Millions of Americans are preparing to evacuate their homes as Hurricane Irma plows through the Caribbean on its way toward the U.S. mainland.
Planning for emergencies
In the event of an emergency, the primary concern is always the safety and lives of those potentially at risk.
Read more: 11 frugal ways to prepare for an emergency
And while it’s important to grab certain documents that are difficult to replace, you don’t want anything to delay your evacuation and ability to get to safety.
So it’s crucial that you have a plan — because when it comes time for an evacuation, there may not be much time to prepare — very often giving families no choice but to get out as quickly as possible and leave everything behind.
What to take with you
Whether you’re facing a potential evacuation due to Hurricane Matthew or simply planning ahead, here’s a list of important documents you should try to take with you (based on guidance from the Insurance Information Institute and Red Cross):
- Insurance policies (or any related/contact information you can find if you’re in a hurry)
- Prescriptions and/or important medical records
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Drivers license or personal identification
- Social Security cards
- Recent tax returns
- Employment information
- Wills, deeds and recent tax returns
- Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
- Bank, savings and retirement account numbers
- Copies of your pet’s medical records
- Any other identification/tags for your pets and/or pet carrier
Protecting against property damage
It’s a good idea to take photos of both the outside and inside of your home, including all rooms, valuables you can’t take with you and anything else you want documented for insurance purposes if necessary.
Having cash on hand can be also crucial in the event of an emergency in case of power outages.
Where to keep it all
During an evacuation or other type of emergency, it’s crucial that you are prepared to get out as quickly as possible — so you want to keep all of these important items somewhere safe and secure but that you can also easily access.
Experts recommend using a safe that’s both waterproof and fireproof to store everything. You may also want to store electronic records of important documents in a secured cloud account in case something were to happen to the paper copies.