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DISASTERS: Plan Ahead – Important Records

Protect Valuable Records

The key to an easy claims process and a smooth recovery is documentation. Secure your valuable papers in a waterproof, fireproof container.

Table 1 is a list of the valuable papers that need to be in a safe location outside your home, such as in a safe deposit box. This could be in the care of a lawyer, the administrator of wills, business associates or trusted family members residing outside of your home.

Table 2 is a list of valuable papers that need to be in your possession at home at all times in a waterproof, fire-proof locked box. This includes those documents that need to be readily available after a disaster when you may not be able to reach copies that are located in your other safe location.

Table 1Table 2

Table 1

Property— Property records (deeds, titles, leases)

  • Household inventory
  • Home improvement records
  • Automobile title and bill of sale
  • Copies of insurance policies


  • Income tax returns
  • Copyrights and patents
  • Contracts (including promissory notes)
  • Copies of insurance policies
  • Certificates for stocks, bonds, etc.
  • Important receipts and bills of sale
  • Supporting documents for years of large transactions, unusual losses, or deductions


  • Social Security cards
  • Citizenship papers
  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificates


  • Divorce decrees
  • Adoption/custody papers
  • Military service records
  • Retirement papers
  • Religious records
  • Copies of your and your partner’s wills
  • Trust agreements, living wills, powers of attorney, and health care powers of attorney

Table 2


  • Safe deposit box key
  • Safe deposit records and inventory of items
  • List of emergency contacts (doctors, vets, financial advisers, clergy, reputable repair contractors, and family members)


  • Rental property records
  • Guarantees and warranties
  • Appliance manuals
  • Copies of insurance policies


  • Income tax returns
  • Current bank balances
  • Loan payment books
  • Employee benefits
  • Bank account, loan, credit card, investment account numbers


  • Social Security numbers
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Copies of citizenship papers
  • Copies of birth certificates
  • Copies of marriage certificates
  • Educational records


  • Copies of immunization records
  • Copies of prescriptions for medicines and eyeglasses
  • Copies of veterinary/vaccination records
  • Health, dental, or prescription insurance cards

Follow this blog for the next several weeks for more posts on tips to be prepared in the event you would need to file a claim for a disaster.

ServiceMaster of Columbia, The Master of Disaster, 573.443.8383, serving Mid-Missouri.