Losing documents in a disaster puts your recovery in jeopardy
Disasters are scary because they signal a loss of safety and stability, not only for individuals but also for the community. Systems and structures that hold things in place aren’t able to work efficiently (or at all in some cases). Any steps you can take ahead of time that allow you to do things more easily, like disaster-proofing your documents in order to file insurance claims, will help you bounce back faster.
Why Life Documents Matter After a Disaster
One of the most important steps you can take is to disaster-proof your documents. Why? Because having access to life documents like identification, property deeds, vehicle titles, insurance policies and financial information makes it significantly easier and faster to recover, whether its filing insurance claims, accessing financial accounts, or simply proving you are who you say you are.
Imagine going to a bank to take out cash if you don’t have your driver’s license or even your wallet. Imagine trying to make an insurance claim if your policy has been destroyed and your local insurance agent doesn’t have Internet access. Imagine trying to buy a plane ticket or rent a car if your credit card is lost, or getting emergency care if your medical history can’t be accessed.
While it’s devastating to have to replace lost possessions (including your house or vehicle), getting your life back on track requires you to have access to your life documents. Replacing those adds time and complexity to an already difficult situation.
Disaster-Proofing Your Life Documents
FEMA recommends protecting and preserving five categories of life documents:
- Identification documents
- Medical information
- Financial and legal documents
- Insurance information
- Contact information and instructions for trusted people in your life
What’s the best way to preserve these documents? Physical and digital storage.
Physical storage can be a safe or destruction-proof document box in your home, or it could also be a safety deposit box at a bank. This has been the system most people traditionally rely on to keep hard copies of their documents safe. The problem is that documents can still be destroyed or lost in a disaster. So it’s important to have a digital backup.
Digital document storage needs to be portable and accessible. While storing things on a physical hard drive (like a thumb drive) can seem like a good option, don’t forget that it’s still a physical way to store digital data, which means it can be easily destroyed just like a safety deposit box.
One of the best ways to store things digitally is online. This means you’re able to access it on any device wherever you have an Internet connection. You’ll want a storage solution that is secure (password-protected) and encrypted to safeguard your information online.
Donna Childs, author of Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses, was living in Manhattan when her neighborhood was evacuated during the 9/11 attacks. Because she stored her life documents online, all she had to take with her was an overnight bag.
FEMA also suggests storing copies (physical or digital) of your documents with a trusted person outside your geographic location. Make sure to keep them updated.
Protecting your life documents offers the best peace-of-mind when a disaster looms. Knowing your documents are secure and accessible means you can focus on your family’s safety when the time comes and trust that you can recover faster in the aftermath.
LifeExec is an online life management web application designed to help you and your family recover faster from natural disasters by securely storing critical life documents in the cloud. To learn more and get a free 30-day trial, visit www.lifeexec.com.