Severe weather, such as tornadoes, hurricanes and major storms, are becoming more common. As part of any good disaster plan, it’s important to keep your financial documents and records in a safe place. One great way to make sure you’re protected in instances of fire, theft or flood is to get a fireproof safe.
Many people believe you should place all of your home valuables in a safe, but that’s not necessary. According to most experts, anything you need to get your hands on quickly during an emergency can be stored in a fireproof home safe. Take other irreplaceable items to your credit union branch safe deposit box.
Here’s a suggested list of items to keep in your home’s fireproof safe.
- Proof of identity
It’s smart to keep your (and your family member’s) original social security card, birth certificate and passport locked up in your safe. They’re a hassle to replace and you may need them to establish identity when filing for insurance payouts. Or if you need to make an unscheduled emergency trip.
Experts advise: Never carry your social security card on your person; rather, store it in a home safe where smoke and thieves can’t harm or steal it.
- Medical info
You may need to get refills or contact your pharmacy/physician in times of emergency. Store a list of your family’s medical information and emergency contacts. Make sure to include doctors, pharmacies and medications.
- Insurance policies
If a fire or flood causes property damage, you’ll need to report a property damage insurance claim. Stashing your insurance policy, agent’s phone number and an inventory of your home’s possessions inside a fireproof safe means you’ll have emergency access to critical information in a moment of chaos.
- Wills, POAs, Health Care Proxies, Etc.
Store copies of your important legal documents in your safe, such as living wills, powers of attorney and health care proxies—both for yourself and for anyone else for whom you are designated as financial caregiver.
Also, keep copies of wills in your safe, including your will, as well as any will for which you are the designated executor. Be sure to include any funeral directives—in the case of an emergency—so people can plan arrangements accordingly.
- Deeds and titles
Any deeds and titles for your home and vehicle should be stored in a fireproof home safe. This is the legal proof of ownership for both, so you’ll want to keep them secure.
- Backup data
Many people rely on computer backup disks or portable drives to store digital copies of paperwork, family photos, work files, personal projects, multimedia and more. Saving photos of your home and its contents are also a good idea, to act as proof in an insurance claim.
Look for a media-rated safe (a.k.a. data safe, media safe) which offers protection from extreme fire temperatures, water damage and humidity.
If you need help on how to take care of your precious items, here are some tips from the American Library Association.
- Spare safe deposit box keys
If you store valuables in your credit union’s safe deposit box, you’ll want to make sure you can access them in the event of an emergency.
As far as spare house keys: experts recommend to make sure a trusted friend or neighbor has a spare key for your home. Neighbors are often the best burglar prevention system, so exchanging keys with them is smart.
Most recent FBI data show that there were more than 7 million property crimes in the U.S., annually.
Opinions are mixed as to whether or not you should store cash at home. If you do, safety is your first and foremost concern. The credit union vault is a much safer place for your money. At the same time, having some cash set aside in a home safe is good for quick access in an emergency.
- Small Valuables
The home safe is a good place for heirloom jewelry, small items of sentimental value, rare collectibles or coins and similar valuables.
Resources: CBS MoneyWatch, Cannon Safe, LegalZoom.com, Inc., DependableSafes.com, American Library Association