How to Create your own Emergency Critical Documents Binder in Case of an Emergency Evacuation
Updated: Sep 8
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Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a nerd and that I love organizing things. I get super excited about organizational supplies like binders, paperclips, folders, labels, envelopes, colorful markers, etc. It reminds me of back to school time when you had a brand new box of crayons when all the tips were nice and fresh, none of your notebooks had been written in yet, and your books had that new book smell (I still love that smell). Anytime I have a new organizing project I get that fresh, back to school feeling and I love it! As I said, I'm kind of a nerd!
One project I took on this year was to organize all of our important documents into an Emergency Binder so that, heaven forbid, we ever had to evacuate our home we could quickly grab that binder and leave and we would have our critical paperwork with us. Or, in the case of one or both of our deaths, it would be much easier for loved ones to navigate through our finances, our wills, etc. If you have ever lost a loved one suddenly and have been left to try to decipher all of their information you will understand the importance of keeping all this stuff organized.
At the outset, this sounds like a daunting task, and I suppose it could be depending on your situation. If you have a large family, or a large financial or property portfolio, it would add some more complexity to this process, but don't expect to do this all in one sitting, no matter your situation. You may want to set aside an hour a day for a couple of weeks to focus on this process, or maybe try to tackle it in a couple of weekends. I took advantage of the early stages of quarantine back in April when we were really stuck in the house with nothing else to do to work on mine. Now that things are opening back up, you're probably wanting to do anything but sit inside and work on a project like this, but with winter just around the corner (I can't even believe I'm saying that), maybe in the next few months, you'll find yourself stuck inside again. You will also want to tailor your binder to your specific family needs. There are probably hundreds of templates out there on the internet; I found one I liked on Pinterest, used it as a jumping-off point, and tailored it to my liking.
So, first things first - you're going to need some supplies. Here's what you'll need and link's to what I used:
** Large 3 ring binder, preferably one that zips closed and has a carry strap. I bought this Amazon Basics 3-Ring Binder (#ad) and it worked great. It fit all of my documents perfectly, however if you have a larger family or a large financial portfolio (ours is pretty simple), you may want a larger binder. I filled this one up.
**Heavyweight Sheet Protectors. I bought this pack of Samsill 200 Clear Sheet Protectors (#ad) from Amazon. I definitely didn't use all 200, but it was a good price for that many, and I will likely use these for other projects.
** Divider Tabs. These KIMCOME 480 Pieces Sticky Divider Tabs (#ad) can be stuck to the sheet protectors so you can easily organize your binder by section; and they are colored so if you want to color-code your binder that is a plus too. They were also large enough to print a decent size label on so you can read the font.
** Label Maker. Now you don't have to have a label maker, but if you're an organizing nerd like me, a label maker is a necessity. I have had mine for several years and I use it for all kinds of projects. I have the WORST handwriting so if I am labeling something that I plan to have around for a long time I never do it in my own handwriting. The DYMO Label Maker (#ad) that I have is very inexpensive and does the work I need it to do. There are certainly fancier ones out there, but this one does the job.
** Paper. Ok, I'm assuming you have white printer paper around your house. If not, you know where to get that. And you'll need access to a computer and a printer.
So now let's get to actually creating this thing. I think something that helped me when I put mine together was to think about (sorry if this is grim) "if I died tomorrow, what would Ron need to know about" or "if both Ron and I died tomorrow, what would our families need to know?". If you keep that in the back of your mind as you gather your information it will help you be very thorough. It may seem silly to put some of the information in there, but in the case of an emergency or if you are panicked you may not be thinking clearly. What if you lose your cell phone or don't have access to a computer? You can think of this as a secondary safe deposit box as well. It will become pretty obvious as you read through the documents in this binder that this is something that you would not want an intruder to get a hold of. So keep this in an inconspicuous place. Somewhere you can easily grab and get to in an emergency, but don't make this something enticing to an intruder. They'll walk away with all your personal information.
Here is how I categorized my binder:
Emergency Contact Information: In this section, I listed contact information, full name, phone number, and addresses, of close family members on both sides of our families (how they are related) including contact information for Ron and myself and our both of our employers.
Copy of Drivers Licenses
Copy of Passports
Copy of Birth Certificates
Copy of Marriage Certificate
Copy of Concealed Carry Permit
Copy of Social Security Cards
Church Membership/Baptism Records
Advance Care Directive
List of Current Medications
Pharmacy Information (phone number, address)
Copy of Medical Insurance Cards
Last Will & Testament
Power of Attorney
Credit Card Information & Copy of Credit Cards
I created a title page for each section and (i.e. Financial, Legal, etc.), and then behind that, I put several clear sheet protectors. In those sheet protectors, I put all the subsections and documents.
You can see that is a lot of information, and you will want to tailor to your specific family needs and situation. It will take a bit of time to gather up this information, make copies, and put all in one place. You may wish to keep some of this information in a more secure place, like a safe deposit box, and that is fine - whatever works best for your situation. I think the most important thing is that you know where the information is and that you can access it quickly. It is also critical that your spouse or significant other knows where this information is and that someone else (i.e. another family member) knows about this binder. I know it may seem morbid to talk about, but the reality is that we will all pass away one day and someone is going to have to pick up the pieces once we are gone. Let's help make it a little easier on them by keeping our personal information organized.
I hope this is helpful to you. I know that I always feel more at ease when I feel that things around me are settled and organized. If you have done a similar project I'd love to hear your comments or if you have questions for me on this particular project please leave a comment or question for me.