Safely storing important documents is a key step to getting yourself and your family ready to handle disasters, like hurricanes, floods or even fires. Replacing documents after-the-fact can be a difficult and time-consuming process. The right storage solution will help to protect your papers from damage and, depending on your choice, could allow you to swiftly grab them at a moment’s notice.
Which Documents Need Protection?
It can be tempting to throw everything into a single container. However, paperwork piles up fast – particularly if you have a large family. Generally, important papers and documents to keep in protected storage will include:
- Vital Records – Birth, marriage, civil union, adoption certificates
- Social Security cards
- Insurance documents
- Passports or visas
- Titles and deeds
- Banking, investment and tax records
- Other legal papers or documents that would be difficult to replace
How to Protect Your Documents
You’ll have plenty of options when it comes to protecting your important papers. Make sure you understand the limitations of each choice before you make a decision. Here are just some of the options you’ll encounter.
- Water and Fire Resistant Box – Many people own boxes like these. In addition to being able to sustain some fire and water damage, look for models that you can carry and lock. Be aware, however, that since you can carry it, would-be thieves can, too. If you’re looking for something more heavy duty, consider a stationary safe.
- Safe Deposit Box – These are offered by banks in secure vaults that can usually withstand a lot of damage. However, there are convenience limitations and you are usually the only one with ready access. The financial institution BB&T recommends that original wills, powers of attorney, living trusts and insurance policies not be kept in safe deposit boxes.
- Out-of-Town Relatives – Keeping copies with a trusted out-of-town relative is a good way to ensure you’ll have access to important papers. However, this is only a good solution for copies of documents and not good for things you may need frequently.
Where to Place Storage Containers in your Home
Typically, the best place to store your fireproof/waterproof safe or box (or your other at-home storage solutions) is in a clean, dry location on the second or highest floor of your home. Place your safe or container on a shelf or in a closet to keep it off the floor. Something as simple as a burst washing machine hose could damage papers stored at ground level.
If you need to evacuate because of a storm or other type of severe weather, you’ll want to be able to quickly grab your important papers. However, always put your personal safety first!
Store Other Documents Safely
Some papers are important enough to protect, but won’t easily fit inside a crowded safe. These papers should be protected from moisture and sunlight. Place these documents inside acid-free envelopes and in a sealed plastic bag to prevent moisture and water damage.
Protecting your important documents is just one step you should take to prepare yourself and your family to handle disasters and other emergencies.