How to Prepare Comprehensive Records and Personal/Family Information for Emergency/Disaster Survival Easily, Quickly and Inexpensively 

Equally important to having water, food, clothing, and some money stored for present and future use is the need to have a copy of the family's financial matters documented and located in one place for instant access. These are vital records for your post-disaster recovery. Take the time now to organize your family's papers and records – it may well be the second best investment you can make in your family's total preparedness activities

"What can I actually do? 
We can, each of us, work to put our own house in order."

Small is Beautiful,
by E. F. Schumacher

The ability to prove ownership of your bank account(s), safety deposit box, business, brokerage, and investment accounts may be necessary after a natural disaster or other calamity destroys the bank, credit union, brokerage or other financial records. Also, since having proof of ownership will allow you to maintain your real property rights, provide qualification for your earned benefits, or provide continuing rights to the use of physical property, it is well worth the effort it takes to amass the information and organize it so it's readily available.

It is most important that all members of the family know where the family's personal records, documentation of ownership, and other financial papers and records are kept. They must also know to whom to turn for advice in case the primary responsible individual becomes incapable of directing family activities. Planning ahead by having these forms and papers readily available can save a great deal of agony, anguish, time, and money – especially when an emergency or other unpleasantness causes debility, disablement, or death in the family. 

Keep the originals of all your important forms in a safe deposit box at the bank or in another secure, private, accessible, safe place away from your home. The following pages detail how you can establish a system for safeguarding your family's personal and financial information. This information may be invaluable to prove your ownership, provide access to earned benefits – and maybe even protect your life! This is an exercise of prudence, practicality, and providence!


Note: the wide margins – make notes and use the space for your questions, ideas, and plans to make certain your future is as secure as possible.

Make up a Household Preparedness Notebook using the worksheets provided in this chapter to collect and maintain your family's critical information in a single volume. This Notebook provides a designated place to keep copies of important and updated records and is available on short notice to be carried with the family in the event of an emergency. Make certain each responsible family member knows where it is kept, and that it is a most important item to retrieve on a moment's notice, when circumstances require. 

Note: The gathering of information suggested in these charts is more than an exercise of prudence and practicality; it might very well prove to be providential!

Prepare a safe place to keep this Notebook with its documents and papers. This Notebook will help you keep all your updated records in one place. Use top-loading plastic sheet protectors for the documents, with index dividers to identify the categories. Insert sheets of data and documents in a large, well-organized, loose-leaf notebook, so extra pages can be added as needed. Revise all information as needed to keep your data current.

Supplies for the Household Preparedness Notebook are available at office supply and discount stores. The cost for a notebook and supplies should not exceed $10 to $20, depending on the amount and quality of materials selected, and should include the following items and accessories:

  • Loose-leaf notebook
  • Top-loading sheet protectors
  • Index dividers
  • Waterproof, portable container 

Use the forms provided in this chapter to collect and maintain family vital statistics, ancestor history (genealogy), and financial records. Examples of important documents that you will want to copy for your Household Preparedness Notebook include the following:

 Family documents – birth, adoption, marriage, and death certificates

 Relatives to contact (local and out of area)

 Social Security cards and entitlements

 Passports

 Medical records (especially prescription medications and eyeglasses)

 Immunization records

 Driver's license

 Military records

 Academic certificates

 Tax returns (minimum 3 years)

 Wills (updated!)

 Personal insurance policies

 Retirement accounts

 Contents of safe deposit box

 Property and household items inventory (photographs and videotapes)

 Banking and money accounts (3 years)

 Record of credit / debit cards (3 years)

 Titles to equipment and property

 Property insurance policies

 Contracts

 Deeds to properties and equipment

 Stocks, bonds, certificates, and other financial instruments

 Additional documents relative to your personal needs

 Stash of cash – bills in small denominations and silver coins 

Should you have an emergency need for any of these documents in the future, they'll be easily found and immediately available to help resolve problems and give you peace of mind. This is a vital part of being prepared. It requires discipline and attention to detail. This record is the summation of your life's work, so do this task with a view of protecting your estate for the future.

Additionally, keep a small amount of money in small bills and quarters, dimes, and nickels inside a pocket of this Notebook – at least enough to make a few telephone calls or perhaps "influence" someone to do what they would have done under normal conditions.


Resolve to get organized now – get started and just do it! It's really much easier than searching for lost records in mountainous piles of old bills, tax forms, receipts, and hand-me-down recipes when you're under pressure of time and need! The following ideas and suggestions are intended to help you accomplish the task ahead.

 Keep only copies in your home notebook. Always protect originals in a safe environment. Moisture, temperature, and exposure to light, causes deterioration of paper, cloth, and wood items.

 Rent and use a safe-deposit box in a bank, credit union, savings and loan, or privately operated business. Place in the safe deposit box the originals of important individual and family documents, inventory lists, and photos/videos of property and possessions. Use the box to store copies of wills and trusts, partnership agreements, and other legal documents. Store valuables, including certificates for stocks and bonds, infrequently used jewelry, and a list (photos are better, videotapes are best!) of expensive and rare jewelry, antique furniture, silver dinner sets, or works of art, also.

 Waterproof all documents and other items subject to water damage. Sprinklers can go off accidentally, and floodwaters can rise – even in a vault!

 Fireproof your vital information. You can find used fireproof safes at most places where safes are sold or repaired. Used safes may cost as little as 10% of new units – and are just as safe!

 Review and discard outdated documents periodically. How long should you keep those voluminous records? In the table following are guidelines to help you determine periods of recommended storage for various forms and documents: 

Chart 1 - Records Retention & Storage Chart

Federal, state, and local jurisdiction tax laws change often! This information is for reference only. Seek the advice of a qualified tax professional in your local area for current requirements.

 Create an in-home business/records center for your preparedness endeavors. In addition to organizing your household information and records, you will find that the effort of planning, budgeting, searching, shopping, and aggregating a year's supply of foods and other items will itself be a sizeable in-home business-like venture.

The difference between having your financial records neat and well maintained on the one hand or what we call a people-caused (or perhaps a personal) disaster on the other is usually a matter of simple organization. No genius is required – just a moderate amount of meaningful work. The benefit is that you'll spend less time looking for a canceled check, having anxiety attacks over misplaced receipts or perhaps an important stock certificate, or days gathering information for your annual tax return.

The real work is in the creation of the system. Once you've created the system, you'll save many hours in the day-to-day management of your business and financial matters. So, you can create a system, buy a system from a business supply store, get computer software, or combine some of these suggestions. Here are some basic organizing tips utilized as we have tried to gain better control of the paperwork flow in our own lives.

If you haven't established an in-home business center, get a small desk, some office supplies and at least a 2-drawer file cabinet for your preparedness "business." Keep in this desk the materials that you use almost daily:

  • Stationery
  • Bills to be paid
  • Documents to be filed
  • A record of cash receipts and cash disbursements
  • Office supplies – pencils, note paper, file folders, paper clips, stapler, staples, etc.

Use the file cabinet to store materials and documents you use less frequently. Use folder systems with tabs in both the desk and the file cabinet. It makes filing and finding records easier. Set up folders with categories for the types of items you need for reference and follow-up with an alphabetical file and a 1-31 date file for your important events. Typical folders to keep in your desk:

  • Bills to pay
  • Cash receipts journal
  • Income from investments
  • Stock transactions
  • Documents to be filed
  • Income documents
  • Gifts received
  • Tax planning and financial planning information
  • Records of children's financial matters–1 for each child in separate folders

Typical folders to keep in your file cabinet:

  • Household bills paid (by year)
  • Personal financial statements
  • Home and home improvement records
  • Tax returns (by year)
  • Canceled checks and bank statements (by year)
  • Investment account statements
  • oIRA / Keogh / Roth IRA plans
  • o401(k) plan documents
  • Bank passbooks and certificates
  • Copies of wills or trusts
  • Employment contract
  • Partnership/business investments
  • Record of company benefits
  • Investment prospectuses and quarterly reports

Insurance policies:

  • Life
  • Health
  • Disability
  • Auto
  • Homeowner's or renter's coverage (including umbrella policy for business) 

 Have a cash disbursements journal – you probably already have one as your checkbook is a record of what you've disbursed (paid) for goods and services. Your disbursements journal can be as sophisticated, complicated, or as simple as you like. There are a number of computerized programs for recording and organizing financial data, and it is well worth the price to have one and use it to analyze your financial position on a timely basis.

 Also, keep a record of cash receipts, or at least a cash receipts journal. Why would you want to keep a record of receipts? A record allows you to look back at any time and determine who paid you how much, what, and when. At the end of the year, you can use the journal to double-check, for example, that you received all your dividend checks from a particular mutual fund, or all interest payments on a certificate of deposit. You could also, if you wanted, add a series of columns for the types of receipts you anticipate during the year: dividends, interest, rent, bonuses, etc. to help with your budget, as well as your cash flow.

To be aware of what income you receive, record these minimum details:

  • Date income received
  • Payer or from whom received
  • Amount received
  • Amount deposited
  • Deposit date 

As part of your family's preparedness efforts, take the time NOW to organize your family's records. Recognize the importance of being able to access your information while the federal, state, and local governments, financial, legal, and educational systems are functioning normally to assist you in your documentation. For those who have accomplished some of this, be grateful it is done – but stay in pursuit until you're satisfied you're free of the threat of lost information. For those who haven't begun, start gathering this data now, because it will require maximum persistence and dedication as the demand for this type of information increases. Also, agencies will have limited time and personnel to handle both the system failures and the request for information over-load. Though all this may seem overwhelming at times, keep in mind: there is perfect order in the chaos of uncertainty!


The following chart identifies the worksheets available for use in organizing your entire family's information, if you have not done so already. These worksheets will guide you in accounting for your individual and family information, as well as the family's financial assets and liabilities. They are grouped to help you organize your collection of valuable documents and facilitate their safeguarding. Please take time to review these worksheets, and then begin to enter the requested information in an orderly manner.

Chart 2 - Directory of Family Preparedness Household Notebook Worksheets

Worksheet 1 - Important Emergency Telephone Numbers


Worksheet 2A – Family Members

Worksheet 2B – Individual Family Member Records

Worksheet 2C – Location of Family Documents

Worksheet 2C – Location of Family Documents (Continued)

Worksheet 2C – Location of Family Documents (Continued)


Worksheet 3A – Life Insurance

Worksheet 3B – Health & Hospitalization Insurance

Worksheet 3C – Accident & Disability Insurance


Worksheet 4A – Banking Accounts

Worksheet 4B – Financial Advisors

Worksheet 4C – Contents of Safety Deposit Box

Additional sheets may be added as needed. A copy should be made for each responsible member of the family.

Worksheet 4D – Record of Credit & Debit Cards

Worksheet 4E – Record of Debts

Worksheet 4F – Record of Money Owed to Us

Worksheet 4G – Record of Personal Property Loaned to Others

Worksheet 4H – Equities in Stocks, Mutual Funds, Treasuries, & Corporate Bonds

Worksheet 4I – Precious Metals & Other Investments


Worksheet 5A – Real Estate & Property Insurance

(Automobiles, trucks, boats, & any personal property requiring title or insurance as a condition of use or ownership)

Worksheet 5B – Property & Household Inventory

(Copy this page as needed to complete your property & household inventory.) Page _____ of _____

Additional sheets may be added. Copy this page as needed to complete your inventory.

A property and household inventory will be extremely helpful in determining how much insurance coverage is needed to protect your investments. The inventory also furnishes a valid record on which to base claims should a loss occur. One method of inventorying your house-hold goods is by going through the house, room by room, closets, bathrooms, attic, basement, and any other storage space, and tag all possessions with a "sticky label", item by item, until everything you own is accounted for, identified, and all values determined. Another method is to take photographs, identifying with details on the back of the photos, appropriate inventory and purchase dates, costs, or current price, and/or value at time of purchase. It's easier to make an audio recording to describe the photos. An easier method is to record your possessions on video. Include everything on the walls, in the closets, items in the garage, and personal jewelry – anything that has value. It is so easy to do – if you don't own a video system, you can borrow or rent one for a weekend. Include verbal descriptions and personal details as you record the items. Where known, clearly state the date of purchase and cost of each item. Estimate values if exact figures are not known. Keep sales receipts for substantial purchases. Record current market value and the current date. Current market value is the amount you could get if you sold the item now to a willing buyer. Be sure to include food storage and preparedness items in your household inventory. If you detail what you own, and have the facts duly recorded, you have proof of ownership. Regardless of method used to inventory your possessions, place either the recorded original or a copy in a safe deposit box, if possible.

Worksheet 5C – Photos & Videos of Property & Household Items

Worksheet 5D – Real Estate & Property Descriptions

Worksheet 5E – Real Estate Financials

Worksheet 5F – Major Home Improvements

Proof of purchase price and receipted bills for improvements are located at:



Worksheet 6A – Business Interests

Employer: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Telephone: _________________________________________ Fax: ___________________________________________________________________

Date of Employment: _______________ Name of Immediate Supervisor: _____________________________________________________________

Sole Proprietor/Partner/Owner of Business:

Name of Business: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Type of Business: Sole proprietorship __________ Partnership ____________ Corporation ____________________________________________

Business partner(s): ________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Home address: ______________________________________________ Tel. ___________________________________________________________

Partnership agreement? Yes_______ No _______ Date Filed: ______________________________________________________________________

Partnership (Buy-sell agreement) insurance? Yes _____ No _____ Date Filed: ________________________________________________________

Copies of contracts & policies location: ________________________________________________________________________________________

Instructions for supervision or sale of business are located at: ____________________________________________________________________



ACCOUNTANT: ______________________________________________________ Tel. _________________________________________________

Address: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

ATTORNEY: _________________________________________________________ Tel. _________________________________________________

Address: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

BUSINESS CONSULTANT: _____________________________________________Tel. _________________________________________________

Address: _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

BUSINESS ASSOCIATE: _______________________________________________ Tel. _______________________________________________

Address: _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

ASSOCIATE: _________________________________________________________ Tel. _______________________________________________

Address: _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Worksheet 6B– Business Property Insurance


Worksheet 7– Final Disposition Information & Guidelines

My name is: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

                            first                                                          middle/maiden                                                                         last

When I die, please contact: ________________________________________________________________________________________________

                                                                     name                                                                                         relationship


                       address                                                                                                                                            phone #

My important papers are located at: _______________________________________________________________________________________

Information for Death Certificate & Filing for Death Benefits

My address is _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

                                      street                                  city                                      county                                       state                                                       zip code

Citizen of _____________________ Birthplace _____________________________ Date of Birth _____________________________________

Social Security Number _____ - ____ - _____ Occupation/type of business: ______________________________________________________

Veteran of: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

                                   branch of service                                                     serial number                                                     rank


                       date & place entered service                                                 date                                                                             discharged 


I was: □ married □ never married □ widowed □ separated □ divorced □ remarried

Spouse's full (maiden) name: ___________________________________________________________________________________________

Name of next of kin (other than spouse): __________________________ Relationship: ____________________________________________

Address: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Father's full name and birthplace: _______________________________________________________________________________________


Mother's maiden name and birthplace: ___________________________________________________________________________________


Siblings: names and birthplaces: ________________________________________________________________________________________


Preferences After Death:

□ Autopsy if doctor or family deems it necessary.

Disposition of Body

□ Donate my body's organs: □ arrangements made on __________ with _________________________________________________________

                                                                                                 date                                                                                     organization 


□ Cremation              □ scatter ashes: _____________________________________________________________________________________

Bury container: _____________________________________________________________________________________________________


□ Funeral Arrangements: Simple No embalming No public viewing

Least expensive burial or cremation container Immediate disposition Bury at: __________________________________________________


□ Services: □ memorial (after disposition) funeral (before disposition)

graveside ceremony at: my church mortuary _________________ other ____________________________________________________


□ Memorial gifts to: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________ 

omit flowers

I have made pre-arrangements with: _____________________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                                                        name/address of mortuary


Signature: ____________________________________________________ Date: _________________________________________________

Witness: ______________________________________________________ Date: ________________________________________________

Witness: ______________________________________________________ Date: ________________________________________________

Additional sheets may be added as needed. A copy of this form should be completed for each member of the family.



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