Protecting Your Documents
Tracking the 'stuff' that you have will help you recover payment from your insurance company, help you prove the value of what you lost, and provide documentation for any tax deductions you take for losses. Record the description, date of purchase, model number, serial number, and value of everything in your home on your emergency preparedness checklist. Do this on a computer and update it every 6 months or whenever you make a significant purchase. You also may use a video camera and do a walk-through of your property to list your items electronically.
Include your attic, basement, and garage.
Don't forget cars, boats, and other outdoor items.
Inventory your exterior property, including landscaping, swimming pool, trees, fences that all add value to the land.
Have jewelry, art, and collectibles appraised by professsionals. Update the appraisals of valuable items every few years.
Documents to Protect
Most people are surprised when they make a list of all the important documents they have and take for granted. If these documents are destroyed, many more additional hours of effort and stress will be needed to get back to normal after a disaster. Take time now to review and protect these documents while you have the time. The originals of most of these should be in a safety deposit box, rather than in the top-left drawer of your desk at home.
You can scan documents onto a computer or take them to a copy center such as Kinko's and have them scanned into an electronic format. These can then be stored on a remote computer across the Internet far from your home. Of course, you must be comfortable with the security of the storage location of your emergency preparedness list.
Make paper copies or printouts of the documents and keep in a sealed, waterproof pouch in your emergency kit so they are with you even if your home is destroyed.
- Home Inventory
- Insurance Policies - house, life, car, property, boat, ... Check that your policy covers you for disasters and that the limits are adequate since the last time you reviewed it.
- Wills - make sure you review and update your will occasionally too
- Property Deeds - to prove you own the house and land
- Titles to vehicles
- Tax Returns - first 2 pages of state and federal returns from the past 3 years
- Contracts - business you are doing or having done
- Stocks and Bonds
- Bank Account Numbers
- Credit Card Numbers and company phone numbers
- Driver's Licenses
- Social Security card
- Health Insurance Cards
- Prescriptions - medicines and eyeglasses
- Immunization records
- Phone Numbers - relatives, employer, insurance agent, doctor, pastor, financial advisor, repair contractor
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Family Photos - most likely irreplacable so keep negatives remotely
- Cash - keep $100 or so in your emergency kit
- heirlooms, mementos, photos
- favorite toy
- important papers
Top 10 Items
Make a list of the few items that you would take with you if you had the time to get them. Your family should work together to come up with a list of irreplacable things that are meaningful, small, and light. Things like a TV, GameCube, or computer are easily replaced and would be poor choices but a laptop computer with all the family records on it would be a good choice. Consider taking:
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