But even if you donâ€™t live in a hurricane-prone area like I do, thereâ€™s no excuse for not having an emergency kit ready for the worst-case scenario, whether it be a wildfire or a flood or an earthquake.
Beyond evacuation essentials like clothing, toothpaste and a flashlight, youâ€™ll also want to have a substantial amount of financial information on hand.
This information can help you make payments, access assistance, and otherwise go about daily life during or after an emergency. Since cell phone or internet service may not be available, itâ€™s important not to rely on just having your username and password memorized to access various financial services. Plus, youâ€™ll need a lot of that financial information to help you rebuild: For instance, you may need to show proof of income if you apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief assistance. And the last thing you want to be doing as youâ€™re trying to rush your family out of your house is trying to dig up your last pay stub.
The following are the financial documents you should pack copies of in your evacuation bag.
Along with your documents, youâ€™ll want to have cash available for expenses if payment systems are unavailable or the power is out. How much should you have handy? The Simple Prepper advises having enough cash for one month of your â€śmost criticalâ€ť living expenses. I usually default to $250, unless thereâ€™s a storm on the horizon in the next few days that prompts me to withdraw more.
Wherever you choose to hide your cash within your emergency supplies, make sure itâ€™s waterproof.
You may also want to slip a few checks into your bag, if youâ€™re afraid your cash wonâ€™t be enough to cover potential expenses.
FEMA advises keeping printed copies or those stored on an external drive in a fireproof and waterproof container. For an evacuation bag, youâ€™ll probably be more concerned about waterproofing your documents, so at the very least, grab a box of plastic freezer bags and go to town.
Here are some of my paper copies I took with me when I evacuated during Hurricane Irma in 2017 (and yes, I desperately need to update and reorganize all of it).
I like to divide my documents up into a few separate bags and label whatâ€™s in each bag with a permanent marker. Each bag also gets a card with my name and address stamped on it as an added layer of identification.
Whether you choose to have physical or digital copies with you, youâ€™ll also want to have them backed up in the cloud. Be sure to password-protect your digital files.
If youâ€™re working on adding documents to a flash drive, add a few files that arenâ€™t password protected that contain your emergency contact information. Mark it with a red cross to make it easy for medical professionals to recognize it if needed.
Update the copied documents youâ€™re stashing on paper or digitally at least once per year. If youâ€™ve experienced a major life changeâ€”moving, marriage, family death, changed jobs, sold the house, etc.â€”youâ€™ll want to update the applicable files as soon as possible.
FEMA offers a printable Emergency Financial First Aid Kit that you can complete to have on hand along with copies of your documents. It may feel like a tedious process to walk through every step, but taking some time to gather these documents and make the appropriate backups now can provide much-needed reassurance when youâ€™re pumped up with adrenaline during an evacuation situation.