Documents you need in an emergency
If you only had five minutes to evacuate, what would you take?
In the past year alone, we’ve seen many climate-related disasters that have forced people to flee – often at a moment’s notice. You should have an emergency kit to take care of yourself and your family for a minimum of 72 hours before help can reach you.
But what about important documents?
You won’t have time to organize them all – even find them – if you have to leave quickly. So the first step is to locate those you need to protect. This is more time-consuming but will prove invaluable in the case of an emergency.
Here is a detailed list of documents you should have organized, portable, and easily accessible:
Family and Identification:
- Birth certificates –This helps you prove who you are (and members of your family) and your citizenship.
- Marriage/divorce papers – Information about your marital status could be important in the future.
- Adoption papers – If you have adopted, these are important to prove the child is part of your family.
- Social Insurance Number – Getting a new copy of your SIN card takes time and may not be simple if your area is devastated, so keep copies of cards for all family members.
- Passports/driver's licence –If anyone in your family has a passport, make a copy. Also, keep copies of driver's licenses.
- Photographs of family/pets –Photographs of family and pets could prove valuable if you are separated. Not to mention they are important family mementos.
- Pet microchip numbers – If your pets are microchipped, keep a copy of the tag number.
- Insurance information – Copies of all policies, including life, car, and homeowners. This ensures you can get coverage or file a claim even when away from home.
- Financial accounts –Have copies of statements from all bank/credit union accounts and the bank’s contact information. Also, make copies of credit or debit cards. This ensures you will be able to access your money.
- Tax information – Keep a copy of the last year's tax returns, so you can prove your income. This is in case you need to apply for a loan or other assistance based on income during your recovery period.
- Income verification –Have copies of recent pay stubs so you can provide proof of income if needed.
- Bills/financial obligations –Copies of monthly bills, mortgages, and loans, will provide you with account numbers so you can keep them current. A disaster does not mean you stop paying your bills.
Proof of property
You will want proof of things you own so you can reclaim, replace, or rebuild. Make sure these are actual copies - not photocopies - so you have legitimate proof of ownership.
- Vehicle documentation – Certified copies of titles, VIN numbers, and registration papers.
- Real estate documents – Certified copies of deeds for home and business.
- Appraisals – Receipts or appraisals for valuable items or major purchases
- Inventory of items in your home – Photos of valuables and a listing with each item’s description, brand, model, and serial number.
RELATED READING:Why you need a home inventory
- Will –If you have a will, include a copy. If you don’t, create one as soon as possible. This is the minimum you need to have for an end-of-life plan.
- Power of Attorney – A power of attorneyprovides someone with the power to act on your behalf for financial/legal concerns. A power of attorney for personal care takes care of medical considerations.
- Trust documents –If you have a trust, make sure you have copies of all of the documents relating to it.
- Citizenship documents – If you were not born in Canada, make sure you include a copy.
- Immunization records – Keep immunization records of your children and pets so you know what they are protected against.
- Allergy information –If anyone has serious allergies in your family include these records.
- Medications list – If anyone in your family takes medications on a regular basis, list the medications, doses, and the doctor who prescribed them. Don't forget to list medications for pets.
- Copies of health cards – Health cards allow you to access services in your province.
While many of us store family photos on our cellphones or computer, some are just irreplaceable. Remember to include the most important. If you store copies of all your important documents in a safety deposit box, the keys to the box should also be included in your kit.
Back up important documents
Experts also recommend you also store these important documents offsite. Some options include:
- A safety deposit box
- Flash drive in your emergency kit
- Flood/fireproof safe
- A trusted friend
- Digital backup
Be sure that you've password-protected any data you've stored to protect against any breaches in the event that the drive is stolen or lost. Other options include services such as Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Drive, and Google Drive which let you store documents on a remote server network.
The organizational system you use is up to you – some people prefer a binder with divider tabs, others an accordion file. Most of these documents will be copies and original deeds, birth certificates, and insurance policies, for example, should be stored in a fire-safe or safety deposit box, as a backup. Be sure to let important people to you know where it is stored and what it contains in case they need to access it on your behalf.