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To “celebrate” this occasion, I’ll be writing a series of posts related to organizing for emergencies. Not a fun topic, I know, but certainly a necessary one for all of us. If you haven’t personally been affected by some sort of emergency situation or natural disaster, I’m sure you know of someone who has.
Just this past spring, my best friends’ parents woke up at 7 a.m. to find their detached garage engulfed in flames. Within minutes, the fire had spread to the house and burned it down to the ground. They escaped with only their pajamas. They lost it all, including all of their family photographs and important documents.
I’ve witnessed first-hand the challenges they’ve faced with insurance claims over the subsequent months. You see, they are among the 60% of homeowners who had no inventory of their possessions. I’ve also witnessed the frustration they’ve experienced as they’ve worked tirelessly to obtain new “original” copies of their birth certificates, social security cards, wills, etc.
In the wake of this tragedy, I vowed to take the necessary steps to prepare my household for an emergency situation. This month on the blog, I’ll highlight three household organizing projects that I’ve implemented in order to give us peace of mind. These include:
- Relocating original vital documents to a fireproof safe
- Using SafelyFiled to store and share vital documents with family members
- Using HomeZada to create a home inventory
PROTECTING VITAL DOCUMENT “ORIGINALS”
Earlier this year, I scanned and digitized all of my vital documents, in order to store copies of them in the cloud via SafelyFiled (more on this next week). There was still the matter of where to store the originals of these documents. For the past several years, the original copies of our wills, health care power of attorney, car titles, etc. were stored in a bank safe deposit box. The problem with that location is that it’s difficult to access documents in the event of an emergency, since banks are closed in the evenings, on weekends, and holidays. For that reason, we decided that securing the originals in a fireproof safe within our home was a better solution.
Once I kicked into Emergency Preparedness Mode, the first order of business was to purchase a fireproof safe. After doing a bit of research, I decided to purchase this Sentry Safe that came highly recommended by a few professional organizer colleagues.
Here’s a list of original documents that we relocated from our file cabinet to our fireproof safe:
- Vehicle title
- House title
- Power of Attorney
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Living wills
- Birth certificates
- Social security cards
- Marriage license
- Computer hard drive back up (includes family photos)
- Home inventory (once completed, we will store a paper and digital version)
Some additional vital documents/items that you may want to consider storing in your fireproof safe (especially if you don’t have digital copies stored in the cloud) include:
- Tax returns
- Current medical information
- Diplomas/education certificates
- Your children’s fingerprints
- Military documents
- Receipts for “big ticket” items
- Insurance policies
- Loan documents
- Legal agreements
- Spare keys
Think about who might need to access these documents in an emergency and be sure to communicate the necessary information to those people (i.e., where the safe key is kept or what the pass code is). Also, do yourself a favor and create an inventory of the safe contents to have on hand to refer to. It’s likely that you’ll forget all the documents you placed in there for safe keeping after a few years.
Where are your original vital documents stored? Would they survive a natural disaster? Are they easily accessible in an emergency? Make this the month that you bring the task of organizing and protecting your important papers to front burner.
The peace of mind that comes with knowing you have all of your ducks in a row should the unthinkable occur is priceless.