Besides the devastation that can occur on your home and personal possessions, one of the worst things about being caught in a natural disaster such as a tornado, hurricane or flood is the loss of vital documents.
You take your credit cards, driver’s license, social security card, and bank information for granted until you no longer have them, and then panic sets in to replace them.
The First Rule of Thumb Regarding Your Documents?
The first important rule is to double, or possibly even triple prepare back-up copies of everything you might need post-emergency. Let’s take you, your spouse and children’s birth certificates as an illustration. Without your birth certificate, you may have a hard time proving citizenship in the United States which is necessary for both applying to work, getting a driver’s license, apply for government benefits, and much, much more.
And while it’s possible to obtain an out-of-state birth certificate with a week or so. imagine if you are an American citizen born abroad at a military base, for example, or you are a naturalized resident of the U.S. from another country. Replacing your birth certificate alone may be a month’s long job. That’s why you should double or even triple your vital documents.
In the case of birth certificates, keep one certified copy in a bank safety vault, keep another certified copy at close friends or relatives house, and finally, go to a copy shop and have your birth certificate scanned on a flash drive, and then transfer the birth certificate to something in the cloud like Google Docs. (Be sure the copy is in the cloud, not just on the hard-drive on your computer, which might be destroyed in a weather emergency.)
By having all of your vital documents triple protected in this way, you can quickly recover your life back, as far as documents are concerned.
Make a List of Which Agencies to Contact after an Emergency
Besides triple protecting your documents, make a list of which agencies to contact, and what information is required to replace documents. As an example, suppose you lose your drivers license in a tornado. While you can go to the local department of motor vehicle’s to get a replacement, if you live in a rural area, that may be a two-hour drive. Instead, providing you have all the information on the front and back of your license, in most states, you can order a copy of the license online.
In the meantime, you can keep a paper duplicate of your current driver’s license as well as your paperwork for a replacement license, and if stopped by a traffic cop, most will accept this as. proof you are driving legally.
Your emergency document list should include everything you need to replace vital documents such as the address, online contact, credit card numbers, the 800 numbers to contact etc. Basically, if you prepare everything in advance, you can shorten weeks of work into a few hours.
Examples of Documents You May Need to Replace as Soon as Possible
1. Your Family Birth Certificates
Although, you should have multiple certified copies stashed away, to get additional copies, contact the vital records office in the city you were born in, or if overseas, either the hospital or the appropriate embassy.
2. Your Social Security Card
In order to gain employment, you must have two forms of identification such as a driver’s license and a social security card. You can get a social security card replacement online providing you have a previous social security number and have a driver’s license issued from most states.
3. Your Driver’s License or State ID Card
Providing you have both the front and back information on your driver’s license, you can generally a replacement online through the use of your state’s online DMV information.
Without both the front and back information, generally, you’ll need to actually go to the DMV office. But be sure and bring copies of your birth certificate. Most DMV agencies require it.
4. Your Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document
If you lost your naturalization or citizenship documents, you can get a replacement online for a fee, providing you send two new passport photos, as well as a copy of a police report indicating the document was lost.
5. Your Green Card
If you lose your green card, you can also replace it through the United States Citizen and Immigration services online system. In order to do so, you must create an online account.
6. Replacing your Medicare or Medicaid Cards
Both Medicare and Medicaid cards can be replaced online, but again, you will need to sign up for an online account to do so.
7. Replacing a U.S. Passport
If you need to go overseas but have lost your passport, you’ll need to get another, which means actually applying to a passport agency or center if you are planning on traveling within 3 weeks. Meanwhile, to avoid potential misuse of passports, you’ll either need to call or go online to the State Department and report your lost passport. The State Department, in turn, will cancel that passport so no one else can use it.
8. Divorce Certificates
There may be occasions, such as when applying for government benefits or an impending marriage, you may need a divorce certificate. Contact the county or cities vital records clerk to make an application. Most allow you to request a copy online. The same advice holds for copies of marriage certificates.
9. Your Banking and Credit Card Information
Among your documents should be a complete list of your banking information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers and the toll-free, 24-hour hotlines to report and replace lost credit cards.
If you have this information available on the cloud in Google docs, you put a freeze on lost credit cards and request emergency replacements. Chances are when a disaster hits, you will need those cards as soon as possible. Also, before an emergency hits, have an emergency safety fund in your bank to get you bye for at least a week.
Emergencies do Happen So Be Prepared
All of the above may be hard work, but tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods affect thousands every year, so if you are prepared in advance, you can at least partially minimize the immediate economic damage and inconvenience.