Imagine that three days ago a hurricane (or tornado depending on your location) came through and destroyed your home. Let’s say that you had time to grab your go-kit and get out of dodge. You have been at your local shelter for three days with your entire family. You are now standing in line waiting to speak to a FEMA representative about applying for emergency assistance. While you wait in line, you are also on hold with your insurance company once again trying to figure out why it is taking so long to file your claim. Imagine the types of documentation these two entities are going to request from you. Don’t you imagine they will want to see your driver’s license? What about your homeowner’s insurance policy?
Preppers call these vital records. These are the records it takes to run your life. Some of them you access almost daily (credit cards, driver’s license) and some you may not even keep track of (insurance policies, deeds). Either way, it takes a certain amount of documentation to be you and to live in your world. These are your personal vital records. Here are a few more examples:
- social security card
- credit card account information
- medical records (as applicable for emergent care)
- medical insurance cards
- bank account information
- flood insurance documents (NOT included with homeowner’s policy)
These are just a few examples. What constitutes adequate vital records will vary from person to person. But it is vital that everyone consider what they will need to have on hand in their go-kit. There could be times following a widespread disaster that having these records will make the difference in you receiving emergency assistance (financial, medical, etc) right away as opposed to after significant delays. And let’s be honest some things are just hard to get again on a good day! Ever tried to get a replacement social security card or a driver’s license in a new state? Hope you brought your first-born and have picked out which kidney you will donate!
Take some time to create a list of your vital records. Then go about the process of obtaining duplicates where possible or copies if necessary. For instance, you can get a duplicate of your credit cards from most companies. However, you aren’t going to get another driver’s license. For things like that, a photo copy is much better than nothing. Keep in mind that this needs to be done for each member of the family for whom you are building your go-kit. Don’t forget to capture your spouse’s or children’s records as well.
Now for storage. I recommend that for your go-kits you either purchase a waterproof box ($5.00 at Wal-mart) or triple pack these in ziplock baggies if you are on a budget. For shelter in place kits, I recommend that you budget for a fireproof/waterproof safe for your home. Another option for go-kits or shelter in place kits as far as storage, is a thumb drive. You can certainly have paper copies; however, in today’s world don’t forget to embrace technology where you can. If you have a way of scanning and storing images on a thumb drive, that may be a great alternative. (Also consider keeping them safe from water and fire!)
Now, things change right? Your driver’s license expires, you change insurance companies, or you receive a new medical diagnosis. It is important that you keep your vital records updated. It would, of course, be ideal if you made the updates as they occur. However, let’s be realistic, sometimes the here and now gets in the way of what should be. So I recommend annual reviews of your vital records at a minimum. I personally do this every time I rotate out my winter/summer clothes. This is my reminder that “things change” and it has become part of my routine. (If you are so fortunate as to have enough closet space not to have this chore every season change, then get creative…what’s something you do annually or semi-annually?) It is also vital that you make changes to every iteration of vital records. If you maintain a waterproof copy in your go-kit and a fireproof copy in a safe with your shelter in place things, then you will need to update both. Also be sure to remember you family’s emergency contact cards (discussed in yesterday’s post). These are definitely vital records and they contain information that often changes.
Vital records are a key component of your emergency preparedness planning. They are also one of the least expensive to obtain and maintain. This makes them a perfect starting place in beginning your emergency preparedness kits. Out of all the things you may hope to one day purchase for preparedness, you can get these for little to no cost, which leaves little to no excuse.
As always, send forth questions, concerns.