Although I’m not the neatest person on record (my husband Craig will attest to that), I have always been fairly organized with my files.
But it didn’t occur to me until we started building our family emergency plan that we should also have a “grab and go” binder. That is, a binder filled with all the resources we would need if we lost all of our important papers or our home.
So we recently built one. And I took notes, so I’ll walk you through setting yours up step by step. AND I’ve put all of our printable, customizable forms in our Resource Library so you can download them and make your own notebook. All for FREE – for access, click here!
Why You Need A Grab and Go Binder
Obviously, It’s Useful For Emergencies
If you need to evacuate in a hurry, you’ll be able to grab the binder and go. You’ll have all the important documents and phone numbers you need. Doctors, insurers, credit card numbers. Schools, family, vets – all in one place so that as you need to notify folks and try to rebuild, you won’t have to also search out all of that info.
But It’s Also Useful For Keeping Organized
Every once in a while, I’m asked for a copy of my passport or my marriage license. Isn’t it easier to know that’s all in one place rather than having to dig through a safe, a file, or even a stack of papers to find it? Once you finish your Grab and Go, you’ll have everything you need in one place. Keep it in an easy to find location in your home so that anytime you’re asked for something, it’s right there!
What Needs To Go In the Grab And Go Binder
In short – a lot of information. This is a task that will take you some time to put together. Especially if all this stuff is
spread out around your house (no judgment here!). This is a great opportunity to get all of these documents in one place. And to order any birth records or anything else that you may not have on hand. Much better to do it now than have to do it after you’ve had an emergency.
It may seem daunting to sift through your papers to make this binder, but it will be worth it in the end!
Before you start, I do want to point out one thing. With the exception of your passports, the documents that go in your Grab And Go Binder should all be copies of the original documents.
You may recall that in my post on preparing your financial emergency plan, I recommended that you store your important information in three places. That still holds true.
You should compile the originals and keep them in a fire-resistant or fireproof safe. The copies should go in your Grab And Go Book. And you should scan all of the documents to keep in the cloud.
Here’s a list of the documents you should pull together for your book. If you want to print this out, I’ve made it easy for you in – you guessed it, our Resource Library. You can sign up to get the password for the library here.
- Vehicle titles, property deeds
- Identification: Passports, drivers licenses, birth or adoption certificates, marriage/divorce certificates
- Health Info: Immunization, health records, including prescriptions for medications and glasses
- Powers of Attorney – to include a medical power of attorney, living will, etc.
- Trust papers, wills, deeds to burial plots
- Insurance policies (homeowners, life, auto, property, boat or RV, etc.)
- Important contracts
- School transcripts and diplomas
- Military service records
- Stocks and bonds, bank account numbers
- Income tax records from prior years
Don’t rely on your cell phone in an emergency, you may not be able to access it.
- Make a list of your extended family members’ and friends’ phone numbers. Print out all those contacts and keep them with your important papers.
- Make an emergency contact list of important numbers such as doctors, school, work, neighbors and employers.
I’ve drawn up some great printable templates for all this information. And I want you to have them for FREE when you’re ready to put your notebook together.
Pets and Livestock
- Immunization records and proof of spay/neuter for your dogs and/or cats
- Livestock registration papers and health certificates
- Photos of your pets and livestock for identification purposes and to prove ownership
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Scan Your Grab And Go Binder
Before you get everything into the notebook, scan the documents so that you can keep a record of them in the cloud. That way if both the original copies of your documents and your binder were to perish, you’d still be able to access your information. I’ve put together detailed instructions in our Resource Library on how to organize your emergency files into Dropbox.
How To Put Your Binder Together
You’ll need the following supplies to assemble your book. I found everything on Amazon and spent right around $50. Easy peasy and a worthwhile investment.
- A Three-Ring Binder – I chose pink so that it would stand out from my other notebooks, making it easier to find when we need it. I started with a 1 1/2″ binder, but quickly realized I needed something bigger. If needed, you could expand to 2 notebooks, or one 2″ or 3″ depending on how many documents you have.
- Sheet Protectors
- A pencil pouch with three-ring holes (for your passports)
- Tabbed envelopes with three-ring holes (for bulky insurance policies, wills, etc)
- Tabbed dividers
- A copy of my printable checklist and emergency guides, which you can download from our Resource Library. I’ve also set you up with a cover for the front and back of your notebook.
- OPTIONAL: A label maker. I use this for all of my files because it makes the file names easier to read in my cabinet. On the same note, it makes the dividers easier to read in what will probably be a big notebook.
Make sure you have hard copies of all of your insurance policies in case you need them.
I put almost all of the pages in our binder in document sheet protectors. That way if you’re on the go you don’t have to worry quite so much about a splash of water. Or soda or coffee.
Or wine; it is an emergency binder after all.
You can set up the binder in whatever order you’d like. But I suggest dividing it into the following areas:
Identification and Contact Information
This will include copies of identification for each family member, as well as personal and employment contact information. Make copies of everyone in the family’s drivers licenses, birth or adoption certificates, passports, and military IDs.
And don’t forget about family pets. You should include identifying information about them, to include vet contacts and shot records.
In addition to contact information, you’ll want to include emergency contact information in this section.
This will include medical records, contact information for any medical professionals, and any medical diagnosis or medication that is important to know about in an emergency. Marriage certificates, divorce decrees, adoption records, etc. could also go here.
Financial Records and Financial Liabilities
These two subjects can go in one tab, or you can divide them up in two – all depending on how complicated your finances are. This tab will include basic information about all the banking and/or investment accounts you hold, as well as bills you owe.
In the event of an emergency, you’ll still be responsible for staying on track with your debts, so you’ll want to have all of that information handy.
Remember when we talked about how to do a home inventory? You’ll want to keep a printed copy of it here, along with hard copies of photographs where possible.
This is where you’ll put copies of any deeds or car titles. You’ll also want copies of your home or rental insurance. Property tax statements, previous years’ tax returns, and personal property tax information can also go here.
Here you’ll want to store any contracts to which you’re a party. Any living wills, estates, trusts – you get the gist.
Again, you can find more on how to organize all of this in our Resource Library, which you can get access to here.
Where To Store Your Grab And Go Binder
In short, someplace safe, easy to access, and that you’ll remember! I know, I know – that can be a tall order. The exercise of finding my car keys every morning attests to that!
But in all seriousness, find a place in your house that is not too far from the front door, but also isn’t out in the open. Although most of what’s in the book won’t be original documents, there will likely be a lot of account numbers and other sensitive information in the book. Not to mention passports. So you don’t want the notebook out in the open for curious guests to look through.
Just make sure it’s an easy to remember location – and make sure more than one of you in the house knows where it is. We put ours in a closet on our main floor. That way if we ever need to leave the house in a hurry, we can get to it on our way out the door.
I hope this is helpful to you. Next up, we’ll be talking about how to put together your emergency plan. As always, let me know if you have any ideas or feedback!