Sometimes people have to leave their homes in a hurry due to forest fires, earthquakes, and other events. How clearly would you think and what would you have to do if you had to get out fast? Without projecting that you will need to use a family emergency binder (also called a grab and go binder), it’s comforting and practical to have one.
Here is a list of 10 things to keep in it. That’s a great start, and if you think of a good 11th or 12th, let me know in the comments!
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10 Things to Put in Your Binder
 A check you take out of your checkbook and put in the binder in an envelope. This gives you a way to get cash and also gives you the account information. (Have more than one account? Do this more than once.)
 Some cash, also in an envelope. Somewhere between a hundred dollars and a thousand, and in bills small enough to be easily used.
 Two pages with your most important IDs from your wallet scanned in, front and back: drivers license, health insurance card, credit cards, social security card, anything else important you keep in your wallet. If you don’t have a scanner, you could do this at a copy shop or you could make a list by hand or printed out from your computer or tablet.
 Copies of personal documents for each person in the family: passport, birth certificate, adoption papers, marriage certificate, medical records, wills, end-of-life documents.
 Copies of whatever papers you want related to your home, from renters’ agreement to deeds and mortages. Homeowners’ insurance and your agent’s phone or email, for sure.
 Vehicle papers or copies: title, registration, insurance.
 Information on family and friends: phone numbers, emails, addresses.
 Copies of any tax or business documents you might need.
 List of passwords you might need. If you keep a lot of this in Lastpass or another online program, be sure your password to the password lists is in the binder. And a paper printout could be handy. (See my notes below on the security of the family emergency binder itself!)
 A list of things to take if you need to leave fast. This could include medications, pets and some supplies for them, things that each person in the household would want or need, from laptops to clothing.
Okay, I admit that some of these “things” are really “categories of things.” So be it.
Idiotic Things People Took When Leaving Fast
This is here not for amusement particularly but to make the point that we don’t always think clearly when we are rushed and stressed.
When close to 80,000 people had to evacuate quickly to escape the massive forest fires around Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, they took all sorts of things with them. Here’s a newspaper article listing some. This list was shared among the evacuees once they had reached safety:
- Formal dress wear but no food or water
- An empty garbage container
- The bottom of a blender and a watermelon
- A pie plate but no underwear
- A hot glue gun
- One shoe and one sandal
- And more!
Think you and I are smarter than they were? I don’t want to find out. This is why I do prepare some things!
Here Are Some Supplies
Any binder will do but if you need one or other supplies, here are some useful things at Amazon.com.
- Avery Durable View Binder, Holds 8.5 x 11-Inch Paper
- Avery Economy Clear Sheet Protectors, Box of 100
- Avery Big Tab Buff Insertable Dividers, 8.5 x 11 Inches
- Sharpie Permanent Marker, Fine Point, Black, Pack of 5
- Fire Resistant Document Bag
How Secure is Your Binder?
I’ve seen warnings online that you shouldn’t put this sort of information in a binder that someone could steal. Good point but I go with the school of thought that you are better off having it where YOU can get at it. But you can keep it in an unlikely spot. Maybe among cookbooks.
If you have kids, or even know some neighbor kids, your binder could be a ratty old one they used for school, the sort of thing you’d be more likely to throw out than touch. Alternatively, you could get the child to draw something that said “Bobby’s School Papers” or something of the sort and slip it into the front of a binder that has a plastic sleeve on the front cover. Then keep it in an obscure spot as well.
You can also put notes in your notebook that describe the locations of papers in terms like “Where Bessie keeps her bubble gum.” Just be sure it’s something you can remember, specially if there is neither Bessie nor bubble gum in the family.
A lot of this information could go on a USB drive instead of in a notebook, and here’s the article I wrote on this site about how to password-protect a USB drive.
A great place on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/family-emergency-binder/
For seniors, here’s an article I found about how to make a family notebook. Also, here is a useful book that I just bought at Amazon: Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t Have To. This comes in Kindle and paperback, but I highly recommend the paperback version. I’m already scribbling in mine.
So, What About It? Will You Do This?
Not to sound too holier-than-thou… I’d better admit that my family emergency binder is started but not finished. Hmm, maybe this afternoon. Well, maybe this week anyway!