documents safe while yet allowing them to be accessed? Simple. Simply scan each document onto a flash drive and/or upload it to the cloud and password secure it; store the flash drives in the specified places, either alongside or instead of the original versions. Make an additional duplicate of the data and keep it with your records at home while you're at it. In the event of an emergency, get the kids and dogs first, then the flash drives.

If you have a video camera, record a walking tour of your home, including the house and any valuable items. This will demonstrate to claims adjusters what you have and its current state, as well as refresh your memory of the items that will need to be replaced.

Do you want to know what the largest roadblock to protecting everything you care about is? Procrastination! Taking fifteen or twenty minutes now to take care of business might spare you days, months, or even years of suffering in the future.

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