Being Prepared in a Time of Disaster –
Disasters can strike in many forms; hurricane, tornado, fire, or a destructive marriage to name a few. Getting out isn’t always simple but if you are prepared it can be easier. During the last month we have seen the horrors and heard the stories of the fires in Montana, Washington, and Oregon, the hurricanes in Texas and Florida and the death of the young wife; killed by her husband. Millions of people have been forced to flee their residence leaving all their personal belongings behind. There are so many things these evacuees would have liked to take with them. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a lot of time to pick and choose. They also, may not have had a lot of room in their vehicle. Not knowing where you will end up also makes you realize that there may probably be limited space whenever you arrive at your destination. So, the key is to have the most important and valuable items readily available. Be prepared in a time of disaster.
The question is – what are the most important documents to have in your possession? Below is a list of items you should have handy to be able to flee with in a moment’s notice:
- Purchase and Mortgage documents for your family residence and any rental properties you may have,
- Purchase and loan documents for any and all family vehicles (automobiles, motorcycles, airplanes, ATVs, etc.),
- Insurance policies for home, autos and health,
- Medical records, including pictures of medicine bottles,
- Inventory of personal property (furnishings, art, collectibles, jewelry, etc.)
- List of passwords, log-in information and important telephone numbers,
- Birth certificates, Shot records, Marriage certificates, Final Divorce Decree with attachments,
- Intellectual Property documents,
- Records regarding your pets and livestock,
- Financial records,
Looking at this list, you might be thinking “I don’t have room in my vehicle for an entire file cabinet!”. Believe it or not most people can get all of these documents and more in one 3” three ring binder, an external hard drive and one minor change in your daily life. Or you may be thinking that you can store all this information on your phone, but, what happens if your phone gets damaged, water logged, lost or there is no power to charge it’s battery? Since we have become so used to having our cell phones handy we no longer remember important telephone numbers. Having a list of important telephone numbers in your notebook can mean the difference in letting those important to you know that you are alive and well and them not being able to get in touch with you for days or weeks.
Another benefit to this is that if you are going on a road trip you can easily take all of your important information with you in case there is an emergency at home while you are away.
One Minor Change in your life:
We are going to start by discussing the one minor change in your day to day life. Most people save their documents and pictures to their computers hard drive. Think about how big your computer is and how easy it is to take it with you. If you would invest in one external hard drive and begin saving all your documents to that drive, in the case of an emergency, where you must evacuate your home, all you have to do is unplug the external hard drive and deposit it into your notebook.
Think about it; if you are a photographer or writer and you have all your pictures and words stored on your computer’s hard drive; you can lose all of your work in a heartbeat. But if you have saved your work to an external hard drive you can quickly unplug and leave. Knowing a photographer who lost their computer hard drive in the middle of editing a big project I know the heart ache this can cause. I am sure it would be the same for a writer in the middle of writing a manuscript.
By saving your financial statements to the external hard drive you don’t have to worry about not having access to any of your current records if your login information has been changed and you can’t remember the answers you gave to the security questions or maybe they have been changed. It will give you time to fix the problem and to know where the account was at a certain date in time.
Three Ring Binder:
To set up your three ring binder you will need to get a three ring binder (I suggest a 3” binder), plastic binder folders, and document sleeves. One plastic binder folder will be used for your mortgage documents. Then you will want to get one for each family member and label them with the person’s name. In those folders you will put the individuals birth certificate, baptismal document, shot records, social security card, marriage certificate, medical records and pictures of current medication bottles showing the medication, dosage and prescribing doctor, etc. You will also have enough room to put one picture per year for each child; i.e that annual school picture or a favorite taken by you or someone else. If you are divorced put your divorce decree in one with all of its attachments. You also need one of these binders to store your external hard drive when you pull it from the computer and head out the door.
Use one document sleeve for each vehicle/automobile you own or are leasing. You will place the title and purchase agreement in the sleeve. You will also want to use these sleeve to put your most current insurance documents in, one for your vehicles, one for your home, one for your health and one for your life.
If you have intellectual properties, like a trademark you can place that in its own sleeve. If you have patents you will place them in a plastic binder folder. You can also use the document sleeves for other documents that prove ownership for other items.
External Hard Drive:
You should look at picking up a trig byte hard drive where you can store the pictures of your children, that manuscript you plan on publishing one of these days, important financial statements, etc. Start using this as your main hard drive for data, it is less likely to get hacked and easier to walk out the door when an emergency strikes or just when you are going on vacation or business trip.
Another thing I have heard parents crying over is the loss of the art work completed by their children, during their early years. You know the beautiful work completed by your children that you proudly display on your refrigerator for everyone to see. Well if you get an external hard drive you can take pictures of all these piece of art and store them on the hard drive. The you don’t have to worry about how much of your telephone memory you are using or losing your phone.
And yes I know that you can save everything in the “Cloud” but as we have seen, hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated. There may come a day when hackers are hacking cloud accounts.
The all important inventory which everyone should have consists of all major items in your home, yard, storage unit, etc. I have my household inventory set up in Excel and the tabs are categorized by type of item, China, Crystal, Electronics, Jewelry, Sporting Goods/Outside Furniture, Furniture by Room, etc. Whenever I receive a new item I add it to my list.
It may seem like a lot of work when you get started but after you have gone through a traumatic event like a hurricane you may not remember each item that you lost to the flooding, winds or broken heart and you will want to make it as easy as possible to prepare and prove your insurance claim or other type of claim.
Below are some samples of what your inventory can look like.
When you are starting your inventory you can begin by going through each room and making a list of the different items and take corresponding pictures. Once you complete each room you can merge the lists and sort it by type of item. If the item you are placing in your inventory has a serial number or identification number of any sort you can also put that information in your description.
You will also want to make sure that you inventory you music, movies and games. I have found that most individuals don’t realize how much money they have invested in these types of items. Think about it; if you have 100 games, 100 movies and 100 CD/LP and each one cost you ten dollars that adds up to $3,000. And, if you have that many you will not remember all of the titles until that one day after the event when you go looking for that one specific title; and sometimes it is to late because you have already settled the matter.
So even though this exercise may seem inundating it is well worth being prepared in a time of disaster.