Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Your "Grab & Go" Emergency File

Your house is on fire and you are getting out. A tornado is coming and you are headed for the shelter. You are running outside because of an earthquake. A Category 5 hurricane is headed your way. Zombies are attacking. There's an EMP event.

The event ends. You are safe. Now how do you prove who you are? Where are your insurance records? How do you prove that Picasso print in the living room was worth $10,000?

Or, suppose you are severely injured and your kids need to have access to things to pay your bills, deal with your insurance and the like.

What should you do to prepare for such things? Now is the time to consider what records are really important to you and your life. Now, while you have time to prepare.

One good place to start thinking about what records to have available is
Erik A. Dewey's The Big Book of Everything
(BBE), which he describes nicely:
What is the Big Book of Everything?

In a nutshell, it is a notebook filled with all of the information anyone could possibly need to know about you. The idea is that in our lives we have countless things that we are involved in. On rare occasions, other people need this information and no one knows how to get it. That's where the Big Book comes in. By filling this out and keeping it current, you can simplify the effort others have to take on your behalf.

Uses for the Big Book are:

- After you pass away. People will know what accounts to cancel, have access to your email, know where important papers are kept, and otherwise streamline what is already a painful process.
- Filling out applications. The information in the book is often found on various applications, by having the book you can look that stuff up at a moments notice.
- Making sure you know what your assets are. By going through and inventorying all of your assets, you have a better idea of where you are financially.
- Forcing you to prepare for emergencies. By filling out the forms, it will force you to be better prepared when an emergency strikes.
Mr. Dewey's BBE is free, though he does ask for a donation if you are so inclined. You might also like Your Own Home Store's Creating an Important Documents Folder or Grab and go Binder (which contains the useful suggestion that having a current family photo in the binder could be helpful in proving a the family connection if you were to separated from your children as a result of the disaster).  The binder need not be fancy - a simple ring binder with plastic sleeves inside to hold papers will do. Making the binder red and having "Go Binder" written all over it will help. I might add bits of luminous and reflective tape to its exterior to make it easier to spot in the dark or with a flashlight beam. Amazon has the stuff here and here.

The Extension Service of the University of Minnesota has some good guidance at Red File – Your Grab and Go Case for Emergency Situations:
National agencies that work with disasters recommend that important items be gathered and kept in a file case in a place where all family members can quickly “grab it and go.” Make sure that your file case is small enough to easily fit in a backpack or other small travel bag. The following information should be in your file case:
List of vital information

- Contact information (family members, financial advisors, attorneys, accountants, bankers, employers, doctors, etc.)
- Insurance policy information (homeowners, renters, vehicle, health, etc.)
- Bank, credit union, and credit card account information and phone numbers
And there are many more good ideas there, too. The UM site also refers to Roadmap for Important Papers which is a pdf that you can use to fill in the blanks.

Also very useful is the UM List It or Lose It — The Case for Household and Property Inventory:
A disaster can happen at any time. Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, it's important to be prepared before and after the disaster occurs. An up-to-date household and property inventory is a valuable resource that will help document losses.

Before a disaster, the inventory will help you determine if you have enough or the right type of insurance to cover the contents of your home and property. After the disaster, the inventory will help prove for insurance, assistance, or tax deduction purposes the value of the possessions that are damaged or destroyed.

Include the following information in your inventory:

- Detailed description of each item (include model and serial numbers where appropriate)
- Date purchased
- Original cost
- Alterations or repairs done on an item, especially if the alteration or repair made the item appreciate in value

To jump start the inventory process, photograph or videotape all walls in your home and garage that have furnishings, tools, etc. If using a video with an audio recorder, verbally describe the contents as you go room by room. Photograph open closets, cabinets, cupboards, and drawers. Take close–ups of unique or expensive items to document their existence and condition. Date photographs and use them to show all furniture, furnishings, accessories, office equipment, small and large appliances, jewelry, clothing, linens, silverware, tools, recreation equipment, items normally stored in the garage, basement or out-buildings, etc. This Household Inventory Form on eXtension's website will help you begin a written inventory for the home and garage.
Everyone suggests making a couple of copies of these records and keeping one copy away from your How To - Emergency Records On USB Thumb Drive and Portable Personal Records for Emergency Situations . You can get Micro SD cards many places, including Amazon
home. I suggest that with all the little thumb drives with large capacity that such copies don't need to take up lots of space. See

Yes, gathering and scanning records may take some time, but nothing like trying to recreate your life after a disaster.


  1. Anonymous3:27 PM

    These are great links, thanks for the tips! I will download the Big Book PDF and take a look at it.

  2. The world has lost through willful or natural destruction many of its oldest-known libraries.

    One thing that some readers may wish to preserve in their "big books of everything" is surely dear Mother's, Aunt's, Grannie's, yours, etc. best recipes. Once they are gone, good luck trying to retrieve such secrets which are rarely recorded beyond memories. Just a thought.