Why:

Having an emergency binder that contains critical information means you and your family are better prepared when time is of the essence. If a natural disaster, fire, or other catastrophe happens the focus should be on safety not trying to gather important documents and information that will be needed later. That is where the financial emergency binder comes in. Preparing ahead of time ensures that you have quick and easy access to important information and can focus on safety when time is short.

What:

Imagine that everything is gone from your house. What would you need, or your family, to get back on your feet? Copies of identification cards, social security cards, bank information, insurance policies, and more. It is also important to remember that using the binder may be after a traumatic event, so organizing it crucial.

Here is a list of categories and items to include in your binder.

  1. Emergency Contacts/Number
    1. Family members
    2. Kids’ school and daycare
    3. Doctor
    4. Utility companies
  2. Medical Information
    1. Medical history
    2. List of prescriptions
    3. Immunization records
    4. Insurance cards copies (front and back)
  3. Documents
    1. Title to vehicles and home
    2. Birth certificates
    3. Passports
    4. Wills
    5. Wedding license
    6. Power of Attorney
  4. IDs (Copies)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Credit cards
    3. Military CAC
    4. Social Security cards
  5. Financial Information
    1. List of institutions
    2. Account numbers
    3. Website and passwords
    4. Investments
  6. Insurance
    1. Provider
    2. Copy of the policy
    3. Agent’s phone number
    4. Copy of life insurance policy
  7. Cash
    1. For an emergency

Where:

You took the time to put your binder together, now what? Keeping it safe and easily accessible is your next step. A water proof and fire proof container are your best options; for most people this means a safe. If you have to get out of the house on short notice you can grab the binder or know that it will survive whatever your home won’t.

Maintaining more than one copy is also a good idea. Store one copy of the binder in your home and another copy in a distant location. A safety deposit box at the bank or online with password protection are your best secondary options for storage. This will further ensure that if disaster strikes your hard work won’t be wasted.

Updating:

Compiling the binder and keeping it in a safe place is a great start, but being prepared means being up to date as well. Determine a scheduled time to update the binder with new information. Monthly, quarterly, or at a minimum annually. An old list of prescriptions or a phone number to your teenager’s preschool won’t be helpful.

Further information:

Being prepared can seem daunting, but it is necessary. There are a host of great resources available to get you started. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides excellent guides and resources for your financial emergency binder. It also has links to other sits (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and information to help plan for the other facets of emergency preparedness, like your physical safety.

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/disasters-and-emergencies/

https://www.ready.gov/