Nobody ever wants to think about the worst case scenario — a house fire, tornado, flood or other natural disaster that destroys your home and the things in it.  For most of us, the plan for dealing with such a tragedy is buying insurance and praying it never happens to us.

But what if it did?

While dealing with the tragedy itself is traumatic enough, dealing with replacing the basic necessities food, clothes, shelter and your identification documents can be a nightmare that goes on for weeks. In most states, to prove your identity for a driver’s license, you’ll need your birth certificate, some sort of photo identification, and something proving your address. So what if there’s a fire and your identification burns?  Could you get a new social security card, driver’s license, or other ID? Would you be able to go to the bank and withdraw cash to get your family a place to stay and food for the day?

Fireproof Lock Box

The simplest and perhaps least expensive solution to storing your important documents is to purchase a fireproof lock box or safe to keep in your home. This solution works well to mitigate the risk of fire, but does nothing to protect your documents in the event of tornado or other natural disaster. In addition, if you elect to use this option, be sure to understand what needs to be done to cool the box down before opening it after a fire.  Buy a box that is waterproof or all the water used trying to save your home could destroy your documents.

Safety Deposit Box

At some banks, you can purchase the use of a small safety deposit box for less than $100 a year. This can be a good idea for storage of your important documents, like birth certificates, that you will not need often or in a hurry. A safety deposit box is also a good option for stocks and bonds, property deeds, insurance forms and a digital video of your home and its contents. In the event of a catastrophe, having pictures or a list of the things in your home will make filing an insurance claim easier.

The downside of a safety deposit box is that access can be extremely limited. Getting into your box may also require identification that you lost in the tragedy.

Climate Controlled Storage

While renting a storage unit just for your important documents and insurance forms may not be cost effective, if you already have a climate controlled storage unit, keeping a second copy of important documents there makes good sense. Documents should be stored in a plastic container as many climate controlled storage facilities have sprinkler systems in case of a fire.

In addition, verify which documents you have and organize them in an appropriate fashion. During an emergency, you won’t want to have to remember where you filed the insurance policy or contact information for your credit cards.  However, if possible, refrain from listing your social security number among the things stored in your storage unit. While no one ever intends to default on their storage unit, it happens. Avoid making it easy for someone to borrow or steal your identity.


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