Disaster and Emergency: How to store documents & what to store

When faced with preparing for a disaster or emergency, many people forget about their important family documents.

Photo Credit: Jessica Mullen

Yet, properly recording and storing certain documents is essential if you are to be truly prepared.  Doing so will help you prove the value of things you’ve lost; allowing you to recover payment from your insurance company.  These documents will also make it much easier for you to get back on track if you’re forced to relocate or lose your home.

Challenge: Go right now and find all the things on the following list:

Insurance Policies:

  • Home / Renter’s
  • Car
  • Health 
  • Life
  • Flood

 Certificates / ID:

  • Birth Certificates (or proof of citizenship)
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Divorce Certificate
  • Death Certificates
  • Copy of Diplomas
  • Passports
  • Copy of Drivers License or other ID
  • Social Security Cards

Backups (on a CD or small, portable hard drive):

  • Family Pictures
  • Computer Hard Drive
  • Financial Records (Quicken etc)
  • Essential Online Business Information / Tools

Property Documents:

  • Apartment or condo leases
  • Home or other property deeds / titles (mortgage, car etc.)
  • Estate documents
  • High Value Receipts
  • Inventory of possessions and their value (could be a photo or video inventory)


  • Tax Returns
  • Loan Documents (Car, Education, Business, etc)
  • Credit Card Agreements
  • Investment Accounts Information
  • Copies of Recent Bills (Water, Power etc)
  • Government financial assistance award letters
  • Employment contracts or other legal documents


  • Account / Password Lists
  • List of important phone numbers
  • Medical records, x-rays, benefits documents, etc.
  • Duplicate prescription(s) from doctor
  • Pet’s Medical Records
  • Copies of important keys
  • Will
  • Advance Directive

Photo Credit: The U.S. Army

How long did it take you to find copies of all of the above?  I’m guessing that unless you already had everything gathered in one place, you didn’t even take the challenge to go gather it all.  Am I right?  It would just take too much time!  I feel relatively prepared and have most of the above items in one spot where they would be easy to grab quickly.

But I had to ask myself again: Would I be ready if I had to evacuate with just 30 minutes notice?  10 minutes?  2 minutes?  Are my documents stored correctly?  Sure, they are all in one spot and easy to grab, but what if I simply don’t have the time or am unable to grab them?

How to Store Documents:

  • The documents in your home should be stored in a water proof, fire proof box / safe.  Use something that locks and keep a copy of the key in 2-3 places that only you know of (some in your home, others not) to avoid theft.
  • Consider storing a copy of all your documents in a similar box / safe at a friend or relative’s home: someone who lives hundreds of miles from you.  It is unlikely they will be in a disaster or emergency at the same time you are.
  • Consider scanning and storing your documents online so you would have access to them anywhere in the world.  I’ve heard positive things / read good reviews for CloudSafe, but recommend you do thorough research before investing in this option.  It would be a simple way to not have to worry about grabbing all your documents in the event of an emergency, but you want to be certain that your documents are secure.

How I will Improve:
I could be better prepared.  Here are a few things I’m going to change soon:

  • Create an advance directive
  • Store all irreplaceable documents in a water proof, fire proof box with a lock.  Keep keys to the lock in 2-3 places that only Nathan and I know about.
  • Store copies of all the above documents at my parents in case we can’t access ours
  • Backup our family pictures, hard drive and business tools (like this blog) more regularly.
  • Make an extra copy of all our important keys

What will you do?

I am an independent consultant for THRIVE Life (formerly Shelf Reliance); a company with a mission to empower others to become self reliant, prosperous and charitable.  You can learn more about THRIVE Life (formerly Shelf Reliance), buying their products, earning free products, or selling their products on my THRIVE Life (formerly Shelf Reliance) website.

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