Prepare a Disaster Evacuation Box and stop worrying

Overall, we’re lucky.  We have systems in place to help us in times of trouble; fire, police, the Red Cross, etc…  Most of us also have support that we trust-friends, family and service professionals such as insurance agents.  During the time of

confusion following an unforeseen event such as fire or earthquake, there will be pieces of information that we will need to provide in order to reconstruct our lives. Reconstruction of your life will be much easier once you prepare a disaster evacuation box.

A disaster evacuation box is a fireproof, lockable, easy to carry safe, designed to protect important documents.  I have one at home, but until I received my friend Richard’s newsletter, I didn’t realize that there were important pieces of my life information that were not in there; the following is a handy checklist to get you thinking about what you should include in your box as this may not be a complete list for your situation.

The box should be kept in a place that’s easy to get to and grab on the way out of your home in the event of an emergency.  Every member of the household should know where the box is and have a plan to take it without risking their safety in the process; personal safety and that of your pets should always be first.
The box should include copies of:
Four years tax returns-if you have a business, also include any business returns.  (I include computer backup CDs, and plan on grabbing my laptop computer also).
All insurance policies for every household member (vehicle, home, health, life and umbrella policies).  Make sure to include the declaration page, the insurance agent name and phone number, the company number and copies of all insurance cards, including Medicare if applicable.
Important papers, such as birth certificates, social security cards, citizenship papers, green cards, passports, etc…  Make sure you have current pictures of each household member and note, or include in the box, the offsite location of important medical history information.  If medical histories are in your possession, include them in the box.
Copies of drivers licenses for all drivers in the household, vehicle licenses, leases, pink slips, loan documents and photos of the vehicles.
Important phone numbers and contact information (home, work and mobile phone numbers) for family members, doctors, schools, emergency, etc…
A list of all current medications, doctor and pharmacy names and phone numbers (an extra pair of prescription glasses would be a good idea)
Final escrow papers for your home
Important family photos, (or any other precious item such as grandmas’ wedding ring, or grandpa’s watch.)
Information about major improvements to your home and their cost-your insurance company will need this
Photos or a video of the inside and outside of your home-make sure to include the contents of shelves, closets, garage, sheds, etc…  As you film, read the serial numbers of all large items, such as TV, stereo, and VCR into the camera so that in the event of theft, you will have a record of the item.  Include a copy of this video in your safe deposit box also.  (Make sure to schedule and take pictures of jewelry, computers, or any other expensive or hard to replace items)
A list of bank and investment accounts and credit cards with contact information and account numbers-pin numbers should be included in a code that only you know. Voided checks would be handy to have for each account, as they contain bank routing numbers.  (As part of my estate plan, I have an inventory of accounts, which I include and update periodically.)
Emergency cash in the event banks are closed, or getting cash at ATMs is not available.

Thank you to my friend Richard Rystrom, a tax preparer, who compiled this information from a newsletter provided by his ‘Enrolled Agent’ professional organization. Don’t delay any longer in preparing your disaster evacuation box.  Think of it as an insurance policy that will save you stress, time, and money ‘just in case’. With a little preparation, we can continue to be lucky.