Have you considered the implications of not storing and securing your vital records?

You don’t have to look too far through the news today to find people who have been at the mercy of natural disasters, usually of epic proportions. Earthquakes, bushfires, floods, these events can wipe out entire towns with little or no warning.

Of course, everybody hopes this will never happen to them, but are you prepared if the unthinkable was to happen?

One element of preparation often overlooked is the importance of disaster proofing your important documents. That is making sure you have secured the vital personal information which you will need to facilitate the recovery process.

In addition, knowing that your documents are safe and secure means that you can focus on personal safety when it counts, and not worry about salvaging documents at the last perilous moment.

Here are some tips on the kinds of documents you should protect, how they can be protected, and how technology is making this task easier than ever before.

Vital Records & Documents

Rebuilding your life in the wake of a disaster is a daunting task. However, advanced preparation can go a long way toward making recovery easier.

With easy access to all your vital records and documents, you can recover or replace many of your material possessions.

Though not everyone will have a need to secure the exact same documents, below is a list of records you might want to consider collecting and securing in a safe location:

  • Vital records (birth, marriage, divorce, adoption, child custody, death certificates) 
  • Passport, driver’s license, or other identification documents
  • Centrelink cards & records of entitlement
  • Property leases, deeds and mortgages
  • Financial documents including copies of pay stubs, bank accounts, stock certificates, etc.
  • Legal titles (car, home)
  • Insurance policies
  • Wills, living wills, trusts and powers of attorney, both legal and medical
  • Medical records including lists of prescription medicines, medical conditions, medical provider information, Medicare cards, etc.
  • Debit/credit card numbers
  • Home/bank safe deposit information/keys
  • Records of passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs)
  • Family photos, keepsakes, jewellery, or other mementos

Storage & Security Solutions

Once you have gathered the necessary documents, you need to develop a system to organize and store them.

Should you ever need to access this information, you'll want to be able to find exactly what you need as efficiently as possible and with a minimal amount of effort.

Some people choose to store their documents in a home location. A fireproof safe, locking filing cabinet or portable lockbox all provide suitable storage. If you live in a flood-prone area, be sure to use a watertight container.

Others choose to rent a safe deposit box at their bank or credit union for a small annual fee. Even if the bank is affected by the same disaster you are, it is likely the vault would remain standing.

On the other hand, a safe deposit box can be inconvenient if you want to access its contents at times when the bank is closed. It can also be problematic if you keep things in the box that you might need immediately after a disaster because the bank may be inaccessible.

Also, in the event of a medical emergency or a death in the family, and their safety deposit box can’t be accessed, things can become very frustrating for remaining family members.

Online Solutions

An alternative solution is to store your important records online. Google, Dropbox, OneDrive and Box all provide sufficient digital capacity which allows for general file storage.

There are also online companies whose business is to store and manage personal documents and records. Also, valuable for estate planning purposes, these solutions are encrypted and backed up, and are offered for a nominal fee.

If you are not comfortable storing your personal documents online with an unfamiliar company, then consider consulting with Salt Financial Group for alternative solutions. 

Peace of Mind

Most people who’ve never experienced a devastating natural disaster or the untimely death or incapacitation of a loved one don’t fully understand the importance of having all these important documents in a single, secure location.

They operate in an environment of denial, assuming it will never happen to them, and then when it does, it’s too late.

Going through this process ahead of time might result in a little bit of pain but the peace of mind it can provide is immense, in the event of some disastrous or unfortunate event happening to you.

This article has been extracted in part from Disaster Preparedness: Storing and Securing your Vital Records – United Capital 6th April 2016

Jenni Anderson