If you ask most people what they’d want in an emergency survival kit, they’d probably say that they want food, water, and medical supplies. While these pieces of gear are invaluable in a wide range of situations, even the most dedicated of Preppers generally forget one crucial piece of survival kit - the emergency binder.
The emergency binder is one of the most overlooked pieces of survival gear but it can make a huge difference in your ability to deal with an emergency if you need to quickly evacuate your home.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know what an emergency binder is nor what should be inside it. Luckily, we’re here to walk you through the ins-and-outs of emergency binder preparedness. That way in case of an emergency, you have all you need in an easy grab and go binder!
What is an emergency binder?
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “What is an emergency binder?”
Turns out, it’s actually quite simple - an emergency binder contains copies of all your important documents, like your ID, passport, and health insurance information.
Also called an emergency documents binder, this nifty resource keeps all of your important documents in one place, so you can access them quickly and efficiently. An emergency binder should be part of your survival kit close to your bug out bag, or stored in a safe place.
Why you need an emergency documents binder
Although they’re quite simple, emergency binders are incredibly important in any situation where you need to quickly evacuate your home.
Particularly if your home is threatened by a natural disaster (think hurricane, wildfire, flood, etc.), there’s a chance that your personal possessions may not survive. While our number one priority is always the safety of ourselves, our family, and our friends, the loss of material goods is still difficult. Although we can replace much, there are some things that we can’t risk losing, including our important documents.
Imagine this: one day your local authorities tell you that you have less than an hour to evacuate your home. A wildfire is rapidly approaching and devastation is inevitable. You load your family and pets into your car and drive off to a safe location. All good, right?
Well, not quite. Within a half hour of driving away, you notice that you forgot your wallet, which contains your ID and health insurance card. No big deal, you’ll sort it out once it’s all over, you say to yourself, and you manage just fine without it. After a few weeks, though, you’re allowed to return to your home to survey the damage and make an insurance claim. Unfortunately, your proof of homeowner’s insurance and all your other important documents went up in flames.
Now, if you had an emergency binder with copies of all these documents in your bug out bag, this wouldn’t be a problem. Instead of worrying about how you’ll prove that you even had fire insurance, you can get right to making a claim and restarting your life.
If you think this is all a bit far-fetched, then consider what happened after Hurricane Katrina. Millions of people evacuated their homes and left behind their possessions to take refuge in emergency shelters. Countless people left their homes without grabbing their ID or other documents. Thus, they had no way of proving their identity, accessing their bank accounts, or proving they had health insurance.
Important aspects of an emergency binder
Now that you understand why you need an emergency binder, let’s get right to discussing what should go in it.
Having your important documents organized and all in one place isn’t terribly helpful if they get soaked in a flood or destroyed in a fire. Thus, it’s important to have a durable and easy to carry case for your emergency binder. There are many options available on the market, but we recommend these three:
Avlone Fireproof and Waterproof Bag
This bag from Avlone provides both fire and water protection for your important documents. It features a double closure for the perfect seal, so you can rest assured that your documents will be okay. Plus, it’s got plenty of storage space (15 x 11 x 2.5 inch) and has a carry handle for quickly grabbing on-the-go.
Jinker Fireproof Bag
The Jinker Fireproof Bag provides the ultimate protection for your documents (15 x 11 x 3 inch). Designed with a double layer of Firetec fiberglass that can withstand a fire as hot as 2000°F, this bag from Jinker is no joke when it comes to protecting your documents.
The SlayMonday document bag is the largest of the three (15 x 12 x 5 inch) and includes a handy shoulder strap in addition to the standard handle. Able to resist heat up to 2000°F, this bag is ideal for those with lots of information that you need to keep readily available. With 5 inches of width, this bag is ideal for those looking to store 3 ring binders in a fire resistant bag.
Emergency Binder Checklist
Once you get your binder, now it’s time to decide what you’ll put in it. Unfortunately, you can’t take everything, so it’s critical that you have your most important documents with you in this bag. Here’s what we recommend keeping copies of in your binder. For me personally, I also store originals in a fireproof safe that is not easy to reach during an emergency.
Personal and Legal Documents
- Driver’s License/ID cards
- Birth certificates
- Social Security cards
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce papers
- Life and Health Insurance policy information
- Wills, trusts, and other legal documents
- Military documents
- Bank account information and contact information (put summary info on a handy 1 page sheet with other financial info)
- Credit card numbers and contact information (same)
- Mortgage documents and deed (same)
- Homeowner’s/Renter’s insurance (same)
- Recent home appraisal (same)
- Recent tax returns (keep a copy of 7 years if you can, otherwise the last 2-3)
- Medical records and blood types (only important documents, not every bill!)
- Prescription information
- Medical insurance card
- Immunization records
- Pet medical records including immunizations
- Current individual portraits (for identification purposes)
- Child custody information (if applicable)
- Firearm registration and serial numbers
- University degrees (not required)
- School transcripts (not required)
- Titles of each vehicle
- Records of repairs and maintenance
- Auto insurance policy and contact information
Contact Information (create a handy 1 page sheet with this information)
- Family, friends, neighbors
- Doctors, dentists, veterinarians
- Insurance companies
- Fire, ambulance, police
- Poison control, Red Cross
It’s important to remember that you’ll need documents for every member of your family. Plus, you only need to have copies of these items in your emergency binder. You can keep the originals in a separate fireproof box, so you’ll always have either the copies or the originals in an emergency.
However, one thing you might want to consider having the originals of is your passports, just in case you need to leave the country. You could also consider having documents on an encrypted USB flash drive, but this is no replacement for physical copies, especially during a blackout.
How to safely store an emergency binder
Once you have all of your documents collected in one place, you’ll need somewhere to store them. In addition to having your documents in a fireproof and waterproof bag, you might consider placing them in a fireproof safe. A fireproof safe offers yet another layer of fire protection and keeps your documents protected during a robbery.
It's also worth considering keeping two emergency binders, just in case you can't get to your home before needing to evacuate. Your car is a decent option but does come with a bit of a higher risk of being stolen, I would not recommend this but some would.
You could also consider opening a safe deposit box. That way, if your home is destroyed, you might still be able to access your documents elsewhere. However, it's worth noting that these are not FDIC insured, so be sure to only keep copies in a safe deposit box, just in case.
At this point, you should have a good idea of what to look for when creating your emergency binder. Be sure to create one that’s fireproof, waterproof, and portable, so you’ll never have to go without it.