Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes, from devastating floods to the fact that you just lost your wallet. This article will help you backup your important documents before you find yourself in a jam.
What Documents do I Need to Backup?
Here is a list of important documents that you may need in case of an emergency. But don’t just take my word for it, role play and put yourself in many different scenarios to determine what documents you may need and what you may be missing. For example. What would you need if you lost your wallet? were traveling? were displaced because of a local disaster for an extended period of time? was in a car wreck?
You should have these documents saved in both paper and electronic backups.
- Passports and visas
- Driver’s licenses
- Birth/Death certificates
- Marriage certificate
- At least 2 forms of photo ID for each person
- Social Security cards
- Bank information – Make sure you include your account number, password or pin, and bank phone number for every account. (savings, checking, credit cards, etc)
- Recent bank statement for each account
- Recent pay stub
- Health insurance card
- Car insurance
- Military documents such as DD-214
- Last year’s tax return
- College and trade school diplomas
- Recent photos and important information such as allergies for each member of your group
- Title to your home and car(s)
- Account and contact information for each bill you have such as phone, electric, cable, gas, etc
- Medical history, immunization records and list of current medications
- Plane tickets and travel itinerary
- Prescriptions for Medications
- Living Will
- License To Carry Permit or relevant CCW
- Important photos of loved ones
- Photos of your important possessions including model and serial numbers if applicable. These photos will help prove possession and condition of the item in case of theft or dame due to in-climate weather
- Important contacts – Make sure to include family, friends, hotels, doctors, insurance company, banks, etc. If you are traveling outside of the country, information on how to reach the embassy would provide useful
- Directions on how to get to a safe place. This may be a family member or friends house or even a hotel in a safe area.
- Product and vehicle manuals
- How to articles (mainly if you are storing these digitally)
- For our ham radio operators, a list of local repeaters
- Job Resume – This is especially good to have if you will be displaced for a long period of time and are in need of work.
How Should I store My Documents?
Paper copies are great to have and require no power to read but you need to keep them away from their main nemesis, water. Make sure to laminate them or store them in some sort of water proof packaging. I really like the aLOKSAK bags. You will also need to keep those paper copies in a secure location such as a safe or even a Portable File Box for a grab and go type situation.
Digital copies are great as well but they do require power and a device that can read your digital format. I recommend using a USB thumb drive. You will only need a few MB of space to store all this data but storage is so cheap nowadays that you might as well get something large and be able to store additional data as well. As with paper copies, you will want to keep your data safe from prying eyes.
You can purchase an encrypted USB thumb drive such as the Kingston Data Travel Locker. This drives uses hardware encryption and allows you to password protect your thumb drive. I have never used this drive personally but have used Kingston USB thumb drive products in the past and have been more than happy with them.
You can also purchase a regular ol’ thumb drive and encrypt your data using TrueCrypt. The reason I like doing this is because I can encrypt my data and store it on my computer, thumb drive, phone, or even on a document backup site such as DropBox or Google Docs. I can even purchase a nice rugged Corsair Flash Survivor Stealth drive and keep my files secure on there as well. I do have to mention that ever since TrueCrypt stopped making development changes (05/2014) and the support for Windows XP stopped, TrueCrypt is considered “unsecured.” Having said that, I always go by the mantra that locks are placed on doors to keep honest people honest. Meaning that the lock on my front door will only slow down someone who really wants to get in. TrueCrypt is the same way. If I leave this stuck in the library computer, drop it on the ground, or someone steals it from my car, TrueCrypt is far more than sufficient to keep my information safe.
I would recommend backing up your data as often as possible but twice a year is a good goal to aim for. If you want to make it easy on yourself, backup during daylight savings time changes. Backing up your data is a cheap and easy way to become more self reliant and it will only help you in case of emergency. Will it save you life? Probably not. Will it make your life easier and more convenient? Absolutely!
So backup your data today!
Also, leave a comment and let me know how having your important documents backed up have helped you in the past. If you feel there should be something else on this list let me know that as well!