Last year, one of my most popular organizing post was this emergency binder. It's been over a year since I put it together, and I'm thankful for how it's kept us organized and ready for an emergency. Peace of mind can't be bought. If we ever go through an emergency situation, this binder will be one of the first things we grab. If you've been thinking of doing something like this...do it! If you haven't, consider the benefits for your family. It may take you some time to put it together, but remember, PEACE OF MIND.
I was inspired to get an Emergency binder together after hearing about the devastation that hurricane Sandy weaved throughout the east coast. She caught my attention alright, and it really had me thinking, would we be ready for something like this? So I researched and wrote a post about Disaster Preparedness here . I went over the steps we all need to make in order to survive emergencies and disasters. In it, I talked about getting an emergency binder together that has all the important documents you will need to grab and go quickly if you need to evacuate your home.
It took me a while to gather (find) all the documents needed for this binder. As I was organizing all my documents and putting them together, I realized this wasn't just for emergencies. Yes, I wanted one file or notebook that I could grab in an emergency, but I also realized, this has our whole life in it. It's really a life binder!
As the binder was coming together, I decided to show my oldest daughter what I was doing. If something should ever happen to us (mom and dad), she would know exactly what to do in that emergency. Give the binder to family and all the instructions are in there to follow. I know we hate to think about stuff like this, but it's really needed. If you have a family, make sure you have enough life insurance to cover their living expenses should something happen to you. Dave Ramsey suggest 10 times your annual income, so if you make 50,000 a year, get 500,000 in life insurance.
Next step. Part of being prepared is getting our wills together. I found several websites that create a legal, documented will, by an attorney, for a small fee (usually about $20). You can check out Legal Zoom and Total Legal to get your will filed today and sent to you. These are for simple wills with few assets, but they carry a vast array of instructions for your family. You can also write your own will if you choose, and yes, it's legal. For instruction on that go HERE.
My binder was pretty simple to make since we don't have a huge "estate" to organize. I found a few lists that suggest including these documents in your emergency binder. This list comes from the Neat Co.
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It's a comprehensive list that covers every detail. If you put all these documents together, you would need a few folders. I chose to include only those documents that we would absolutely need in my Emergency Folder. The other documents have been put in their prospective files and organized together.
- Birth Certificates and/or Adoption Records
- Drivers and Marriage Licenses
- Insurance Policies - health, home, auto, renters
- Loan and/or Lease Agreements - home, auto, apartment, personal
- Property and Auto Records - titles, leases, deeds, registration, repairs
- Tax Returns - federal, state
- Death Certificates
- Legal Contracts
- Important photos - family, home, auto
- If you have Children add - school IDs, records, fingerprint profile
- If you have Pets add all of the above that specifically relate to them
- Health Insurance Policies & Cards
- Life and/or Disability Insurance Policies & Cards
- Medical Records - vaccinations, prescriptions, x-rays, test results
- Contact info of family and friends to reach in case of emergency
- If you have Children add the info from above that specifically relate to them
- If you have Pets add the info from above that specifically relate to them
If you have the ability to scan these documents and download them onto a computer, you might want to consider downloading them onto a waterproof memory stick as well. A memory stick will only work though if there is power, but it's a great option for large Emergency folders.
- Credit Card Copies
- List of Bank Accounts and or opening statements
- Front and back credit card copies
- Financial Investments - stock certificates/records, purchase/sales records, account numbers
- Retirement and/or pension account numbers
- Records of paid Mortgages
- Employment Records - pay stubs, benefits, agreements, stock
I decided the best way to organize the Emergency binder was to use labels for each section. Aren't these nice? I didn't make them. I was about to design some of my own when I found Ginny from Organizing Homelife was making these blank labels available. Why reinvent the wheel, I thought! I followed her instructions for saving the blank label onto my computer, then opened up the file in publisher, chose a font and titled each label.
I chose a big leather binder I already had. You know my motto here in Lewisville; spend as little as possible for each project. You can always go to an office supply store and get folders in the sizes and colors that makes your heart happy. A free leather binder with build in plastic sleeves makes my heart (and wallet) happy.
Plastic sleeves are a must when putting this binder together. You want to protect the papers as much as possible. I placed the label page over the documents that belong in that section. For the Car Information, our titles and insurance can be found under the label page.
Under Retirement accounts, include 401Ks, ROTH IRAs, stocks, bonds, and all the rest you may have.
Continue on with each section, making copies where needed. I copied our medical and dental cards because I carry the cards with me. Having copies in the binder is important for that "just in case" situation.
Here's probably the most important section, especially for my kids. In an emergency, they will find the numbers, addresses, and emails of people to contact, both local and out of state. With one call, local friends will be over to help them. With another phone call, family will be flying out to join them.
I wish I would have organized this a year ago. When my husband started his new job, they wanted his social security card or passport. We had just moved and I had no idea....none, where either of those were. I spent hours, going through boxes to find those documents. Yes, the boxes were labeled, but we had a lot that said "documents". In the end, I couldn't find them and we had to file for an emergency S.S. card. The lesson learned here is that being organized can save you money in the long run.
Eventually, everything was found and all is put nicely in it place now!
Ironically, we must have gone through the same thing with our birth certificates at one point. I had a few duplicates in there.
We are renting a home right now, so I included our rental agreement. If you own a home though, make a section for your loan(s) or deed to the house.
I wrestled with including our accounts in here. I've questioned the safety of having everything in one place, just like so many of you out there. What if someone breaks into my house and finds my Emergency Binder? I came to the conclusion that there are pros and cons with this binder. If you have it, someone could potentially find it and steal the information. If you don't have it and an emergency strikes, your family could suffer the consequences in the long run. You can see I'm using a very plain binder, that doesn't say EMERGENCY on it. It's placed in an area I see everyday, so I would know right away if it's missing. You have to weigh what works and doesn't work for you. So many people have said they wished they had something like this when they faced their emergency situation. For me, the benefit of having my Emergency binder outweighs the risk.
I also included an old road atlas to the Emergency binder. I know many of you are thinking our cell phones have all the latest map apps, but cell phones die. In disaster type situations, power outages mean cell phones won't be charged. In this case, paper is king and technology is non-existent.
This leads me to my next section- the hidden money section. You don't see it in here, do you? That's because it's "hidden". So many people on the east coast stated that they couldn't use their credit/debit cards at the grocery stores or gas stations because the power was out and the machines didn't work. You really need to have an emergency stash of cold, hard, green, cash for the binder. Hide it in there and forget about it. It's not for pizza delivery or a trip to Target. It's there for you and your family. You may need gas, food, water, and/or supplies. How much do you need? That's up to you. We live in a blessed country where rapid response teams help in times of disasters, allowing most people to get back to a somewhat normal life a few days after an emergency situation. Having 72 hours of food and water is recommended, so think 72 hours worth of money also.
So there it is- my emergency binder that I hope we will never have to use. If it's needed though, I'm so glad it's put together, neatly and organized. It will be one less stress point to deal with.
I hope you have been inspired to put your own Emergency binder together. It's so important for you and your loved ones.
It's a great feeling to know that we would be ready to go in any Emergency/ Disaster situation.