The recent series of disasters in Japan, as well as unrest in many parts of the world, should have us all thinking a little bit more about whether or not we’re prepared for an unexpected disaster. Whether caused by Mother Nature or a human being, an emergency can throw our lives into chaos – being prepared can help mitigate an emergency’s negative impact. While there’s been lots of information in the press recently about how to prepare for physical survival in a disaster, you may not have given much thought to your recordkeeping and paperwork. Here are some ideas you might want to implement:

Videotape or photograph your possessions. If a disaster strikes, you may need to provide documentation of your possessions to your insurance company. Take time now to prepare this documentation. Videotape or photograph the contents of your home. Keep receipts from major purchases such as furniture, audio-visual equipment, and jewelry to prove ownership. Keep receipts for home improvements and consider storing paint strips and fabric swatches. Keep this information offsite so you can retrieve it if your home is destroyed. There are several options for doing this

•Store it in a bank’s safe-deposit box (be sure you’ll have access to a key if your home is destroyed).
•Scan it and save it onto a flash drive that you give to a friend or family member who lives geographically distant from you (e.g., if a tornado destroys your neighborhood, you’ll want your information somewhere out of the tornado’s reach).
•Scan it and save it “in the cloud’ for retrieval from anywhere. Dropbox and Evernote are two options for cloud storage.

List your important financial and personal records. This will help you and your family members easily find or reconstruct important records. List or photocopy vital documents (such as your will, life-insurance policies, and stock certificates), note the location of each item, and note the appropriate contact information. Keep a copy in your files at home and store one in your safe-deposit box or fireproof safe. Also, consider giving a copy to a trusted friend, family member, financial advisor, or attorney.

Minimize the impact of a lost purse or wallet.

•Carry only essential items. For example, leave seldom-used store credit cards at home and only take them with you when you plan to shop at those stores. Don’t carry your Social Security card or anything with this number unless it’s absolutely necessary.
•Record the important information you carry. Photocopy or scan the front and back of each credit card, your driver’s license and other important information. File the copies in a secure location where you can easily access them so you can notify appropriate agencies quickly.
•If credit cards are lost or stolen, notify the credit card issuers and the police, credit reporting agencies, and the Social Security Administration (SSA). We’re all aware that we must notify the issuing companies if our credit cards are lost or stolen. In addition, you should notify the other agencies noted above to demonstrate your effort to prevent fraud. Any company that checks your credit will then know your information was lost or stolen. Besides the local police, the agencies to contact are:
•One of the credit reporting agencies (they will typically notify the other two): Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742) or Trans Union (800-680-7289)
•The Social Security Administration Fraud Line: 800-269-0271
If “getting prepared” sounds overwhelming, consider implementing just one tip each week – then you’ll ready for anything.

Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.