Nobody likes to think about the possibility of a disaster, but it’s important for you to be prepared long before one happens. Once one hits, it's unlikely that you’ll have enough time to take the steps to protect yourself and your personal information.
Protect Your Vital Records
Be sure that the original copies of important documents such as birth certificates, wills, marriage certificates, Social Security cards are properly secured. You might want to keep them in a safe deposit box.
Consolidate Your Information
Create a list of your
- account numbers
- important contact information (banking, credit cards, insurance policies, investments)
- checking account routing numbers
- basic medical/prescription drug information
Keep this information up to date and in a safe place.
Make a home inventory using photos or video to document your valuables for insurance purposes.
Keep It Backed Up
Storing your personal information in more than one place and format is a good idea (original documents in a safe deposit box and encrypted copies with you on a flash drive).
Keep Them With You
Having your driver’s license/passport with you during a disaster is important. You might need them to prove who you are in order to
- get benefits
- claim your property
- apply for a new driver’s license
- get a new job
You’ll likely have your driver’s license with you, but keep your passport (if you have one) in a secure place that’s accessible enough for you to grab it quickly.
Don’t Leave It Behind
All unnecessary documents containing personal information should be regularly destroyed (before a disaster strikes). As documents could be scattered over a wide area or someone might enter your home, it’s important to make this a consistent practice.
Plan for the Unpredictable
Think about how flooding, power outages, home destruction or fires could affect how you store your information. Place documents and devices in water/fire-resistant pouches (even the items in a safe deposit box). Store digital copies of important documents on an encrypted flash drive or a secure cloud-based service.
ATMs and point of sale systems might be down after a disaster, so having some emergency cash (small bills) on hand is a good idea. Using direct deposit (paycheck, retirement, Social Security) can also help if your mail service is down for days/weeks.