In a summer that’s already seen multiple hurricanes in the United States and wildfires ravaging the West Coast, many people have had to flee their homes to escape disaster. But while many people focus on a bug-out bag and taking food, water, flashlights, and other supplies with them, not too many focus on taking paperwork. That’s a mistake, because not having your paperwork with you could mean losing vitally important documents or having them end up in the wrong hands. Taking your most important paperwork with you keeps your records safe and can speed up the process of recovering from a natural disaster.
1. Insurance Records
Copies of Homeowner or Renter Insurance Policies – you’ll want to have copies of your insurance policies so that you know what exactly is covered by insurance and what isn’t.
Contact Information for Insurance Agents – you’ll want to get your insurance claims processing as soon as possible, since your insurer will probably be swamped with claims. Have your agent on speed dial.
List of Major Items/Appliances in Home – anything that’s worth a good deal of money should be listed, either on paper or in a computer spreadsheet that you can take with you on a thumb drive. Since you won’t be able to take things like washers and dryers with you, the more information you have about them, the better.
Pictures of Major Items/Appliances – pictures of major items and appliances show their condition before the disaster struck. That speeds up your
Vehicle Insurance Records – if you own multiple vehicles, you may not be able to take all of them with you. If your other cars are damaged or destroyed, having your insurance information will speed up a claim.
Health Care Cards and Policies – you should already carry your health insurance card on you in case of an accident. Take copies of your health insurance policies with you, because if you end up having to evacuate to a state that your health care provider doesn’t normally operate in, you’ll need to know just what costs they might reimburse.
Pictures of All Your Insurance Records – take pictures of all of your insurance records, just in case they get lost or damaged.
2. Other Important Documents
Birth Certificates and Marriage Licenses – these will be vitally important to take with you to help establish your identity.
Social Security Cards – these should already be stored somewhere safe, but if you have them at home you definitely don’t want to leave these behind. If your Social Security card gets destroyed, you’re going to have to spend some time at the Social Security office that will take vital time away from more productive endeavors. And if your card falls into the hands of looters, you run a serious risk of identity theft.
Passports – if you have a passport, take it with you. You don’t want any of your identification getting lost or destroyed or falling into the wrong hands.
Driver’s License – if you’re evacuating by car, you should have a driver’s license on you anyways. But you’ll want to have identification on you in case something happens to you so that you don’t end up as a John or Jane Doe.
Wills – you probably paid good money to have a will drawn up. Make sure you take it with you. Besides, there is a greater than zero chance that you will die if you have to evacuate from a natural disaster. Better to have your will with you so that your heirs will be able to claim what’s theirs rather than have the state declare you intestate.
Deeds, Titles, or Lease Documents – deeds, titles, and lease documents for houses and cars need to be on your person. If you come back to find somebody has taken your car, or squatted in your house, you’ll need these documents to prove that you’re the rightful owner or occupier.
Photos of Your Records – again, take photos of all of these records just in case they go missing. A photograph of your records is better than nothing.
3. Pet Records
Photo of Pets – if you evacuate with your pets and they end up going missing, having recent photos can help you put out a missing pet alert.
Copies of Pet Medical Records – you’ll want to be able to prove that your pet is up to date on rabies vaccinations and other necessary shots.
Identification Tags and Collars – yes, your cat or dog may slip his collar all the time, but you’ll still need collars and ID tags in case they go missing during your evacuation. This is especially important if your pets aren’t chipped, as you wouldn’t want them to end up getting sent to a shelter as a stray and possibly getting euthanized.
In a disaster, the chances are good that electricity will go out. ATMs, cash registers, and credit card payment terminals won’t work. Without cash on hand, you won’t be able to buy food, medicine, or gas.