Preppers and survivalists spend a lot of time thinking how they would react in total SHTF situations, such as how they’d find water, obtain food and defend themselves from mobs. Yet, little attention goes into planning for very real and very likely disasters on a smaller scale, such as a hurricane or home fire. For these situations, you absolutely must have a Bug Out Binder.
What Is a Bug Out Binder?
A Bug Out Binder is simply a binder which contains copies of your important documents. You can also keep an electronic Bug Out Binder on a flash drive, or online.
Why Do You Need a Bug Out Binder?
Bug Out Binders are important for situations where you need to evacuate your home. For example, during a hurricane, earthquake, fire, or flood.
To understand why having a Bug Out Binder is so important, consider what happened during Hurricane Katrina. Millions of people had to flee their homes and thousands were in emergency shelters. Many didn’t have IDs, or any other documents to prove who they were, where they lived, whether they had health insurance, whether they had homeowner’s insurance…
As NBC News reports, the lack of IDs led to a big headache which lasted long after the hurricane was over. Without an ID, victims were unable to do basic things like cash a check. They were unable to access their financial accounts without an ID or their debit and credit cards. Without health insurance info, many were denied healthcare. There were also many cases of people pretending to be hurricane victims in order to get aid, so IDs became vital in determining who would get emergency aid from groups like the Red Cross.
In order to get replacement documents, you usually need to have a birth certificate. For victims of Katrina who were born in Louisiana, this was disastrous because the Vital Records Office (where birth, death, and divorce certificates are kept) was affected by the hurricane. Louisiana natives were unable to get their birth certificates.
What Documents Do You Need?
You will need COPIES of these documents in your Bug Out Binder. Once you make the copies, return the originals to a safe spot – like a waterproof/fireproof safe or a safe deposit box. Do note, however, that you will want to have the originals of certain documents available as well (such as your passport in case you need to flee the country). We will cover how to store your Bug Out Binder in the next section.
- Birth certificates
- Social security card
- State-issued ID/Driver’s license
- Medical records, including blood type
- Prescriptions for medications
- Names and addresses of health care providers
- Health insurance information
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce papers
- Child custody papers
- School transcripts
- Military documents
- Weapon permits
- Credit and debit card (copies of front and back)
- Deed to house or rental agreement
- Vehicle ownership papers
- Vehicle insurance and registration
- Documents related to employment
- Living will
- Any other legal documents
Emergency Contact Info to Include:
- Friends and family members
- Health care providers
- Insurance providers
- Utility providers
- Banks and other financial institutions
Information about Property/Valuables to Include:
You should take photos of your valuable belongings, as well as write down any serial numbers and make copies of receipts (or warranty agreements or other proof of ownership). This info will be useful if you need to file an insurance claim or police report to get back stolen property. You don’t have to document everything you own, but you should document these items:
- Firearm serial number
- Valuable jewelry
- Valuable electronics
- Antiques and family heirlooms
Other Documents to Include:
- Pet Documents: If you cannot prove that your pet is vaccinated, then it might be put down in the aftermath of a disaster. You also will have trouble getting it into a kennel while you secure housing.
- Family Photos: In case you get separated from your family, photos will be needed to help you reunite.
- Cash: Aim to have at least $100
How to Store Your Bug Out Binder?
Your Bug Out Binder contains all of the vital documents you will need to restart your life after a disaster. Since it is meant for evacuation situations, you better have it in an easy-to-access place. But that place also better be secure. You don’t want your documents to be ruined in a fire or flood. Or, even worse, you don’t want your documents to fall into the wrong hands! If a thief got a hold of your Bug Out Binder, he’d have everything needed to easily steal your identity.
I store my Bug Out Binder in multiple places, and not just at home. This way, if a disaster occurs while I am not at home (such as if the house catches on fire), I still have access to the Bug Out Binder. Likewise, I know that my safe deposit box may not always be accessible, and that an EMP disaster could make it impossible for me to use the USB copies.
At Home Storage: Your Bug Out Binder should be in a portable waterproof and fireproof safe in your home. If a disaster occurs, you can quickly grab the portable safe as you flee. This is where I keep the originals of important documents, like my passport and will.
Safe Deposit Box: Keep copies of your documents here, not the originals. As experts point out, safe deposit boxes are not FDIC insured. In event of a flood or hurricane, your Bug Out Binder might be moldy and waterlogged – if you can even access them at all. However, the safe deposit option is good for disasters like a home fire. Your documents might be safe in that fireproof box, but it will take a while before the cleanup crew can find it!
Encrypted USB: The benefit of storing your Bug Out Binder on a USB is that it is small, easy to carry, and can be kept anywhere. Just make sure you choose a good encrypted USB. Please do NOT store your Bug Out Binder on cloud storage though. As this article points out, those cloud storage sites are easy to hack.