Preppers should be compiling and storing important documents with the same vigor as we self-reliance minded folks stockpile food, water, and supplies.
Both during but especially after a SHTF scenario, paper copies of essential marriage, custody, ownership, and health records preserved digitally may not be accessible (temporarily or ever again) depending upon the nature of the disaster.
For far too long preppers have neglected or at least slighted the concept of keeping important documents both protected and always readily at hand.
Would you be able to prove your child actually belongs to you if he or she was at school during a disaster or worse yet, being kept at a FEMA style camp?
If your cellphone is no longer functional due to an EMP or is simply dead and there is no way to charge it during a power outage, you might not even have a recent non-digital photo of your child inside you wallet to show around when looking for a missing loved one.
Table of Contents
Proof of Identity
While the needs of every prepping family are different, the same basic type of documents apply to all types of preppers.
Proof of identity is of the utmost importance during and after a disaster. If you cannot prove you are exactly who you claim to be, none of the other types of paperwork you may have cautiously and diligently stockpiled, will make even the tiniest bit of difference.
Although many preppers live in rural areas and small towns where everyone knows everyone else, do not assume you will be in your home county when disaster happens – or that you will only be dealing with local folks during a long-term disaster.
That guy in uniform standing at the entrance of a hastily constructed FEMA camp has not likely known you since kindergarten, and will not just wave you on through a checkpoint, or let you walk away with a crying child.
Make copies of your driver’s license, Social Security card, employment and/or school ID card, concealed carry permit identification card – and any other important photo ID you possess.
Laminate the cards and keep a copy in your bugout bag, safe, get me home bag or glove compartment.
Consider giving copies to your loved ones to use to find you or identify you and keeping the same laminated photo identification cards for each of your family members within easy reach of yourself at all times, too.
Keep a copy of your marriage license, child custody papers, divorce decree, and any powers of attorney you or a member of the family hold in relation to each other, as well.
It is also wise to keep a living will and/or a last will and testament in your important prepper documents files, also. A will should include your wishes for who will take care of your children should you and your spouse both die while they are still minors.
This portion of the will should also include more than just one person or couple. The possibility of your first choice for child custody may not survive the disaster or be able to reach the children during the emergency scenario.
If your children still attend a government school or private or charter school (seriously consider homeschooling, folks) keep a copy of the emergency contact form you signed at the beginning of the school year with you, and a photo of anyone on your emergency pickup list with you, as well.
If you reach the school and are told that someone else has already picked up your child, being able to show a photo to the school staffer to confirm who had your child so you know where to go to find them, may be quite necessary.
As a former school employee who worked through a couple of bomb threats and 9/11 where the students were all rapidly ushered to the central emergency staging area (football stadium) such situations are beyond hectic.
Keeping copies of the medical records of the entire family, both formal and informal ones, just might save the life of someone you love during a SHTF event.
A laminated copy of not just official shot records but a similarly saved file of any existing medical conditions, medications and dosages, allergies, and other important health notes for each member of the family should be kept in all vehicles and survival bags.
Keeping a child’s health information in a protective pouch inside of their backpack or purse so it is always with them when you and your master medical file can’t be will alert first responders and any caregiving adult to their particular medical needs.
In addition to keeping a current log of medications all family members are taking or allergic too, it would also be wise to add a list of natural or over the counter “medicines” that might be able to be used as an alternative if prescription drugs are not available to address a specific ailment.
There are a host of different financial documents that once came in the mail at least once a month in paper form that many folks now only receive in digital copy form via email. Keeping a current printed copy of your bank statements to help prove what money you own.
Sure, dollars might not be worth the paper they are printed on during or after some types of SHTF events, but just in case the cash you had in the bank is still of value, proving what is owed to you will be of the utmost importance.
A loss of electricity or a complete wipeout of a bank’s computer system will mean that only hard copies of bank accounts could be used to prove what the bank was holding for you… or what safety deposit box is yours.
Copies of your home mortgage, property tax payments, property deed, life insurance policy, homeowners’ insurance, and similar types of policies should also be part of a prepper’s file of important documents.
Even if many or all of these types of policies and records wind up worthless during a long term disaster, only a slim chance of them being able to help you keep your home, land, valuables, or get your money out of a bank, makes saving them in a prepper documents file worth the effort.
You know how to get to your sister’s house, favorite cousin’s place of work, and how to find grandma’s nursing home, but can your children get to any of those places on their own?
Keeping a list of addresses of loved ones, along with all of their phone numbers, email, and business addresses could help your children or the adults helping them, find their way to kin and a safe place to stay during a disaster.
Even if your children are tweens or teens, they may still not have the presence of mind to recall vital contact information when they are in a state of panic or shock.
In addition to keeping addresses in the prepper documents file, including printed directions and/or folding maps to important places, is also highly recommended.
Do not assume you or your loved ones will be able to travel the usual route, or even by road to reach a relative’s home, your own home, a bugout location, buried survival cache, or rally point.
Map out your backup routes to all planned emergency locations on the map with different colors of highlighter marker before placing the maps into the prepper binder or emergency bags.
Survival Inventory And Reference
Create a detailed and current record of all your survival inventory items and reference materials for your family. While toting this type of valuable information around in an emergency bag or car could bring about devastating results if the records fall into the wrong hands.
But, keeping such an inventory stored safely somewhere in your home or a cache that only your loved ones know about will guide them to this essential information if you are no longer around to aid them.
Your family will need to be able to find all of the survival supplies and know how many of each food, medicine, water purification etc. item is available to help them plan how to stretch those life saving supplies as far as they can possibly go during a disaster.
Keeping a log of reference material that you have used to help guide your prepping and survival plan should be easily accessible and organized so that your family can make use of the same insight to help them live through a disaster if you are no longer capable of doing so due to injury or death.
Get Organized… and Stay Organized
A box or folder filled with a large jumble of papers is not what you and your family will need during a disaster.
During an emergency, adding extra stress to an already stressful situation and delaying access to vital tools, supplies, and information is not the end result a prepared person with family to look out for will want.
Organize all of the important documents and keep them organized and protected in just the same way you would gold, potable water, or the last bucket of long term storage food in your stockpile.
Teach even young children where they need to look to find the prepper binder of important documents.
Although they might not be able to read or read well enough to grasp what the records are attempting to relay, they will be able to alert other trusted adults where to find the papers they can use to help them all garner access to documents that might help them survive.
Keeping a master list of all the documents noted on the list above inside of a large house or gun safe, a hidden smaller safe, or at least a tucked away fireproof box will help ensure they are protected from view, the elements, fire, and other paper destroying predators like mice.
If you are also keeping these prepper documents on a jump drive or other electronic device as a backup copy, store the device in a Faraday cage or better yet, a Faraday cage inside of a safe.
Remember, a computer, laptop, tablet or printer that would be used to pull up the digital copy of the important prepper documents should be kept in a Faraday cage as well to protect it from an EMP or solar flare type disaster.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.