Prepare in a Year: May – Important Documents
Documents that prove identity, health, and finances are often not thought of as essential items in a disaster preparedness kit. However, these documents are critical in trying to return to normal following a disaster. Having quick access to important documents helped residents who evacuated their homes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to be able to quickly and easily register for benefits and take advantage of insurance coverage for mortgage payments while they were homeless.
The ability to prove your identity is one of the single most important things anyone should be able to do following a disaster. Not having proper identification can delay necessary assistance for an undetermined about of time. Having the following documents at hand can ease this burden:
· Driver’s licenses/Passports
· Social Security Cards
· Citizenship papers
· Birth certificates/Adoption papers
· Marriage license/divorce decrees/child custody papers
· Current military ID/military discharge
If you are in need of medical attention following an emergency or disaster, it is not likely that your regular doctor will be taking care of your needs. You also may not be able to communicate your medical history to those caring for you. Ensuring you have the following information for you and your family will assist those caring for you, if required:
· Immunization records
· Prescription information (drug name and dosage)
· Pertinent medical history such as medication allergies, surgeries, and medical conditions
· Health insurance identification cards
· Physician names and phone numbers
· Powers-of-attorney for health care and living will(s).
In order to obtain money from your bank accounts or credit cards you will need to have proof of your finances with that institution. Keeping copies of the following documents in your disaster preparedness kit will help:
· A copy of last year’s tax return. This will assist in proving your income should you need to do so.
· Account numbers for all your bank accounts. Copies of your credit and debit card statements are also helpful to have so you are able to access your money following a disaster.
· Copies of all investments, including stock and bond certificates and retirement accounts.
· Insurance policies: including homeowners, renters, auto, life, health, disability, long-term care, flood, and earthquake insurance. At a minimum, you should have the name of the insurance company, contact information and your policy number for each of your insurance policies.
· Estate planning documents: wills, trusts, funeral instructions, powers-of-attorney, attorney names and phone numbers.
· Property records: Real estate deeds of trust and mortgage documents (at least the two-page settlement statement provided by the title company showing the actual cost of the house and purchase expenses); rental agreement or lease; auto/boat/RV registration and titles; video, photos or a list of household inventory.
· Photos or video of all valuable to be able to document insurance claims.
Don’t forget your pets!
Pet medical and vaccination records, current photos and microchip numbers can help ensure you are reunited with your pet following a disaster.
Make copies of documents or have them scanned and saved in electronic format. Keep them in a sealed, waterproof pouch in your emergency kit or in a small fireproof and waterproof safe that you can easily take with you in the event of an emergency. Storing documents in an off-site location, like a security deposit box is also an option. However, access to these documents may be delayed following a disaster.
Ready access to important documentation will ease the burden of obtaining assistance and resuming a sense of normalcy following a disaster. The cost of collecting and storing these documents depends primarily on your method of storage, which can be adjusted to fit within your budget.