You hear about emergencies all the time on the news... if not on TV, then on your phone or from other people. The world is full of emergencies. From fires, car accidents, to flash flooding. And the worse thing about emergencies? You never know when it’s going to happen. That’s why I recommend having an "In Case of Emergency" binder.
This concept isn’t new. You know it's important to keep all your emergency paperwork handy- someplace where, if an emergency occurs, you have everything you need in one place. You just haven't done it yet.
But what goes into an in case of emergency binder? This post has you covered.
What to keep in an emergency binder?
What you ultimately decide to keep in your "In Case of Emergency" binder is up to you. You don’t have to include everything listed below. Most of us won’t all have the same type of documents. But these are a great start.
Birth and death certificates for every member of your immediate family. Make two copies of each one and use those, unless the original is required.
Marriage license for you and your spouse, and your parents, if necessary. Divorce and custody papers should be saved here as well. Don’t forget adoption papers and any other records you received through the agency.
Create a list of log-in information. Do you do your banking online? Write that information down. Most people pay their bills online nowadays. This is why you should have all your log-in information written down. Remember to update it if you change any passwords.
Employment records are good to have. Pay stubs, W-2s, and business contact information. You don’t have to hold on to every pay stub or W-2. Keep one pay stub on hand and switch it out if you get a raise. As for the W-2, keep the most recent one on hand and change it when you complete your taxes.
Passports are quickly becoming the go-to identification source. Even if you don’t travel that often, they’re a good thing to have. Make sure you renew it and keep a copy.
A driver’s license is another key identification source. Like your passport, make sure it’s up to date and that you have a copy or two. For every family member that lives with you, keep a copy of their license.
Show of hands: how many of you know where your Social Security card is? If you don’t, I recommend you find it and make a copy. That little slip of paper with your individualized number is super important. You should always know where to find it.
Citizenship papers and military papers are two documents not all of you will have. If you do, make copies and store them with the originals.
Home + Auto
Property leases and deeds as well as any mortgage paperwork are important to keep safe. Like everything else, make a copy and use that if you need to prove anything. It’s also a good idea to list all utility companies and their contact information.
For vehicles, keep copies of your insurance and registration. Include your insurance provider and their contact information. Have a stack for every family member’s car. If you don’t have a car, you can skip this section.
Bank and retirement statements are excellent identification resources. They also have relevant banking information on them. Like the pay stubs and W-2s mentioned earlier, you don’t have to save every single statement. One each is fine. Just make sure to update them if anything changes (i.e. your bank, amount, etc.).
Do you have a safe deposit box? Are the keys in a safe place? If not, get those keys somewhere secure and tell immediate family members where they are.
Make a copy of any debit and credit cards you have. On those copies write down your PIN and any relevant passwords or log-in information. Don’t forget the answers to those questions like, “What was your mother’s maiden name?”
Keep a running list of your current prescriptions. Be as specific as possible. Write down the exact name of the drug, how much you take, how often, the pharmacy, and the prescribing doctor.
As for health insurance, keep copies of all cards. Also, make sure you have your health provider’s contact information. If you and your spouse or partner have different insurances, include both in there.
For those of you who have kids, include important school contacts. Have the name and number of each school your child attends and the principal’s name.
This is where you’ll list all emergency contacts for the family. List any relatives or friends. You should also include two to three family photos. Like most of this information, update the photos as family members age.
Pet owners should include veterinarian names and numbers. Your pet’s medical records could also go inside. This is especially important if they’re taking medication for something.
If you’re looking at all this and thinking, this binder is going to be thick, you’re not wrong. Your "In Case of Emergency" binder is meant to be big because you have a lot of information to put in there.
Don’t worry. It’s not going to be out in the open for all to see. Store it someplace out of sight- in your home office or in a closet. Wherever you put it make sure it’s accessible. You’ll be updating it on occasion so it’s important to keep it within arms reach.
If you have written a will you'll want to have a copy in case, G-d forbid, something happens to you so that a family, or household member can find it.
How do I save all my "In Case of Emergency" information?
I keep stating that all this information should be in an "In Case of Emergency" binder. But there are a few other ways you can keep this bulk of information safe. A binder is great to have because when showing these types of documents, they require hard copies. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a secondary way of accessing it all.
Safe. The binder is great for copies. All original documents should be kept in a fireproof safe. You’ll still be able to refer to the documents at a moment’s notice without needing to open the safe. This is also a great place to store your safe deposit box keys if you have one.
Flash drive. These little gadgets pack quite a punch. They can hold a ton of information and are super portable. Scan your documents into the computer and save them to two flash drives. That’s right, two! Keep one with you and lock the other in the fireproof safe. Or keep one in a drawer near your computer.
Digital / Cloud. If you feel a flash drive is too obsolete, you can always store your information on the Cloud. A flash drive is your best bet. But saving your documents in a folder on your computer or in the Cloud works too. Just make sure you save the log-in information.
However you store your emergency information, it’s always best to have it accessible in a variety of ways. But because this is sensitive information, you don’t want to have too many options. Besides the binder, have one other way to store your documents. The fewer options, the better.
As I mentioned before, what you keep in your "In Case of Emergency" binder will vary. But it’s a good idea to have as much of this information in the same place. Emergencies are exactly that: emergencies. You don’t know when they could happen and it’s far better to be prepared.
So if you haven’t created your emergency binder yet, now is the time to start. If the news tells us anything it’s that emergencies can happen to anyone at any time. Why not be prepared and have everything you need ready to go?
Don’t scramble to get it all together. Take it slow. Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork before starting. And if you don’t have something, take the steps to get yourself a copy. Remember, you’re not going to have everything listed. The important thing is to include what you do have.
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