The Importance of Document Storage

Perhaps more than any other point in history, paperwork rules our lives. Sure, we’ve made some strides in saving trees by using electronic media rather than actual paper in many cases, but the fact is, red tape often seems to conspire against us. This is readily apparent in the aftermath of disasters.

House in Flood WaterYou have insurance, you’re up to date on your premiums, yet no one can seem to figure out how to locate your policy because you don’t know the policy number.

Since your copies of the policy are now drowning underneath several feet of water from the flood, you’re at a standstill. You know who you are, everyone around you knows who you are, except for this bean counter who won’t do a darn thing for you unless you can produce a photo ID. Unfortunately, your wallet went up in flames along with everything else you own.

Storing Your Important Documents

Do yourself a favor and take steps now to preserve these documents and other critical information in such a way that you can easily retrieve them should the worst happen.

Here’s a list of the documents and other information you’ll want readily available.

Copies of all insurance policies (home, auto, health, life).
Copies of photo ID cards (driver license, student ID, etc.) for each family member.
Lists of all prescription medications you and other family members take regularly.
Names, addresses, and phone numbers for your primary physician, dentist, attorney, and insurance agent(s).
Information relating to bank accounts (name of bank, account numbers).
Photocopies of all credit cards (front and back).
Copies of vehicle titles.
Copies of property ownership records (deed, land contract, mortgage paperwork, etc.)

If you have pets, snap a photo of you and Fluffy together. Should you become separated, this is a great way to prove ownership of the animal.

Electronic Storage of Documents

Start by purchasing a thumb or flash drive. These small USB sticks store a ton of information. You’ll want to password protect the contents of the flash drive, of course, given the sensitive nature of the contents. You can buy flash drives with this feature built in, but they tend to cost considerably more than the average USB sticks. There are programs available, some are even free, that allow you to install password protection on any flash drive. Here’s just one article with more information about those options.

Once the USB stick is ready, either download or use a scanner to make electronic copies of all of these documents, as well as any other information you feel may be necessary to have. Be sure the file types being saved are common ones that can probably be opened on any computer, such as DOC, PDF, or JPG files.

You might also consider scanning in copies of treasured family photos, though I’ll admit that project can be a massive time suck. But, should there be a fire, a flood, or any other disaster that destroys the originals, you’ll appreciate having had the forethought to make copies.
As you go along downloading these documents and such to the flash drive, print out hard copies if you don’t have them on paper already. By having two sets of the information, you’re in a better position to ensure at least one set will be available to you.

Okay, so now you have two complete sets of all this critically important data. Where do you store it? Depending on where you work, one set could be kept at your office. Stick it in the back of a drawer and just bring it home once every six months or so to update the information. Another option is to make an arrangement with a trusted family member or close friend. They’ll keep your stuff and you’ll do the same for them. A fire safe isn’t a bad option, either, though they aren’t infallible.

What I do myself is keep a password protected USB stick in my EDC bag that goes everywhere I do. I have a set of hard copies stashed with someone I trust as a backup to the USB data.

Having copies of this information outside the home but readily accessible can be crucial in expediting insurance claims and cutting through the inevitable red tape that comes along with disaster recovery.

Emergency Food Storage for Home

How much food do you have in your home right now? If you had no way to buy more, for how long could you feed your family using only what you have at this moment?

What’s in Your Pantry?

What's in Your Pantry?If it is anything less than a couple of weeks, you really need to consider stocking up. Sure, you could subsist on bagged popcorn and nachos for a day or two, if you really had to do so. But, there are many relatively common types of disasters that could strand you and your family at home for several days. A few years ago, this happened to a friend of mine. A huge ice storm hit her area. It caused widespread power outages that lasted for weeks. While roads were relatively save to travel after a couple of days, there just wasn’t anyplace to go as stores weren’t open due to the lack of electricity.

Storing Food for Home Emergencies

I’m not suggesting you go out and buy a couple of pallets of freeze-dried food to squirrel away down in the basement. In fact, I would caution you against any action like that. Instead, follow a couple of proven caveats when it comes to food storage.

Store what you eat, eat what you store

Instead of purchasing a ton of stuff you’ve never had before, stick with the foods you and your family enjoy, just keep more of it on hand. That said, concentrate your long-term food storage on items that, well, last a long time on the shelf. Things like rice, pasta, and canned goods like veggies, fruit, and soups.

Look, the fact is that our bodies grow accustomed to eating certain foods. Toss in something new and our digestive system sometimes gets…confused. Often, the result is we feel sick, sometimes only mildly so but other times it can get pretty bad. If the power is out and the water pressure is sketchy at best, do you really want to add stomach upset to the mix?

Rotation, rotation, rotation

Rotate Your Food SuppliesStoring the foods you regularly eat helps with rotating the supply so things don’t go bad before they’re used. There are various systems people use to keep their long-term food storage up to date. Some create massive spreadsheets on the computer and religiously change the quantities as items are purchased or consumed. Others just have a notebook kept in the pantry and pencil in changes as necessary. Another tactic is to use a marker to date every item put into the pantry so they can be sure to always use the oldest stuff first.

However you accomplish it, the important thing here is to use and replace food before it gets stale or goes bad in some way. Having a massive pantry won’t do you much good if the food is only marginally edible by the time you need it.

Can you cook without a nuke machine?

Bear in mind that if the power is out, your microwave oven, as well as your electric stove top, won’t be options for cooking your emergency food supplies. With that in mind, there are several options available, from charcoal or propane grills to camp stoves. If you have a spot to make one, even a campfire will work. Whichever methods you plan to utilize, and note the plural there, as you shouldn’t rely on just one single solution, be sure to have plenty of fuel on hand. Personally, I keep a minimum of two propane tanks for my grill filled at all times, rotating them out and refilling them as needed. I also have several bags of charcoal for my kettle grill. On top of that, I have a camp stove and a patio fire pit.

Pocket Stove with Fuel

Emergency food storage is important, as is having plenty of water, first aid supplies, and other gear on hand in the event of a crisis. Even the U.S. Federal government is requesting citizens to have enough supplies on hand to meet their own needs for up to three days, at a minimum. As we’ve seen in the wake of disasters like Hurricane Katrina, that three days can stretch out to several weeks rather easily.