Emergency Preparedness: How to Get Started on a Grab and Go Binder
A Grab and Go Binder is one of the most important things you can do to elevate your emergency preparedness so that you're ready if you need to evacuate your home. A lot of people know they should do this, but have no idea how to get started. In case you aren't sure what a grab and go binder is, this is a collection of all your vital documents and anything else you will want to preserve and have access to in case of emergency. But it's also a great idea to prepare it just so you have everything that you need in one place and will know where to look when you need it.
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Why should you have an emergency preparedness or grab and go binder?
Even when there isn't an emergency happening, have you ever suddenly needed something, like say, a birth certificate, and not been sure where to find it?
Putting all your vital documents and information together in one place makes it easy to access these things when you need them. And putting them in a grab and go binder that can easily be picked up and taken with you if you need to evacuate makes it even better.
Is it safe to keep all this important information together?
One of the most common concerns when it comes to a grab and go binder is about the safety of having all of your personal information and vital documents all in one place, where it might be easily stolen or lost. This is definitely something to think about!
It is up to YOU to make sure this information is safe, and there are several suggestions I have for you to do so that I will discuss a little farther on in this post.
First, I want to talk about why you should do this and how to get started.
Why you need a grab and go binder:
There are tons of reasons why this is an essential part of your emergency preparedness, but I am going to list just a few of them.
Access to important documents and information at your fingertips
As I stated above, knowing where to find your vital information will save a lot of time when you need to go looking for something. My daughter recently needed some tax information for her FAFSA, and if you have your last two years of tax documents in your binder, it's pretty easy to know right where to go. Maybe you suddenly need to know your bank account number, or you're filling out forms and need everyone in the household's social security numbers. Having access to these things all in one place makes everything easier!
If you evacuate, you may need information!
In some cases, people that have evacuated their homes need to provide proof of residency in order to get back into their neighborhood. A utility bill with your name and address on it would do the trick.
If you are stuck in a shelter, you may need information about prescriptions that members of your family are taking, or other vital medical information.
If you are worried about the loss of your property or home because of a natural disaster, one of the first calls you are going to need to make is to the insurance company. Having your policy numbers and the contact information will help expedite that process.
Personal identification for your children could be life saving
No one wants to think about a child going missing, but there are definitely scenarios where this could happen. If an evacuation happened and you were separated, or suddenly a child doesn't show up home from school one day, having phone numbers and addresses of friends, descriptions and identifying features, or fingerprints of your children can save precious time as you begin the search.
We rely too much of digital information
When is the last time you were able to call someone from an unfamiliar phone and you were able to remember the phone number? Most of us keep contact information in our phones and never even glance at the numbers we're calling every day.
Having a list of current contacts for friends and family, work, neighbors, and emergency services could be vital if you needed to reach someone in an emergency and didn't know phone numbers by memory.
In addition, keeping a laminated contact card with you that contained phone numbers of emergency contacts would be helpful if you were discovered injured and/or unresponsive. Having your children carry them would give first responders information about who to contact if they find your children alone and lost. Having them carry a personal ID card would also provide them with a name and address if your child was unresponsive or too afraid to give information.
How to get started
To most people this feels a little bit overwhelming, and when we don't know where to start, we just don't do anything. A grab and go binder might be a long term project for you if you have things scattered and aren't sure where to find it all. If you're relatively organized, you might already have everything fairly handy.
I have put together a printable planner that is available in the shop that will make this even easier! There are lists of documents you'll need, and editable pages where you can add all the information before you print it. Then you just need to collect everything, buy or find the additional supplies you need, and put it all together! You can check it out here in my shop or it's also available over on Etsy
Make lists of the information you need
You will need to start your grab and go binder by gathering the information you need, and the easiest way to do that is start with a list. If you choose to get my printable planner, there are checklists included.
The following list is certainly not a complete list, but it is a good place to begin. Some of the things you will need include:
- Contact information for friends, family, work, non-emergency aid
- Financial Information, including banking information, retirement accounts, credit card information, loans and liens, investment accounts.
- Medical records, such as prescription information, health histories for family members, and treatment plans (like a DNR order)
- Insurance information. This would include health, life, car, disability, etc.
- Personal information for all family members.
- Military records
- Tax information, the past two years is plenty
- Utility bills--nothing excessive. One copy that shows your name, address and account number is enough.
- Vehicle information such as titles or loans. You will also want to include driver's license numbers, license plate numbers, VIN numbers and vehicle descriptions.
- Wills, funerals, or burial plot information
- Extra copies of keys to your home, vehicles and any lock boxes or sheds.
- School diplomas or other vital records.
- Mortgage information
- A home inventory list
- Birth certificates, marriage licenses, adoption records or divorce papers.
- Passports, copies of government ID, and social security cards
Collect the documents
Some of these documents will need to be the original, such as birth certificates. But you obviously can't keep your driver's license in your grab and go binder, so you would want a copy of the front and back. This is the same with health insurance cards or credit cards that you carry with you. You will want to keep your original passports in the binder--a copy won't do you any good if you are trying to return to the country.
Gather additional supplies
You will want a good sturdy binder to put all this in.
This binder with a zipper and shoulder strap is the one that I purchased and have used for years for several things. It has been very durable!
The most important thing you are looking for in a binder is a zipper, so that all the important things you are putting in it don't fall out. And a shoulder strap. If you are evacuating, being able to wear the binder like a messenger bag will be helpful and keep you from losing it!
You will want pocket dividers for documents
I chose to get pockets that don't have tabs, for a couple of reasons. First of all, I didn't want to have a plastic piece on the pocket that might catch on things or break off. Also, the pocket is part of a larger section that has it's own tabs, so there is no need for anything additional.
These pocket dividers are good and sturdy, and you'll want plenty of them so you're able to divide out the documents instead of having to combine categories
Zippered pouches are helpful
There are a couple of different kinds of zippered pouches that could be useful for your grab and go binder, depending on what you are carrying.
The first is a zippered pouch big enough for 8 1/2" x 11" pages.
These would be great for bigger things, such as passports or important documents that you might not trust in a pocket.
These smaller zippered pouches are also great, for smaller things like cards, pens, pencils, and could technically be used for passports as well. It is really a matter of preference.
Other basic office supplies
You will need to be able to make copies, or take things to the copy shop to get copies. For anything with information on the back, be sure to get copies of both the front and back.
You will also want to include some basic office supplies in your grab and go binder, such as sticky notes, index cards, note paper and pens and pencils.
And now a note about keeping your grab and go binder safe!
Where you keep your binder matters! It should be somewhere convenient, where it will be easily grabbed in case you need to evacuate. But it is important to keep this information safe!
Here are a few important safety tips to keep in mind, but remember that it's up to you to protect it! Use common sense, and do your own research!
Don't label the outside of the binder with what it is
It might seem fun or cute to put a vinyl title or saying on the outside, but it's a bad idea. Don't advertise what is inside it. Use an inconspicuous binder.
If it fits in a fireproof lock box, keep it there
It's a good idea to keep it in a lock box if you have one and it will fit. In case of a home fire, your first priority will be to get your family to safety, and the binder will be safe in a fireproof box until you can retrieve it later.
Make digital copies
As you are collecting all of this information, it is a great idea to scan it all and keep a copy in a secure cloud file. You may also want to keep a digital copy that has been saved to a disc or flash drive. You may want to keep it in a separate location, such as a safety deposit box. Home inventory can also be recorded digitally and stored on a disc in your binder.
Find a safe spot in your home to keep it
I'm not going to disclose where I keep my grab and go binder for obvious reasons, but this is going to look different for everyone. I have heard some say to keep it in the garage, but this feels very insecure to me as garages are more likely to be left open accidentally or broken into so I DO NOT recommend that you do this!
Find a place for your grab and go binder where it is safe from being damaged (say, a flood in your home) and where it is easy to access, but does not advertise what it is.
As I said earlier, it is UP TO YOU to keep this information safe. Aside from advising a lock box, I am not going to make recommendations because you will need to determine what works best for you. I will just say, please don't keep it in your garage or in your car.
Time for YOU to get started on your own grab and go binder!
This should be all the information you need to get started!
If you'd like to check out my printable planner to get you started, you can do that! The planner comes in black and white and color (if you purchase, you get both, so you can choose to mix it up or do it all one or the other) The planner is EDITABLE, so you are able to add all of your own information to the pages before printing if you like, or you can print them out and fill them out by hand. You can check the details and see all the fun pages you get here:
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