I read one time that when Frank Sinatra’s son was kidnapped, he couldn’t even call for help from a pay phone because he didn’t have a dime in his pocket. It certainly wasn’t that Frank was broke – he just wasn’t prepared for an emergency that would require dimes! From that day forward, he always carried ten dimes, and when he died, they buried him with ten dimes in his pocket. Just in case. Usually when we think about being prepared, we think of having food, fuel, and any other necessities that would keep us alive while we are displaced, but what if there was a national emergency, or a natural disaster? What if you, your spouse, or one of your children required immediate medical attention? In the midst of a crisis, you wouldn’t have time to rummage through drawers and boxes to find what you need. Even if you have a neatly organized filing cabinet, you can’t strap it to your back and haul it with you. What you need is something portable that you can grab on your way out the door without even thinking about it.
In my front hall closet I have a backpack that I bought on sale for $5 a few years ago. In it, I have a few essentials like a change of clothes, a small first aid kit, a bottle of water, a snack, a waterproof bag (Ziplocs work fine) with paper and pen, my name and address list, some cash – both bills and change, and a workbook that has all of my important personal and financial information recorded in it.
That workbook contains the following:
1. Personal information that would be helpful to someone else if I couldn’t communicate for myself. Vital statistics, professional and military records, a copy of my will and location of the original, a list of people to notify and last, but not least, any funeral instructions. I even have a copy of my marriage license and social security card so I can prove I’m who I say I am! When a disaster strikes and an entire area is in chaos, this information will be important.
2. Financial information that includes account numbers, phone numbers, balances and locations of checking and savings accounts and credit cards; investments, employee savings plans, profit sharing plans, retirement programs, trust accounts, loans receivable and payable, automobiles, insurance – life, health, medical, disability, and medical. If you’ve just lost everything you own, or face the chore of sorting through what’s left and tossing it in the dumpster, you are just not mentally capable of recalling all of the information you will need.
3. A CD with pictures of my home as it stands now and the furnishings inside. I used my digital camera to take photos of these things because it’s safer than using film that needs to be developed. The fewer number of people who know the contents of your house, the better. If you have a video camera, go through the house, open cabinets and drawers, and tell about the items as you’re filming them. Talk about how great grandma’s china came over on a ship from France when she came to America. Tell why that cookie jar means so much to you.
4. A CD with copies of documents and receipts that have been scanned. Information that fills an entire 4-drawer filing cabinet can be held on a CD or two.
5. Photos of my family. We invested in the digital camera a couple of years ago, and as I download photos from the camera to my computer, I put a copy on CD. You never know when you might need a picture to identify someone who is missing from your group.
6. A CD containing a backup of my bank accounts that are managed in MS Money and Quicken. If my computer crashes or is destroyed, I can always find the software to open my accounts. Inside this backup is valuable information for insurance. As I record purchases, I do a general itemization of the receipt, and this would be a great way to report the contents of your home if you had to prove it. Especially helpful on large purchase items, but I also use it for clothing.
7. A CD with a backup of My Documents from my computer. Since I run my business from home, I would basically be out of business if I lost all of my correspondence and other documents.
8. A CD with contact information backed up from Microsoft Outlook. This would allow me to continue to not only conduct business from another location, but would give me every phone number and email address of everyone in my database.
When I go on vacation, I “borrow” these CDs and either stuff them in my suitcase, or leave them at my daughter’s house while I’m away. I don’t want the backup copies of my computer stored in the same location as the computer! What if some emergency strikes while I’m thousands of miles away? Call me paranoid, but it makes me feel better knowing there’s another copy somewhere else.
You just never know when you may have to leave your home in a hurry. Emergencies, like accidents, are never scheduled. They just happen. If you don’t have a preparedness pack in your home, then what are you waiting for? Take some advice from Ol’ Blue Eyes himself and be prepared!