LAKE BALBOA NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL’S SUGGESTIONS FOR ORGANIZING VITAL RECORDS
When a Disaster Occurs, Will You Have Copies of Important Papers At Hand?
It could be “the Big One”, a fire, flood, or terrorist attack! But at some point, you are likely to need copies of vital records and other important information that may not be readily accessible in the event of a sudden evacuation, or household disaster. However, if you have already organized this information, and have it safely packed in your 72-Hour Grab-N-Go kit, you’ll be far ahead of the game! (And by the way – this is a great “first item” to start that G’N’G kit!)
Purchase a 3-ring binder and a box of clear plastic sheet protectors in which to put copies of papers. Start gathering today, and every time you find a new piece of information, copy it and put the copy into the book. Originals of important papers should be kept in a fire-proof safe or a safety deposit box. Also, consider sending copies of special documents to a trusted friend or relative, preferably out-of-state.
Following, in no particular order of importance, are examples of the kinds of information you’ll want. Check each off as you add it to your binder, or mark through if not applicable to your situation.
- Your Family’s Emergency Plan
- Wills and Living Wills
- Organ Donor Information
- Retirement and Pension Information
- Automobile Titles and other Property Titles
- Marriage Licenses/Certificates, Divorce Papers
- Social Security/Medicare Cards and Info
- Driver’s License, Passport Info
- Education Certificates and Diplomas
- Income Tax Records
- Insurance Policies/Investment Papers
- Birth Certificates and Adoption Records
- Baptismal and other Religious Records
- Genealogy Records
- Death Certificates
- Medical Histories and Records
- Medical Consent Forms
- Bank, Checking and Savings Account Information
- Organization and Membership Records
- Military Records and Discharge Papers
- Real Estate Deeds (Don’t forget Burial Plots)
- Mortgage Information and Loan Agreements
- Pet Records – Pedigree/Spay-Neuter/inoculation
- Recent Close-up Picture of each Family Member
- Recent Close-up Picture of each Pet with You
- Recent Pictures of Home Exterior, all sides
- Recent Pictures of Home Interior (Every room, various views)
- Recent Pictures of Detached Buildings, inside and out
- Recent Pictures of Valuables (Jewelry, Objects d’Art, Paintings, Collections, Silverware, etc. and copies of recent appraisals)
You may want to have a small separate Address/ Phone Book you can tuck into a pocket, or, include this info in your 3-Ring Binder
- Names, Addresses (including email), and Phone Numbers for:
- Out-of-State Contacts
- Close Relatives, Friends & Neighbors
- Business, Church & School Associates
- Religious Representatives
- Doctors, Home Care-Givers
- Pharmacies (and names and numbers of prescriptions taken regularly)
- Credit Card Companies (and card #’s)
- Banks, Mortgage and Loan Companies
- Insurance Agents
- Pool Maintenance People and Gardeners
- Repair Companies (Electrician, Plumber, Heating and Air Conditioning, Burglar Alarm Company, Roofer, Mason, Carpenter, Handyman)
- Utility Companies
Add a zippered pouch to the binder and tuck in extra house key and vehicle keys. Also, add travel drives (a portable flash drive storage unit for your computer), or a cd containing all your important photos, computer documents, and your email contact list. But remember that you’ll need hard copies of some of the above in case computer access is not available for awhile.
Protect Your Home
- Walk your property with law enforcement friend, or neighbor to help find easy entry points.
- Prune trees and shrubs that can hide someone. Keep your lawn mowed, and repair broken sprinklers promptly.
- Protect ladders, tools, and hidden house keys.
- Replace flimsy doors and secure door windows with wire mesh, or install a steel outer door.
- Pin the hinges of exterior doors that swing into your home (a screw protrudes between them).
- Rekey your locks every 10 years or when you lose a key.
- Keep your doors and windows locked as often as possible.
- Keep a hidden key with a trusted neighbor.
- Use a quality deadbolt that has a heavy-duty strike plate and use screws that are 21/2″ or longer.
- Use a patio pinlock, screws in the upper track, or a broomstick or heavy PVC pipe to secure sliding glass doors. Install heavy-duty sash lock on double-hung windows & vertical surface bolts on French doors.
- Install motion lights outside, above the reach of criminals and not aimed at your neighbors.
- Always keep your car(s) locked, with the windows fully closed, and valuables (including your GPS) out of sight.
- Use an electronic garage door opener and keep your car(s) inside (change the default factory code).
- When parking outside, select a well-lit location.
- Engrave your valuables with your driver’s license number.
- Keep irreplaceable items in a fire-resistant safe or bank safety deposit box. If you have a home alarm system, use the perimeter feature at night
- Dogs are great Post a “Beware of Dog” sign (even without a dog). Laying out a dog bowl and toy is good, too. Don’t open the door to a stranger.
- Don’t put your full name on your mailbox, and don’t leave mail outside for pickup.
- If you have a fence with a gate, lock it and don’t leave notes for delivery or service people.
- Password-protect your electronic devices (smart phone, computer, tablet etc.)
- Insure your valuables (may require a rider). Photo or video record your possessions.
Before You Go On Vacation
- Join a neighborhood watch and report any suspicious people and cars
- Ask a trusted neighbor to keep a “lived in” routine outside and inside your home
- Add automatic timers to select plug-in lamps and leave a radio on, preferably a talk-radio station
- Turn off phone ringers, lock exterior doors and windows, and turn on the alarm system
- Suspend newspaper/magazine delivery and arrange for a neighbor or post office to hold your mail
- Adjust shades, blinds, and curtains so no one can see inside your home
- Make sure air circulates around appliances and that refrigerator/freezer external coils are dust-free
- Clean clothes dryer air ducts annually to eliminate lint build-up (good to check under dryer as well)
- Ensure that the electrical outlets in your home are not overloaded (no multi-taps!)
- Professionally inspect your home heating system and clean the kitchen’s oven hood screen
- Use a protective fireplace grate and screen and professionally clean your chimney every 3 years
- Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in every bedroom and hallway Check twice a year Change batteries when daylight savings enters/departs
- Keep fire extinguishers (ABC type) in your car(s), in the garage, and under every sink Learn how to use it
- Teach family members how to call for help, evacuate safely, and where to meet outside
- Add cameras to watch around your house if the need justifies the expense
- Install a video intercom or wide-view peephole to see who is at the door
- A home alarm can scare away intruders, alert occupants and notify police
- Poorly designed, or incorrectly installed, alarm systems are prone to false alarms
- Use alarm screens, fire sensors and carbon monoxide detectors with your alarm
- If you have a small pet use motion detectors that have pet immunity
- Install a loud alarm siren and a radio backup on the alarm phone line if if s vulnerable
- Read the alarm contract’s terms carefully, monitoring fee, and who owns what
- Understand the alarm contract’s warranty term, and what is and is not covered
- “Free” alarm systems are a rental with a high monthly fee and long commitment
- Wait to sign and pretend that you already have the alarm. Can you afford it? Do you need it?