If you hadn’t seen the news, there are several large fires right now in my home state of Colorado. I have seen the smoke up close. I was four miles away when the Treasure Fire started just outside of Leadville and work just over the hill from the Flatiron Fire in Boulder.
Yesterday, I was told a family friend in Colorado Springs lost their home to the Waldo Canyon Fire along with hundreds of their neighbors. My sister’s friend’s family in Woodland Park may have been evacuated this morning along with much of the rest of the town.
This got me thinking. We often avoid anything that has to do with a worst case scenario, but we need to plan for the worst and have an action plan in place in case we get hit with an unexpected tragedy.
If your house burned down while you were at work today, would you be able to quickly track down all of your financial data? Even if you use a free site like Personal Capital for your finances or Manilla for your bills, you probably won’t have everything easy to get to in one place.
It is important to have a list of your accounts somewhere easy to get to no matter what. I suggest you put together a list of accounts, account numbers, and contact information for each account on Google Docs. You can get to that list on vacation, at work, or anywhere else you can get online.
You should keep your bank account statements and taxes for at least seven years in case a dispute comes up or you get audited. While many of us don’t keep paper copies anymore, you should definitely have a copy backed up online.
My accountant scans in all of my tax info and I download all of my bank statements to my computer each month. To take it a step further in case something happens to your computer, you should back everything up on a free Dropbox account.
Things like birth certificates, social security cards, and property titles are rarely needed, but they are important to be able to get to when you really need them. After a disaster, you may need something to establish identity or ownership, so you don’t want them gone.
I have my important documents locked away in a bank safe deposit box. Nothing should happen to them when they are behind a giant, steel door in a fireproof room behind a smaller metal door, also fire resistant, under two locks. Most small safe deposit boxes only cost about $20-$50 per year.
If you have a coin collection, stamp collection, baseball card collection, record collection, or other valuables, it could be smart to buy a fire safe for your home. Many insurance policies will not insure these collections, so keeping them safe falls on you.
Safes that will hold most valuables are available at local or online retailers. I have found that the best safes for the money can be found at warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club. You can also consider a safe deposit box.
Family Photos and Videos
Do you still have boxes or albums of old pictures around the house? Those irreplaceable family memories could be gone in an instant, so it is important to have a copy. In this day and age, you can easily convert VHS and DVD movies into a digital format and can scan in old pictures.
You can do it yourself or pay to have it done, but you don’t want to lose out if they disappear.
It Is Only Stuff
Remember, at the end of the day, it is only stuff. In all of the fires in Colorado this summer, only three people have been killed. Thousands were evacuated and hundreds have lost their homes. Those people are alive and healthy. If you have your family, your friends, and your health, you have the most important things in the world.
Your Backup Plan
Have any of you implemented emergency preparedness measures? What do you do? Please share in the comments.
Image GDA 2010/flickr