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Emergency Documents You'll Need

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?

21 thoughts on “Emergency Documents You'll Need”

  • Dan j

    I did not look at the tutorial yet so if any of this is redundant, i apologize. I am in the process of doing this now and find it time consuming with all the other responsibilities to take care of. A great thing is to have a good checklist and keep doing it in small amounts. After i scan each one, they all get saved in the same folder. That way when i'm done it's easier to transfer it. I plan on saving it in several places: hard disc, thumb drive, and an on line storage program like DropBox. As a good reminder, if you store the information on a thumb drive, get one that is password protected. Also, a hard copy goes in the family Go Kit just in case. There is also a good App for the iPhone called Disaster Prep from the Emergency Response system for San Louis Obispo CA. Good check lists, reminders, and a password protected storage space for your medical and personal documents. Worth looking into and it's free.

  • Irish-7

    I want to thank you for putting this information out there for the "Prepper" crowd for free. I think it is most generous that you help the out the folks that recently joined our community. God Bless You!

  • Debbie B.

    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

    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.

  • Joan

    Be sure to include current photos of your children in your emergency kit...and keep them current!

  • Nathen K.

    Thumb drives are indeed a great idea for scanned documents, pictures, medical records etc. But, being an overly redundant prepper myself, I also have all the same info stored on CD-R/DVD'S and hard copies of the essential physical items (documents that some people/institutions would require originals containing an original seal(s) like deeds, marriage certs etc.) in a small or appropriately sized fire safe, I.e a "sentry safe". May seem overly protective but, God forbid, should your preps get caught in a fire situation like fast moving wildfires, car fire etc. this just offers another layer of protection. Small fire safes are cheap and easy to carry or pack in a "go bag". Also, external hard drives have come down greatly in price and offer a lot more storage space for large amounts of electronically stored docs. However, electronically stored docs can be rather hard to retrieve in the event of an emp type scenario where computers are useless, hence the fire safe or other element proof rugged container. Just food for thought.

  • Jeff

    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".

  • Woolval

    Jeff, I like to think I'm an Assured Self Supporter... you can call me an ASS. LOL!

    Ready Store, I always appreciate these types of articles, they all provide more food for thought, more help in preparedness. Keep 'em coming!

  • Babycatcher

    Professional certification documents! If the Stuff hits the fan, we might have no way of proving our knowledge base! I'm a Certified Professional Midwife, and my license and CPM documentation is going with me, as well as all my certs for Amateur Radio (I'm an Extra) and FEMA certs(I'm deployable in case of communications emergency) that's a lot of work to have gone thru, if I can't prove it....

  • Joy

    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.

  • zero day

    I recommend backing up photographs digitally, then storing the medium off site. Or backup to the Cloud. Not necessarily for when the SHTF but for natural disaster.

  • monica

    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!

  • Lee

    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.

  • MrMikey59

    Most of these documents are also important for Cancer patients...they need stuff handy! I would include any Power of Attorney or Living Wills as well as a brief Medical History and Medication List!

  • Elvis

    I have been advocating these types of preparedness measures for years. It is something that is so important. As we begin to recover from Superstorm Sandy I cant tell you how important it is to be able to produce these documents for assistance. One thing I recommend that I didnt see posted was to have a duplicate set (either hard copy or digital) outside the impacted area, say with a family member or friend out of state.

  • Sonja

    Thanks for the list.
    I have all my "prepper" books, articles and documents saved to mini SD cards. The cards are used in my older smart phone. If SHTF, we have solar charger for the phone and all the info at our finger tips. The small, lightweight phone fits nicely in the ToGo pack.

  • OBK

    Thank you for posting this. I have been working on this and missed some items on your list. This is just common sense to protect important documents and yet people label this as a "prepper" activity.

  • Boy Scout

    "Babycatcher" has it right. Shortwave/HAM radio operators will be our only source of reliable communication until the power comes back on.
    All this talk of Smart phones,flash drives/SD cards,solar chargers,etc.Everything done "on line".The more sophisticated we become,the more vulnerable we are.I wonder if in 20 years anyone will even have the ability to write by hand? Think about it. Electronic devices in the hands of kids right when they are able to walk,maybe even before!
    I dunno,I hope everyone who seems unable to be without electronic devices has other,perhaps old school methods of protecting important documents when a massive EMP strikes. Don't believe it? Then you never been without power of any kind lasting 24hrs or more. Google it, electromagnetic pulse. You can also look up the New York blackout of 2003 just for a small example of what happens and how people react.It's not some made up doomsday prediction.Not If the Govt is currently very concerned about it as well and trying to find ways to prevent it. OH! and don't forget, your car (95% of them) will also shut off.Remember, it operates by little electronic computers that will instantly fry. Trains,railways,buses,same thing, all of them will just stop as a result of an EMP. But that's OK because those who keep talking of and using the expression "When SHTF" have their small backpacks with a change of shoes,supplies and at least a gallon of water in the trunk of their car to get them walking back home.You do, Right? Look,electronics are great! they make life easier. We unfortunately however are more and more disconnected from each other on a human to human level,that in itself is sad. Just try and have another plan that does not rely on electronics to resurrect.You then will be that much better prepared.

  • Maniac Mike

    I just want to remember where all my food and guns are.You could Tattoo that info on your butt.

  • Chuck H.

    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.

  • James

    Boy Scout is right. We do become too depend on electronics. I think that digitizing your photos are a great idea (also easier to share that way)
    Get duplicates made of your hard copies and if you are worried about proving them to an 'authority' then have them notarized. Get as many copies as you have determined you need as sets. But if the SHTF then you may not want anyone to know who you are.
    It has been my experience that if someone is needed for a specialty job, no one asks for credentials.
    Just a thought.

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