Having a grab-and-go binder for emergency situations is smart and practical.
It makes life easier and could be life-saving in the event of an emergency – at the very least it will allow you to immediately begin helping your family members.
This article will help you learn how to prepare a binder, and our free PDF download has all the sheets you need to manage your information.
Why Have an Emergency Documents Binder?
Unfortunately, emergencies happen.
And during those times, it is not always realistic to think you will remember every thing you need to in the event an emergency happens. Doctors numbers, policy numbers, all that data that you might need is probably scattered and will be stressful to find.
This binder will prevent that added stress from happening.
It will be the one thing that will bring you some peace of mind during a difficult time.
Making insurance claims, searching for missing loved ones (heaven forbid), staying in touch with family and friends, traveling around the country, and accessing your financial accounts are all simpler when you have completed a grab-and-go emergency binder.
You can read through the comments below to see many, many situations when people have used their binders on normal days as well as in an emergency.
Steps To Make An Emergency Binder
I’m going to walk you step-by-step through the process of building your own important document folder/emergency grab-and-go binder.
I keep our binder in an area that is safe and well-hidden. I will address safety concerns about having an “in case of emergency binder” below – know you are wondering about it!
Step #1: Gather Documents
Gather your family’s important documents.
Keep these documents in various categories or sections in a 3-ring binder.
For items/documents that do not fit well on a 3-ring binder, use a sheet protector or a more secure “pocket” to hold all the documents that pertain to that person/section.
You might consider creating the following sections:
- Emergency Plan (include an evacuation plan, cash, maps, family photos, etc.)
- Important Phone Numbers (use the forms linked to later in this post)
- Family Identification (Birth cert. Ids, military records, social security, immunization, etc…have one sheet protector or pocket for each family member’s documents)
- Testamentary Documents (wills, trusts, etc.)
- Property Documents (deeds, titles, etc.)
- Insurance Documents (policies and ID cards)
- Tax Documents
- Investment Documents
- Legal Documents (marriage/divorce cert, prenups, child custody, utility bills, etc.)
- First Aid (quick reference sheets, detailed medical info on family members, etc.)
Step #2: Evacuation Plan
If you are ever asked to evacuate, you likely won’t be thinking clearly.
Take a moment now to plan out (and write down) what you will grab, where you will meet, and how you will communicate.
Place your evacuation plan at the beginning of your binder where you can quickly refer to it if needed.
I also strongly suggest adding a recent and past family photo here. If you were to lose a child (during a natural disaster or otherwise) and then find him/her, you may have to prove that he /she belongs to you.
This would be especially true if the child was injured / incoherent and unable to recognize you for any reason. Having an older and more recent family photo is one very quick way to prove that this child does and has belonged to you for some time.
I use a 5×7 photo sheet protector for our two pictures and update them each time we have a new family picture taken.
I also keep cash, a map, and an extra set of credit cards in this section of my binder.
Step #3: Record Emergency Phone Numbers
There are likely many phone numbers that you may need in an emergency but don’t use regularly. You don’t want to waste precious time trying to look these numbers up.
Take a moment to write down phone numbers that may be important to your family in an emergency such as poison control, a nurse line, your utility companies, etc.
You might also consider adding these numbers to your phone. Yes, there are some emergencies where you won’t have access to your phone, but many times you will.
You might consider printing this page twice: once for your binder, and once to post in the pantry for babysitters, etc.
Step #4: Record Family and Friend’s Numbers
If you didn’t have access to your phone (or it had died and the power was out), how many phone numbers would you be able to remember?
I wouldn’t know more than my own, my mom’s, and my husband’s phone numbers.
Once completed, add this form to the correct section of your binder.
Step # 5: Medical, Financial, Utility, and Insurance Numbers
Medical providers, financial and insurance accounts, and utility providers are all people we typically don’t contact that often. Yet, in an emergency situation, we may need to do so quickly.
Write down phone numbers and other information for your medical providers, financial and insurance accounts, and utility providers.
This may be useful not only for you, but if someone else needs to access those accounts for you and/or if you need to access them away from home, but can’t remember passwords, account numbers, and phone numbers, etc.
Once completed add these forms to the correct sections of your binder.
Step # 6: Create ID Forms
Create a form with important information for each family member.
Include things such as eye color, hair color, distinct markings, etc. Be sure to also include a recent picture (and update it at least yearly for children). Consider including fingerprints and DNA (a piece of hair will do).
I created my own ID forms back in 2011 after searching for a free one online and not finding one I liked. If fact, that is how this whole post started.
I keep a copy of these pages in my binder and a 2nd copy with me at all times. If I were to ever lose my child, I’d want the police to have all their information as quickly as possible. I’ve heard horror stories of mothers who can’t remember their children’s birth dates (read similar stories in the comments below), eye color, etc. b/c they are so distraught with worry.
I don’t want that to happen to me.
Tips for Fingerprints:
- Do not “roll” your finger when pressing it on the paper. This can cause the ridges to distort. Also, don’t use too much ink: practice on a piece of paper first!
- From one of my great readers: “Doing your own fingerprints at home can sometimes be difficult because of smudging, etc. Another option is to get a fingerprint card taken at any local police station/sheriff’s office. It’s free at my local police station, but sometimes they charge a small fee. You just need to take a photo ID with you when you go.”
Behind each ID (in the same sheet protector/pocket), I keep that child’s birth certificate, shot record, social security form, etc. My kids have no allergies or health concerns, but if they did, I would keep details on that info in this sleeve as well.
If your child does have allergies, I suggest you read TJ’s Survival Kit Series advice (she is a reader here) about what she does for her kids.
You might consider printing ID forms for your binder and to keep with you (in the car / your purse etc) in busy places where a child may get lost.
Also, consider filling out an ID form for your pets.
Hazel, one of my readers who is a veterinarian recommends the AVMA’s (American Veterinary Medical Association) brochure on Animal Emergency Preparedness. It is available for purchase as a brochure, but it is also available for FREE as a pdf download.
Once completed, add these forms to the correct section of your binder.
Step #7: Gather and Record Log-in Info
I keep a printed copy of all our log-in information for our various online accounts including banks, insurance, cell phone, school loans, Facebook, email, etc. I do not save this anywhere on my computer, but I do use Dashlane which is a secure cloud storage app.
This is probably one of the riskiest things to have in y our binder, so consider what is best for your family when choosing to include / not include this information. You can find tips for creating secure passwords in one of my past articles.
If desired, add this form to your binder. I hide mine between other less confidential forms so that only I know where it is at.
Step # 8: First Aid
Even if you have basic first aid training, you may not remember it in a disaster situation. Keeping shorthand notes of important first-aid procedures can help.
Make sure you also note any medications your family members are taking in case medical professionals need this information.
I like keeping this info right at the front of my binder so I can quickly access it if needed.
Step #9: Finish Assembling Your Binder
Add all the other documents you gathered in Step #1 to the appropriate sections of your binder.
Step #10: Download The Printable Emergency Forms
I know you likely don’t have time to create all these pages for your grab-and-go emergency binder, so I’ve made 18 forms available for you to print for free!
Also, the #1 question I have gotten about this post is “Where can I find a waterproof, fireproof safe that will fit 8×11 documents and is reasonably priced?”. Well, I use SentrySafe H230.
Concerns About Document Safety & Security
I’ve had many, many people comment or send me emails about their concerns over this post and the security of placing all your important documents together.
Some have been very kind, others, not so much. Remember, I am just trying to help! If you do not agree with my process, at least be nice when telling me.
Yes, having all this in one place creates a risk.
But there is a risk of having one – and not having one.
You have to weigh which risk is less scary to you. For me, I’ve decided the risk of not having it is scarier than the risks created by having it. My binder is very well hidden and does not call attention to itself.
The risks of not having this folder and needing it are much more common (just read the comments below for times people wished they’d had one), and I feel “safer” having it.
If you don’t, then, by all means, don’t make one!
If you are nervous about the risk and some other ideas, read the comments below, there are lots of great ideas from my fabulous readers!
Do You Have A Grab And Go Binder?
Leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts about this folder.
Do you have one? Will you be updating it? Will you not make one? Why?
Becky is a wildlife enthusiast and pet and livestock care expert with a diploma in canine nutrition. With over a decade of experience in animal welfare, Becky lends her expertise to Simple Family Preparedness through insightful info about pets, livestock, bee keeping, and the practicalities of homesteading.