Preparedness blog

Emergency Documents You'll Need

By Jeff and Amy Davis
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When planning out what to put in your 72-hour kit or bug-out-bag, it's important to also have extra copies of emergency documents. It could indeed save your life. There are certain identification, insurance and personal documents that you’ll wish you had during an emergency. Here are a few things to consider while collecting your important papers:

How to store
It’s pretty easy to digitize your records to fit them all onto a hard drive or flash drive. If you choose not to go this route, you can always keep copies of these documents in a water-proof folder. You might consider creating a master list (or Excel spreadsheet) to track all of your documents.

However you store your documents, you’ll want to make sure that they are housed in a waterproof document holder of some sort. There are also fire-proof containers that protect against heat damage.

Where to store
During an emergency, you’ll want to know where this information is. We recommend that you put this information in a 72-hour kit. By placing this information on one of the exterior pockets, it will be easy to access if you need to get to it quickly.

You can also make copies to be placed in your emergency supplies at home.

Emergency Documents for a Disaster

Types of documents
Identification papers
Copies of documents like your passport, driver’s license, social security card, birth certificates, and others are important to include in your emergency kit.

Insurance papers
If a natural disaster struck, how would you get in contact with your insurance company? It’s a good idea to have contact information for your insurance company and bank. You should include account numbers.

Be sure to include photos, descriptions and other documentation about the items in your home. Some families have even taken video tours of their home to show proof of them owning certain items in their home.

You could also include copies of house or property ownership if that becomes disputed.

Personal documents
While preparation might not protect certain family heirlooms, you can also take precautions against loosing certain family valuables like marriage certificates, treasured photos, family history records or old family keepsakes.

Some families have completely digitized their records to fit on a single flash drive or hard drive.

Medical documents
Making copies of vital medical records is a great thing to include in emergency plans. These could include allergies, prescriptions that you are on, immunizations, medical conditions, etc.

Contact information
You should have the names and phone numbers of a few vital contacts - a family relative that lives out of state, your insurance contact, etc. You can also include information on who people should contact if you or your pack is found.

Here is a list of some of the documents that you should consider:


  • Household and place of business inventory (recorded using photographs, videotape, or stored on a database manager computer program).
  • Duplicates of insurance policies (life, health, auto, home, hazard, etc.)
  • Mortgage documents
  • Real estate deeds
  • Title papers
  • Motor vehicle titles and bill of sale, serial or VIN numbers
  • Wills and trusts
  • Safe deposit box: location, number, inventory of contents, location of key, authorized persons to access box
  • Investment portfolio
  • Stocks, bonds and other securities
  • Bank, checking, savings account numbers or certificates
  • Credit card accounts (company and account numbers

  • Family health and medical records
  • Employee benefits information
  • Letter of instruction in case of death
  • Funeral and burial plans
  • Name, address, phone number of attorney, financial advisor and insurance agents
  • Photocopy of documents carried in wallet or purse


  • Birth, marriage, and death certificates
  • Adoption and custody decrees
  • Citizenship papers
  • Military papers
  • Passports, visas
  • Social security card (or card numbers)
  • Employment records


  • Family photos, videotapes, etc.
  • Important books
  • Personal family history
  • Family genealogy records

So what other ideas have you found helpful? What records do you keep? How do you keep them?


10 years ago
Debbie B.
9 years ago at 4:12 AM
This is a great list which I passed on to our prepper group also. The only thing I would add is info on your hairy kids like a picture of each one, vet records, license numbers, and micro chip numbers in case you get separated. Keep up the good work and keep those great ideas and info segments coming.
NameS Barr
9 years ago at 6:18 AM
Please do not put your personal documents on line, anywhere!!! Dropbox is not a secure location. The same can be said for your phones and other mobile devices. If you are putting them on your personal system make sure you encrypt the file(s). TrueCrypt is one good tool. Always type in the password do not auto save/enter it on any system. Make sure someone you trust has the user name and password in case you fall off the planet.
9 years ago at 6:19 AM
Be sure to include current photos of your children in your emergency kit...and keep them current!
9 years ago at 7:20 AM
A note to Irish-7, Debbie B., and others: Instead of being referred to as a "Survivalist" or a "Prepper", I prefer the politically correct term of "Evolutionarily Advanced Self-Reliant Community Citizen".
9 years ago at 8:19 AM
Thank you for a great reminder and resources to get our documents and other information together and in a safe place. Jeff - EASRCC, hmmm that doesn't make a catchy word.
9 years ago at 1:07 PM
I have all my info on a thumb drive that I then vacuum sealed with my foodsaver and put in my bug out bag! Thanks for the list! Great idea about our furry babies info too!
2 years ago at 5:26 PM
Best idea yet. Original docs seem to be required by many institutions, but cumbersome to haul. Uploaded scans can be hacked (iCloud, et al). Thumbdrive(s) need electricity and a device. Perhaps a copy on hard drive, vacuum sealed, and MAILED to a safe, secure address is another great alternative.
9 years ago at 2:13 PM
I use my printer to scan cards, pictures and special documents and then transfer it to Neatdesk. This is a great way to keep all papers and documents including taxes on my computer, on flashdrives, external hard drive, Mozy and even gave a dvd to a relative just in case. It may be overkill but it does give me peace of mind.
Maniac Mike
9 years ago at 12:22 PM
I just want to remember where all my food and guns are.You could Tattoo that info on your butt.
Chuck H.
8 years ago at 5:56 AM
I live in NJ where we got hit by Sandy last year. No power for over a week. Three things I did't see mentioned: Cash!! Without power stores can't scan a credit card. If foreseeable, gas up all vehicles, and a few jerry cans. Finally, buy a cheap inverter (plugs into the cig lighter socket of your vehicle)minimum 300 watts. Why 300? Just enough to run a sump pump in the basement, along with other stuff (TV, cell phones, NOAA radio, etc.) Best place to store stuff is at the bottom of a sump pump well. It will not burn, it is below ground level, basically a small bunker. Use a wide mouth glass bottle (Snapple bottles are my choice). But be careful not to block the float switch in the sump well. If you have an out building (garage, shed, etc.) duplicate the stuff also.