In all seriousness, in modern life there are important documents that we need to keep up with, like it or not. This begs two questions: What are those important documents? and How do we best secure those documents so that we have them when we need them?
Important Documents you may need include:
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificates
- Death Certificates
- Wills, Powers-of-Attorney
- Military discharge papers
- Copies of credit cards, bank numbers, and other financial info
- Contact information and account numbers for insurance, investment accounts, utilities, etc.
- Tax, insurance, and other financial records
- Copies of driver's licenses and social security cards
- Title & Registration information for your vehicles
- Medical and immunization records
- Health Insurance information
- Pet Records (registration, vaccinations, etc.)
- Copies of your high school diploma and collage degrees
- High School and College Transcripts
- Contact information for family, friends, co-workers, etc.
- Home and Property deeds
- Mortgage information
You probably already have paper copies of most of these documents at home in desk drawers or a file cabinent. Your first action step is to collect everything together, look through what you have, and see if you are missing anything. If so, start collecting copies of the missing documents.
Next, organize and store your important documents together in a secure place, probably in your home. A lockable, fire-proof safe, file cabinent, or ducument bag will work nicely. ROLOWAY makes a large-capacity document bag that is fire-proof (to 2000 degrees F), water-resistent, and lockable. It is available on Amazon for about $45. This is a great storage solution for most folks.
Copies of important documents should be included in your bug-out bag. These can be digitized and loaded on an encrypted USB memory stick (for a free and easy encryption method, see my article from February). I carry a USB memory stick on my key chain and a back-up in my bug-out bag. I personally like and use the rugged GorillaDrive menory sticks (I posted a review to my website). You could also put an encrypted copy of your documents on your smart phone.
However, in a SHTF situation, you may not have ready access to a computer, so it might be wise to have hard copies of some documents. I have two 9x6 clasp envelopes containing documents that fit easily in my bug-out bag without adding a lot of weight or taking up much room. Insert them in a plastic zip bag for waterproofing.
In your bug-out bag, you don't have to have everything as paper copies. That would just take up too much room. For example, when I recently refinanced my home, the mortgage paperwork was over 160 pages long. No problem on a memory stick (the mortgage company emailed me the entire package as a .pdf), but I'm not lugging a hard copy of all that around with me in my bug-out bag. Instead, I just put the two-page summary (which has all the important numbers and information) in the 9x6 envelope I previously mentioned.
Keeping copies, paper or digital, of your important documents off-site (away from the originals) is a good idea. I recommend keeping a seperate set at your bug-out location if possible. Another possibility is keeping a set at work or a trusted relative or friend's place.
What about bank safe depost boxes? This could be an option for some people. Just remember a few things: First, you won't have 24/7 access to the documents, as banks are generally closed at night, on weekends and holidays. Also, in many SHTF circumstances, banks may not open during normal business hours becuse of inclement weather (such as blizzards or hurricanes), natural disasters (earthquakes, wildfires), or "bank holidays" during financial disasters. Finally, if you are forced to suddenly bug-out it is doubtful you'll have time to swing by the bank to collect your documents, even if the bank is open.
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