Whether you are a hardcore prepper or just concerned about disaster preparedness, there is something that you absolutely must have ready to go in case of an emergency. Sadly, this is also the one thing that most people fail to prepare.
It is an Emergency Binder.
What Is an Emergency Binder?
An Emergency Binder is simply a binder which contains copies of your important documents. It is sometimes called a Bug Out Binder. Organizations like the CDC just refer to them as “documents” and the Red Cross mentions emergency documents as part of their “Get Tech Ready” advice.
Building an Emergency Binder should be part of your evacuation plan, which includes making a “Bug Out Bag” and “Get Home Bag.”
Why Do You Need One?
To understand why having an Emergency Binder is such an important part of an emergency evacuation plan, 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.
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What Documents Do You Need?
Once you make the copies, return the originals to a safe spot. Preferably, you have a waterproof/fireproof safe (Amazon Link) so your documents can survive a hurricane, flood, fire, or other disaster.
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 Emergency Binder in the next section.
You will need COPIES of these documents in your Emergency Binder.
- Birth certificates
- Social security card
- State-issued ID/Driver’s license
- Medical records and 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 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
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 can read this post about how to document possessions for insurance.
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 in small bills
How to Store Your Documents?
Your Emergency Binder contains all of the vital documents you will need to restart your life after a disaster. Since it is meant as part of your emergency evacuation plan, 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 Emergency Binder, he’d have everything needed to easily steal your identity.
I store mine 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 it.
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 Emergency Binder should be in a portable waterproof and fireproof safe (Amazon Link) 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 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!
The benefit of storing your information 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. (Amazon Link)
Please do NOT store your Emergency Binder on cloud storage though. As this article points out, those cloud storage sites are easy to hack.
Do you have an Emergency Binder? How do you store and protect it? Let us know in the comments below.