When disaster strikes, your immediate concern will be your safety and the safety of those you care about. But once the danger has passed, having important paperwork available can help you start the recovery process quickly. Make sure key documents, such as financial and medical records, are stored safely. Taking time now to safeguard these assets will give you peace of mind, ensure you have access to critical personal information, and help you avoid additional stress after a disaster.


Recovering from a disaster can take time and money. It’s important to consider your financial preparedness while developing your disaster plan. That can include setting money aside to help support yourself while waiting for additional aid and making sure key personal financial, insurance, medical, and other records are accessible – even if you are unable to return home.

Consider putting together an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit to help strengthen your financial preparedness for disasters and emergencies.

Assess and compile important financial documents and contacts
  • If you receive paper checks for any federal benefits, consider enrolling in automatic benefits through GoDirect. https://godirect.gov/gpw/
  • If you receive paper checks from your employer, consider requesting direct deposit
  • Print or download statements of any bills you pay automatically
  • Download any banking or bill pay mobile applications to your smart phone or device for any bills you pay online. This allows you to consider these costs without the need to refer to or sort through paper statements.
  • Take photographs or record a video of the rooms in your home and any valuable belongings. Include copies of these with either a paper version or electronic version of a Emergency Financial First Aid Kit
  • Keep some cash in the same safe location as your emergency kit. This allows you to pay for emergency purchases in the event that ATMs are not working or banks are closed
Review your insurance policies and financial paperwork for accuracy and be sure they are current
  • If you own a car or home, ensure coverage is enough to support you in an emergency
  • If you rent, make sure your lease reflects your current rent and verify your renters insurance is up to date
  • The value of your property can change over time. Review your coverage levels with your insurance agent to verify your residence and belongings are covered.
  • Many home and renters insurance policies will not cover flood damage. Check with your provider to see what kind of damage is covered. Supplemental coverage may be needed to address risks not included in your current policy.
Revisit and update your Emergency Financial First Aid Kit regularly
  • Suggested times to review your kit:
    • During tax preparation time
    • At the start or end of daylight saving time
    • Around your birthday
    • At the start of a new year

  • Times when you need to change your kit as soon as possible
    • Changing insurance providers
    • Change in residence
    • Purchasing a home or renting a new apartment
    • Opening and closing bank accounts
    • Change in marital status
    • When you have a child
    • Child changes schools
    • During retirement planning
    • When there is a death within the household

Records and contact information to include in an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit
  • Personal identification documents — Being able to prove who you are and where you lived can be essential to getting your life back to normal quickly.
    • Photo ID to prove identity of household members
    • Birth certificate to maintain or re-establish contact with family members
    • Marriage license
    • Divorce decree
    • Social security card to apply for FEMA disaster assistance
    • Passport/Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
    • Naturalization documents
    • Military ID or discharge record
    • Pet ID tags, proof of pet ownership, pet microchip information, emotional support letter, service animal certification
  • Financial and legal documents — Keep key documents related to your finances in the same location as other important documents. It helps identify your financial records and responsibilities, which can ease your recovery
    • Copies of your mortgage or rent payment information
    • Other financial obligations, such as bills, credit card accounts, receipts from child support payments
    • Copies of current insurance policies to re-establish financial accounts
    • Tax statements to provide contact information for financial and legal providers and to apply for FEMA disaster assistance
    • Bank account information
    • Estate planning
  • Medical information
    • A list of any physicians you are currently seeing
    • Copies of any health insurance policies you have
    • Immunization records
    • List of medications you or family members are currently taking
    • Caregiver agency contracts
    • List models, serial numbers and suppliers for medical equipment
    • Disability documentation
    • Living will
    • Veterinarian contact information, pet immunization records, copies of pet prescriptions

Once you have collected your financial, legal, and contact information for your Emergency Financial First Aid Kit, it’s important to keep the information safe.

Report any identity theft, the misuse of checking accounts, financial document theft, or loss of credit/debit cards or government-issued identification. If you believe your emergency financial first aid kit was stolen, immediately contact all financial institutions, insurance agencies, or similar companies to explain the situation.

additional resources

Emergency Financial First Aid Kit tips and checklists:

National flood insurance program:


Technology is making it easier than ever to prepare for emergencies, but it can be unreliable if there are power disruptions.

Be Informed
  • Download a trusted weather app and enable push notifications
  • Enable wireless emergency alerts on your device
  • Follow local government on social media to stay up-to-date with official information before, during, and after a disaster. Get Twitter alerts from trusted government agencies to get notified when critical information goes out
  • Sign up to receive community alerts. Check with local officials to find out if your community has a system in place.
Make A Plan
  • Use text messages, social media, and email to connect with friends and family during a disaster or emergency. Mobile networks can become overwhelmed during these times, and it may be difficult to make and receive calls. Text messages use less bandwidth which means they can be transmitted more reliable during situations where many people are using their mobile phones at the same time.
  • Have an emergency charging option for your phone and other devices.
    • Prior to severe weather, make sure all devices are fully charged
    • Have a back-up power source on hand, such as a power bank. Remember to recharge a backup battery or power bank after use.
    • Change phone settings to low power mode or put on airplane mode to conserve energy
    • Always keep a portable charger in your vehicle
  • Store important documents on a secure, password-protected flash drive or in the cloud
    • Backup your computer to protect photos and other important documents
    • Use an app that uses your phone’s camera as a scanning device
    • Keep your contacts updated and synced across all channels
    • Create a group chat to communicate quickly during a disaster
  • Sign up for direct deposit and electronic banking to access your paycheck and make electronic payments wherever you are.
  • If you receive paper checks for any federal benefits, consider enrolling in automatic benefits through GoDirect. https://godirect.gov/gpw/

additional resources


Having the documents you need after a disaster will help you start the recovery process quickly. Think about the documents you would need to help identify yourself, request assistance, and important medical information.

In addition, take time now to think about the priceless personal items you want to protect from damage or take with you if you needed to suddenly evacuate your home.

Critical documents

Household identification: Think about documents that you need to identify yourself and household members, including children and pets, relationship, or status. These may include:

  • Vital records (birth, marriage, adoption, divorce, and child custody papers)
  • Passport, driver’s license, Social Security card, green card, visas, military service identification
  • Pet ownership papers, identification tags, microchip information

Financial and legal documentation: If your home or income is impacted by a disaster, you will need documentation to request assistance from insurance providers and from government assistance programs.

  • Housing: lease or rental agreement, mortgage, home equity line of credit, deed
  • Vehicle: loan documents, vehicle identification number , registration, title
  • Other financial obligations: utility bills, credit cards, student loans, alimony, child support, elder care, automatic payments such as gym memberships
  • Financial accounts: checking, savings, debit cards, retirement, investment
  • Insurance policies: homeowners, renters, auto, life, flood appraisals, photos, and lists of valuable items
  • Source of income: pay stubs, government benefits, alimony, child support
  • Tax statements: Federal/state income tax returns, property tax, vehicle tax
  • Estate planning: will, trust, power of attorney

Medical information

  • Health/dental insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, VA health benefits
  • List of medications, immunizations, allergies, prescriptions, medical equipment and devices, pharmacy information
  • Living will, medical power of attorney
  • Caregiver agency contract or service agreement
  • Disabilities documentation
  • Contact information for doctors/specialists, dentists, pediatricians, veterinarians

Emergency or hotline contact information for household

  • Employers/supervisors
  • Schools
  • Houses of worship
  • Social service providers
  • Homeowners Associations
  • Home repair services: utilities, plumber, roofer, carpenter, electrician

Valuables and priceless personal items

  • Priceless personal mementos, family photos, and keepsakes
  • Possessions with monetary value, including jewelry, art, and collectibles
Protecting your documents and valuables

Once you have gathered your documents and valuables it is essential to protect them

  • Consider storing paper copies of important documents at home in a fireproof and waterproof box or safe, in a bank safe deposit box, or with a trusted friend or relative. If you are using a safe deposit box, ask your bank or check state laws to confirm who can and cannot access it if the lessee dies or is incapacitated.
  • Store electronic copies of important documents in a password-protected format on a removable flash or external hard drive in your fireproof and waterproof box or safe. You may also consider using a secure cloud-based service.
  • Think about where you store valuable belongings and ways to better protect these items. If you have valuable items stored in a basement, you may want to move them to a higher location and put them in waterproof containers to avoid water damage. Or you may want to keep small items in a flood/fireproof home safe. You may also want to secure items that are displayed on shelves or walls if your home may be subject to high winds or earthquakes.

additional resources

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