When we consider personal disaster preparedness, we often default to a home or car kit of food, water and medicine to allow us to survive any emergency. We overlook the importance of documents in preparing for an emergency. Here's a short list of documents you will want to have prepared and in a protected location in the event of family or natural disaster. These documents may be necessary to help you access emergency resources, government assistance, or personal care needs.
Family documents. Think birth certificates, social security cards, passports, photographs, naturalization, visa or citizenship papers.
Financial documents. Credit card and bank account numbers, insurance policy information, a copy of last years tax return for income verification.
Legal documents. Will, health care directive, power of attorney documents, any trust documents.
Medical documents. Health insurance cards, immunization records, allergy information, medication list.
Copies of all of these documents can be placed in a grab and go, water-proof box that stays by the rest of your emergency supplies. If you need to evacuate quickly, you won't have to dig around in your file cabinet to collect vital information. Better yet, store copies in a couple locations - an in-home safe, an off-site bank box, and a home emergency binder. Originals should be stored in an exceptionally secure location such as an off-site security deposit box or a high quality in-home safe or lockbox. FEMA has an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit that contains checklists and forms to help you prepare the recommended documents ahead of time.