A few months ago, a Rock Hill, Missouri, business was broken into around 10:30 p.m. Thieves entered through a window and stole multiple documents.
Now, this wasn’t just any business — it was a Liberty Tax Service branch. According to the owner, the only items missing were tax files taken from various locked file cabinets in the office.
Of course, it doesn’t take a police detective to figure out what these criminals were after. They stole tax documents containing clients’ personal information, including full names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and home addresses.
People who carry out these street crimes will take the stolen documents and sell them to others who will use the information to open credit cards and access banking information. Obviously, anyone who shared their personal information with this tax service should be on heightened alert to make sure their identity hasn’t been stolen.
That being said, one of the most overlooked aspects of survival and preparedness is the critical documents you will need to restore some sense of normalcy after a disaster. Most people who prepare bug-out bags in case they need to leave their homes often forget about these important documents.
If you have to flee your home, there is a chance your home may be gone when you return. One of the most valuable things you can do to prepare for ANY type of disaster is put a flash drive in your bug-out bag loaded with all your important documents.
I recommend the IronKey Basic flash drive, which is what I use. It’s light and takes up very little space. Most importantly, it’s securely encrypted.
Now, if you’re in the middle of some sort of disaster, you may not be able to access a computer to view these documents. This is why I also recommend carrying hard copies of these same documents so you can access them instantly if you need to verify your identity.
Here is a list of the documents you should include on your flash drive as well as have hard copies of handy…
- Contact list (family, friends, doctors, banks, insurance providers)
- Birth certificate
- Driver’s license
- Social Security card
- Health insurance cards
- Prescriptions for medications, eyeglasses
- Record of insurance policies
- Living will
- Local and state maps.
I know this seems like a lot of paperwork to print out, but you can shrink the copies down so they are still legible but not pages and pages long. Be sure to keep these papers in some type of waterproof container. If you return home and everything you own has been destroyed, you’ll need something to identify yourself so you can start over.
Safe at Home
You should not only take these critical documents with you when you bug out but you should have a safe way to secure them in your home. In other words, you need to make sure criminals can’t walk into your home and easily find them in a drawer like they did at the tax service place.
Most people probably have some type of filing cabinet or storage system where they keep important papers at home, but that’s not always the most secure option. Just like you store these critical documents on a secure flash drive in your bug-out bag, you should keep copies of the same documents in a secure safe in your home.
One brand I recommend is SentrySafe. Their fire- and waterproof safes are designed for one hour of fire protection and water-resistant in up to eight inches of water. They come in a variety of sizes with both key locks and digital locking mechanisms.
Of course, just because you have a safe, you shouldn’t keep it on the floor in your basement. Choose some place that won’t be obvious to criminals.
Another thing is I recommend is placing your documents inside a fireproof bag before locking them up inside the safe. Even though the safe is fireproof, this adds an extra layer of protection.
Lastly, if you purchase a larger safe, I recommend securing it to the floor. This way a thief can’t simply take it from your home and open it later.