Saturday, November 3, 2012

Preparation mentality: hard copies of your life

I have lived through some amazing natural disasters and emergency's. I have been blocked into a house for a week during a snow and ice storm that crippled the region I lived in, only escaping by digging a tunnel through several feet of deep drifts. I lived in the PNW when Mt. St. Helen's erupted and spewed ash for hundreds of miles. I have been in the middle of several category 3 and 4 typhoons and one category 5 super typhoons with gusts over 200 mph. I stood on the 11th floor of a building and survived an 8.3 earthquake that split it apart. I have been without power and the ability to purchase food, water or gas for weeks at a time. My wife, as a teen, watched her home burn down and family lose all its possessions. My household understands what to keep and how to keep it safe before a personal or regional disaster strikes. 

The previous installment of Preparation mentality, foundation of recovery, dealt with collecting and storing your digital life and videos of your possessions in an external drive you can carry and then use after a disaster in your life. This segment will be doing the same thing for you and your loved ones with physical files you need when it counts or perhaps just once or twice a year. 

Some things just do not need to be transferred to digital but is life information that should be kept in a central location for rapid access. Items like passports, social security cards, old drivers licences, birth certificates, diplomas, bank information, home warranties, a utility statement, a mortgage statement, life insurance reports, good bondsman, all should be included in this hard file. You will also gather items like the business cards for your bank branch, the doctor and dentists offices each of your loved ones visit. The guy who cuts your trees once a year at a fair rate or the handyman, plumber, electrician that did work for you once. All those insignificant business cards that get tossed into the junk drawer or stuffed in a wallet for future use, but when you need it you can't find it. These are those items I am talking about.

The next time you drive past an office supply store or walk by the office section in a box store, you want to purchase the following items. A large legal sized accordion file with a top closure in the most garish, bright color you can find, bright orange or neon pink. Then for each family member buy a separate colored letter size folder that you can add sheet protectors into it. Buy one extra folder to complete your set. You need sheet protectors. Get a package of letter sized protectors and a package of business card holders.

Take each individual brightly colored folder and write the name of a family member on it in large letters using a black sharpie. Do this for each family member. On the extra folder, write whatever word you use to describe your house. Divide up the page and card protectors among the folders, put the card holders in the front of the folder. For each family member begin to fill it with all the doctor cards, the card for the pharmacy they use, a kids school immunization record, all the items you know you need once or twice a year but otherwise just don't want to hassle looking for or remembering where you put it when you need it.

For the adults, do the same but include the important documents and contact information that you collect with age and responsibility like your car insurance rep, card for your stock broker, accountant information to contact banks and insurances. The house folder holds a copy of the mortgage payment, utility bill, cable bill, deed, home warranty information, gardener, pool guy, maid service.  The warranty on new appliances or fixtures. The plumber, electrician, handyman business cards. Not required but it helps to print a copy of your immediate neighborhood from an online map program and write the name of all your neighbors over their house. Its a nice addition only because, who can remember all their neighbors names and if there is an emergency you can use this to assist first responders to know what houses were empty or had people in it. Or just save you the embarrassment of asking a neighbor their name for the third time in five years because you can never remember it. 

Once all the individual folders are full, place in the brightly colored accordion file. Now whenever you need to grab something important for yourself, your house or family member you know exactly where it is. You can also add any back up digital files on CD or small thumb drives. Place this folder next to your bed, under your bed, on the self next to your most likely exit from your house in a frantic emergency. The garish color will be an immediate eye catcher when you are running past or if it is dark, smokey, or the room torn apart. Some people might put this in a Bug Out Bag (BOB) or Get Out Of Dodge (GOOD) bag that I will describe later. 

You now have a very convenient, easy to find place to locate items that might be needed only once or twice a year like records for the kids at the beginning of each school year. Or the contact information for a service required to for your home. Many smart phones allow you to download the contact information for printing. This would also be a good suggestion so if you lose your phone you can call all those family and friends that for years you have haven't needed to remember their phone number since the phone did it automatically.  It maybe a good idea to include some cash or prepaid credit cards in your folder for incidentals. 

As crazy as it sounds, I know someone who followed this system and had their house broken into. Among the many things ransacked, their bright green accordion file was left undisturbed next to their bed. The thought being nothing of value would be found in something so obviously ugly and probably just held kids papers. 

This installment describes what you can do today to put your life back together after a home or life disaster or be more prepared in a general sense year round. The life file, is a localized, grab and go, can't miss in a rush out the door file that holds everything important you need but don't every want to memorize. Of course having all your photos, music and life history stored on a digital drive will give you piece of mind that you did not lose it all. 

Future installments will go into how to prepare to leave your house in a hurry with more than nothing on your back. How to prepare a vehicle year round for emergencies and have room for groceries and sports gear. When to Bug Out of your house and When to Bug In and how to do both successfully. Of course a list of what I think every home must have year round for preparedness. 

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