Homeowner's Academy

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Safely Store Your Important Documents for Quicker Recovery

by BROOKE GOLD HASSON | May 16, 2014

safe-box-300x300Find Peace of Mind in A Home Safe or Safe Deposit Box

If a disaster hit your home, would you be ready with all of the documents you need to help your family recover?

Your home is full of many valuable documents and memories that you will want to keep, but home planning can often fail to keep these in mind. According to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, roughly 60% of Americans can’t quickly find and take their documents in case of an emergency when at home.

Imagine what would happen if a fire started when you weren’t at home or your house was hit with water damage.

People’s Trust recommends you safely store important documents and make copies of some personal information. There are a few different ways to protect your documents, but first you should gather together all of your important materials. This lets you know how much storage you’ll need and quicken your flood recovery.

Documents to Keep

In case of a fire, water damage, or other disaster, it’s best to have originals or copies of your documents that are easily accessible.

Documents that People’s Trust recommends you keep in a safe place are:

  • All of your insurance plans: homeowners, flood, life, etc.
  • Birth certificates, marriage licenses, trusts and wills
  • Any relevant death certificates
  • Social Security cards
  • Passports
  • Title to your property
  • Credit card numbers and contact information for companies
  • Medical records
  • Vehicle registration
  • List of relatives and their phone numbers
  • Receipts for expensive purchases
  • Two recent tax returns

It’s best to keep these documents safe no matter how well-maintained your home is in terms of safety. Remember that in Florida you’ll want to protect against water damage as much as fire and theft.

Document Storage Options

Once you have your documents together, there are a variety of different ways you can safely protect your information. The two main goals of securely storing your documents are to keep everything easy to access and to keep everything safe from emergencies as well as theft.

Some of the top home safety and storage options for your documents include:

  • Safe Deposit Box. Your bank or credit union likely offers a safe deposit box at one of its branches. These are great ways to store your information because it ensures that damage to your home will not impact the documents. The limited access also significantly reduces the likelihood of theft. The downside is that you cannot access these boxes at all times. Typically the delay won’t matter, but some information such as birth certificates may be needed more often and would make this storage inconvenient.
  • Home Safe. A fire-proof home safe is one of the best ways to protect your documents inside your home. Some models also offer a water-tight seal and may be able to prevent water from reaching your documents. A professionally-mounted, home wall-safe adds greater protection against flooding since it is high off the ground and can be sealed to prevent water damage. The danger with these items is in the case of theft - a safe is only as good as its lock.
  • Bonus Protection. Keeping your documents in plastic sleeves and folders can give you a little extra protection against sunlight, spills, and tearing if you take documents in and out of the safe often. These sleeves are great for birth certificates and older documents that become more brittle with age.

Digital Security

More and more of our lives involve the computer, including your memories and their safety. If you’re like us at People’s Trust, most of your photos and correspondence has moved online.

Backing up your photos, documents and other information on a hard drive, like a USB key, can be a great way to ensure that a fire or other disaster won’t wipe away your memories. You can also scan your important documents and keep a digital copy to give yourself an extra layer of protection.

One quick note about these items is that you shouldn’t store them in your home safe to protect against a fire. Fireproof safes are engineered to protect paper and will keep the internal temperature below 350 degrees. However, at around 135 degrees – which a safe may rise to – most of your digital media devices will be destroyed. Home fireproof safes also can have a steam and moisture buildup during a fire that won’t destroy paper but can damage these digital devices.

This Blog is sponsored by:
People’s Trust Insurance Company