Having an important documents folder organized and together can make your life so much easier now (and in the event of an emergency). I use my “Grab and go” binder regularly and it is so nice having everything in one place. If you don’t believe me, read through the comments to see many, many situations when people have used their binders on normal days as well as in an emergency.
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Create a Full 72 Hour Kit
Why Have a Grab and Go Binder?
Making insurance claims, searching for missing loved ones (heaven forbid), staying in touch with family and friends, traveling around the country and accessing your financial accounts will all be much easier if you have some essential documents at your fingertips.
I’m simply going to walk you page by page through my “emergency documents binder.” I keep this near our 72 hour kit, but not in it as I access and use it often. And yes, it is somewhere safe and well hidden.
A Common Question
Before I start this post, the #1 question I have gotten about this post is “Where can I find a water proof, fireproof safe that will fit 8×11 documents and is reasonably priced?” Well, I use the SentrySafe H230 and you can find it by clicking on this link. Okay, on to the meat of the post!
The front cover:
Nathan (my husband) and I each have our own prioritized list of what our responsibilities will be when / if we need to evacuate. If we are given 10-30 minutes notice, we start in at the top or the first list and try to get through as much as we can. The stuff at the bottom of the list isn’t as essential as the stuff at the top. If given just a few minutes to evacuate (and doing so on foot), we use the second lists instead. You can read more about our family evacuation plan here. (although I need to edit it a bit online…the printed one is more accurate!)
Important Phone Numbers:
The first page:
This front side of this page has 6 boxes on it:
- A box with our address and phone numbers
- A box with “essential” info for every member of our family (name, DOB, allergies)
- A box that says: “If you are unsure who to call and it is an emergency, dial 911!
- A box with phone numbers to all our insurance companies along with the insurance policy numbers (car, life, health etc)
- A box with other important emergency numbers (poison control, 24 hr nurse line, gas company, plummer, etc)
- A box with our doctor’s phone numbers.
I have a 2nd copy of this printed and posted inside our pantry for babysitters and even my own use. I don’t want to have to take the time to look up poison control or even my children’s doctors #s each time I need them. And if I need the gas shut off, I want it done quick. Having this posted makes my life simpler.
The back side of this page has 5 boxes on it:
- My husband’s family’s numbers (parents, siblings, grandparents)
- My family’s numbers
- Local friend’s numbers
- Non-local friend’s numbers
- Other important numbers
Socials & Insurance IDs
They are easy to access. I always know where they are and will have them in the event of an emergency. Enough said.
If you were to lose a child (during a natural disaster or otherwise) and then find him / her, you may have to prove that he /she belongs to you. This would be especially true if the child was injured / incoherent and unable to recognize you for any reason. Having a older and more recent family photo is one very quick way to prove that this child does and has belonged to you for some time. We will be getting family pictures taken on Saturday, so I will be adding a more recent picture then. The picture you see is the only one I currently have that includes Bethany, but she is older now.
Child ID Kits
With pertinent documents behind it.
I created this Child ID Kit after searching for a free one online and not finding one I liked. Print it out on cardstock. Write it all the info you can about your child off to the right. Take their fingerprints and be sure to include the date at the top. Update this page every 6 months. These pages are the main reason I keep this folder with me at all times. If I were to every lose my child, I’d want the police to have all their information as quickly as possible. I’ve heard horror stories of mothers who can’t remember their children’s birth dates (read similar stories in the comments below), eye color etc. b/c they are so distraught with worry. I don’t want that to happen to me. You may also consider including a DNA sample (a piece of hair will do).
A tip for the fingerprints: DO NOT “roll” your finger when pressing it on the paper. This can cause the ridges to distort. And don’t use too much ink: practice on a piece of paper first!
One more note from one of my great readers comments: “Doing your own fingerprints at home can sometimes be difficult because of smudging, etc. Another option is to get a fingerprint card taken at any local police station/sheriff’s office. It’s free at my local police station, but sometimes they charge a small fee. You just need to take a photo ID with you when you go.”
Behind each of my Child ID kits (in the same sheet protector), I keep that child’s birth certificate & shot record. My kids have no allergies or health concerns, but if they did, I would keep details on that info in this sleeve as well. If your child does have allergies, I suggest you read TJ’s advice (she is a reader here) about what she does for her kids (read it here)
Adult ID Kits
With pertinent documents behind them
If my husband and I were to go missing or not be found after a natural disaster, I would once again want to quickly give authorities as much info as I could. I keep our birth certificates, immunization records and passports behind each kit.
Pet ID Kit:
I don’t have pets, but many of you do! One of my fabulous readers, Wren from Her Hero, His Lady created a Pet ID Kit based off the ID kit above. Then, another fantastic reader, Hazel, who is a veternarian added some great items to it. So, if you have a pet (I do not), you can now download and use this fabulous template! Thanks Wren and Hazel!
Hazel also recommends the AVMA’s (American Veterinary Medical Association) brochure on Animal Emergency Preparedness. It is available for purchase as a brochure, but it also available for FREE as a pdf download HERE.
and extra cash / cards
I keep a written copy of all our log-in information for our various online accounts including banks, insurance, cell phone, school loans, facebook, email etc. (And I’m NOT telling you where I hide this folder!) I do not save this anywhere on my computer though I do store it in a secure online database. I also keep cash and an extra set of credit cards here.
Other Important Document:
- Property titles (homes, autos, boats etc)
- Insurance policies
- Copy of car registration
- Medical directive
- Marriage License
- Written Home inventory (and a DVD of a video inventory)
- Map of your area
I keep the entire folder well hidden but I won’t tell you where. I suggest keeping it in a water and fire-proof safe.
Concerns About the Risks
I’ve had many, many people comment or send me emails about their concern over this post. Some have been very kind, others, not so much.
First, all the numbers / important info in the pictures has been blurred / blocked with software that will not allow it to be “cleaned up.”
Second, yes, having all this in one place creates a risk. But there is risk no matter what. If you don’t have the folder at all there are risks. If you keep it in your home there are risks. You have to weigh which risk is less scary to you. For me, I’ve decided the risk of not having it is scarier than the risks created by having it. My folder is very well hidden and does not call attention to itself. If it were to be stolen, I would know very soon after the fact and would immediately take measures to protect my identity.
The risks of not having this folder and needing it are much more common (just read them comments below about all the times people wished they’d had one). Some aren’t serious, some are, but I feel “safer” having it. If you don’t and feel the risks outweigh the benefits, then by all means, don’t make one! If you are nervous about the risk and what some other ideas, read the comments below, there are lots of great ideas from my fabulous readers! And if you want to chime in with some other ideas or possible solutions, feel free! I love differing opinions. But please, be kind! Being mean never helps anyone. (-:
For some additional (and fantastic) ideas about creating a more secure binder, check out reader Rachel’s comments HERE.
How About You?
Leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts about this folder. Do you have one? Will you be updating it? Will you not make one? Why?
If the idea of creating your own binder is overwhelming to you, or you feel that your time would be better spent on other projects, consider purchasing the Prepare My Life Planner.
It will save you an enormous amount of time and you will end up with a much more complete and higher quality grab and go binder.
While the binder I described to you above worked for me for years, I do wish I’d bought the Prepare My Life Planner sooner.
Learn more HERE.