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Emergency Evacuation Checklist


Emergency Evacuation Checklist


 Download a PDF version of this checklist


In an emergency evacuation, your first priority is to get you and your family out of harm’s way. Once you’re out of physical danger, you may have a number of hardships to overcome as a result of the emergency. Make sure you’re financially prepared for all possibilities by following the steps below:

Inventory home possessions. An inventory of the home’s possessions is a key document for a variety of insurance purposes. This document can take the form of a videotape or a series of photographs. If you are using a videotape, voice record the approximate value of items as they are photographed. Also note any renovations such as a remodeled kitchen.

You may also want to provide a more precise inventory done on a computer program or with an inventory booklet available at any stationery or office supply store. List each item, its value, and model and serial numbers where available. Collect receipts and get appraisals for valuables such as jewelry, heirlooms, antiques, and artwork.

Be sure to include the small stuff–things like towels, silverware, and underwear can add up. Record outside, too–automobiles, recreational vehicles, improvements such as a new fence or deck. Once the inventory is completed, store a copy in a safe deposit box, at home, and with a more distant friend or relative.

Rent a safe deposit box. Besides the home inventory, the safe deposit box should hold numerous other documents including deeds to home and vehicles, birth certificates/naturalization papers, passports, originals or copies of insurance policies, investment certificates, marriage certificates, and powers of attorney. A copy of the will should also be kept in the box, with originals stored at the attorney’s office or local registrar of wills.

Consider using a safe deposit box in a bank that’s farther from your home. The local bank could be under the same floodwaters or caught up in the same forest fire as you are.

Determine cash and credit reserves. Keep a small amount of cash or traveler’s checks at home. Local ATMs and banks may shut down, as they were in New York City after the 9/11 terrorists attacks. Consider keeping some funds in an out-of-state money market mutual fund that won’t be affected by a local disaster.

Keep your credit card balances low or paid off. You could be out of work for a while, and a credit card with a healthy cushion could be invaluable to see you through. Better yet, save enough cash in a money market account to cover three to six months’ worth of minimal living expenses. That will save running up a credit card balance.

Assemble an “evacuation box.” This is a box or a fireproof file in which you can store important documents or other items that you can grab quickly. The box should be durable, lockable, and contain self-sealing plastic bags to protect documents from water. The box should be kept in the house, near an emergency exit — not stored in an unattended car.

Items to keep in the box include:

  • Safe deposit box key
  • Cash/traveler’s checks
  • Phone numbers for your financial advisor, insurance agents, attorneys, CPA, and others
  • Account numbers for bank, credit card and investment accounts, and Social Security numbers for all family members
  • Copies of documents in the safe deposit box, such as wills, insurance policies, house inventory, and title to the house
  • Copies of last three tax returns
  • Current backup of computer files
  • Copies of driver’s license numbers
  • You may also want to store negatives of family photos; medical information such as prescriptions, doctors’ phone numbers, immunization records; and phone numbers for family and friends.