Do you have an emergency binder? Wait….what in the world is that? Good question!
An emergency binder is a binder with all the documents and paperwork you need in the event of an emergency or disaster. This binder should be kept in a safe place, so that can be grabbed quickly if you have to leave. But since it has a lot of sensitive information, it should not be easily accessed by others.
Since you are building this yourself, you get to decide how much information you want to include in this binder. Some binders are super elaborate, with food storage plans and emergency bag checklists. Others are more bare-bones, with important documents and basic info.
If you are interested in all in being prepared for emergencies, this binder is an important first step.
Why should you have an emergency binder?
Every family should have an emergency binder. It is a good place to keep emergency contact numbers, copies of vital documents, and insurance information. A well-planned binder will help you rebuild your life after an emergency.
In the event of a quick exit, you probably won’t have the sense of mind to grab the important documents you should have. Having everything already prepared in an emergency binder will help ensure you have everything you need.
Do you remember phone numbers? I bet you don’t, not like you used to. What if your cell phone is dead, or inoperable after an emergency? A good emergency binder will have important phone numbers in it, so you can get ahold of the people that you might need to.
What kind of binder should I use?
You can use pretty much any kind of binder. But a standard 1 inch 3-ring binder should be sufficient to store what you need to keep in an emergency binder. The snap-lock type binders are easiest to put your information in. That way, each page is easily removable to update the information.
You may want to purchase some clear sheet protectors to keep the pages in. This will keep them more protected from the elements. And some sheet protectors with pockets are good too, to keep emergency ID cards and cash in.
Tab dividers are a good idea to make it easier to flip to a certain section. Since you are building this yourself, you can group items however it makes sense to you.
What should I include in my emergency binder?
Photos and important info about family members
Take an updated picture of each family member every 6 months, and print them out. Record vital stats like height, weight, hair color, eye color, and any identifying marks. If the family member has a phone and an email, write those down on their page as well. Make note of their blood type (if known), and any medical issues.
I like to have cards for each family member. That way, each one of us can have a card for ourselves, and a card for every other family member. We keep them in our personal Bug Out Bags. If someone gets separated, any one of us can give a card to search and rescue workers.
If you need help with making emergency ID cards, they are available in our Emergency Preparedness Bundle.
Important phone numbers
You should have a list of important phone numbers (and addresses) in your emergency binder. Here are some examples of numbers you should include:
- Local family and friends
- Out of state family contact
- Doctor’s offices, dentist’s offices, hospitals, and local clinics
- Children’s schools and day care centers
- Parent’s work and business numbers
- Church leaders
- Utility companies
- Non-emergency police
- Insurance agents
You also need to have backups of your financial information in your binder. These would include:
- Credit card numbers and provider phone numbers
- Online banking information (websites and passwords)
- Bank account information and phone numbers
- 401K and investment information and phone numbers
- Bank and investment statements
- Safety deposit box information and password/extra key
Insurance information is vital in the aftermath of a disaster or emergency. You should keep your insurance policy information in your emergency binder, as well as the number for your insurance agent. Keep a copy of your insurance cards in the binder too. That way, you know who to contact after the disaster is over.
Home inventories and photos
It’s a very good idea to do frequent home inventories. Take a detailed record, including pictures, of all of your valuables. Photos of the outside, and all the rooms inside, of your house can be very helpful in rebuilding after disaster strikes your home. You may even want to take a video and store it on a flash drive that you can keep in a pocket in the binder.
Insurance companies often like to know what your house looks like on a normal basis. Photos will help them in replacing what may be destroyed.
Copies of ID cards
Put copies of all ID cards in your emergency binder. This includes drivers’ licenses, social security cards, passports, and school ID’s. That way, if the originals are lost or destroyed, you will have a backup to prove who you are.
Copies of titles and deeds
Your emergency binder should also include copies of any titles or deeds of property or vehicles that you own. These don’t have to be certified copies, just a regular photocopy is fine. Having copies of these vital documents will help you in getting new ones if the originals are lost or destroyed.
You may have some legal documents that you will need to keep copies of in your binder. Some of these include:
- Wills (you should order an official certified copy for this one)
- Power of Attorney (also best to get a certified copy)
- Adoption records
- Marriage certificates
- Birth certificates
- Naturalization and immigration documents
If you or part of your family have outstanding medical issues, you need to keep that information in your emergency binder. Phone numbers for doctors and clinics should be included, as well as a list of any medications taken. If someone has an Advanced Care Directive or a Medical Power of Attorney, be sure to include that too.
Copies of immunization records should be put in the binder as well, especially for children.
Keep copies of medical/dental/vision insurance cards in your binder, and phone numbers for the insurance providers. You may need to contact them in the event of an emergency.
There are some other things you might want to consider keeping in your emergency binder, depending on how thorough you want it to be. These are optional items:
- Email login information
- Important website login information
- Safe codes
- Evacuation plans
- Food storage inventories
- Extra keys for house and vehicles
- Your family emergency plan (including who to contact, where to meet, etc)
- Emergency kit checklists
- Evacuation checklists
- Cash (small bills are good for this)
Protecting your emergency binder
Your emergency binder will have a lot of very sensitive information in it. Because of this, you should keep it in a safe, protected place. A firebox or safe is a good place. Make sure that you can either take the firebox or safe with you easily, or you can get the emergency binder out quickly.
The original copies of your legal documents should ideally be in a safe deposit box, or with a trusted friend. However, you may not be able to get to the safe deposit box during an emergency. That is why having all the copies in one place, in your home, is the best solution.
Sheet protectors are good to keep your vital paperwork dry and protected. Rain can cause some serious damage to paperwork that isn’t protected. Save yourself some heartache and protect your documents.
Are you going to build an emergency binder?
I hope I’ve inspired you to build your very own emergency binder. They are so important to have, since they help you rebuild your life after disaster.
Take a few hours today to start building an emergency binder. It will save you hours and hours of headache later on.
Do you have any additional things one should consider putting in their binder? Please share in the comments!
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