Paperwork Paperwork

A very big part of disaster preparedness has nothing to do with food, water, ammunition or first aid supplies.  Some years back Hurricane Katrina blew in off the Gulf of Mexico forcing the hasty evacuation of New Orleans.  Never before in history had it been necessary to evacuate an entire major city in the United States.

After the wind died down and the flood waters receded, the population returned to their city.  Some returned to their homes, some returned to where their homes had been.  In many cases all that remained was a foundation, a concrete slab or a set of front porch steps.

When we think of evacuation, we usually have a list that includes clothes, food, tent, sleeping bags, medication and other items needed for survival.  (I didn’t mention the kids or pets, I just assumed they’d be a part of your plan.)  Because the ultimate goal of evacuation is to eventually return home and resume living, it is important that you are able to re-establish yourself in your former life.  Re-establishing is a whole lot easier if your vital documents are intact.  Things like your passport, birth certificate, home insurance policy, the title to your family car, the deed to your home and even college transcripts.

One account I read described the intention of one evacuee to seek employment in his city of refuge until it dawned on him he couldn’t prove his credentials.  He had failed to make copies of his vital papers therefore was unable to prove his qualifications for the job he sought.

Even if the disaster is confined to your home in the form of a house fire, it is possible you could lose all your important papers.  Home fire safes are better than nothing, but the best way is to store copies somewhere off-site.  Banks offer safe deposit boxes just for that purpose.  Another, more high-tech method is to scan your documents and store them electronically.  Documents can be stored on-line in “cloud” technology, placed on a flash drive, or you can simply keep copies at a trusted friend’s house.  Although there is really no substitute for original copies, you can still recover policy numbers, passport numbers and other identifying information from the copies.  When you explain your plight to that guy at DMV, the process is expedited when you can show copies along with your explanation.  So plan right now to sit down and organize your important papers.  Get them scanned or copied and placed in safe location.

Many in my generation have struggled to come up to speed with computer technology and terms like “flash drive” or “stored in the cloud” may seem like gibberish and confusing.  That’s what kids and especially grandkids are for.  They love to prove what they know.  For less than $10.00 you can purchase a flash drive that will easily hold all your important papers and make them easily accessible when needed.

I realize this process of preserving your documents isn’t as exciting as buying a new generator or a hand-crank can opener, but it is still important when trying to pick up the pieces after a disaster.  Stay prepared my friends.

As always send your comments and questions to Previous columns can be found on my blog at  Dave Robinson is an author, pastor and freelance writer.  His book, “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” can be found on, and other online booksellers.