Having a family emergency binder is one of the best ways to keep track of important information in the event that you have to deal with a natural disaster, fire, or other emergency situation.
It’s a peace of mind that lets you focus on getting yourself and your family together, rather than trying to gather everything up at the last minute.
Speaking of gathering things up during potential emergencies, let me tell you a secret about myself…
I live in the midwest and we get our fair share of tornados. If I know there is a chance we’ll get one during the night, I go to bed almost fully dressed and put all of the essentials (laptop, camera, wallet, phones, etc.) in a safe spot in the basement. I also get everyone’s shoes ready to go.
That might sound insane, but tornados terrify me.
But, being prepared for what-if scenarios eases your stress because you know that you have everything together if the worst ever does happen.
No one ever wants to believe that they will be in a situation to need a family emergency binder, but having one filled out and ready to go will alleviate some of the stress that comes during the aftermath of any type of disaster.
To help you get prepared, here’s a guide to creating your own family emergency binder.
What is a family emergency binder?
A family emergency binder is a way to organize and store important information about you and your family. It’s essentially a grab-n-go collection of every single piece of information that you would need to pick up and restart in the event of an emergency.
It should contain personal information about everyone in your family, including pets if you have them. There should be information about all of your finances, assets, who to call, legal documents, and more.
Why your family needs an emergency binder?
As I’m writing this article, Hurricane Dorian is sitting out in the Atlantic Ocean about to make landfall in Charleston, NC. That’s why you need this.
Stuff happens. Sometimes it’s natural disasters, like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, floods, etc. You can’t always predict these things, and you certainly don’t have the time to grab everything you keep in an emergency binder, plus your kids and family pet.
A family emergency binder relieves a little bit of that stress when you need it the most, and it’s how you start to rebuild your life after a disaster.
That means you can:
- Prove who you are and where you live
- Have an easier time collecting disaster benefits
- And you won’t have to go through the daunting process of replacing things
At the very least, an emergency binder is where you know you can find whatever piece of important information you’re searching for, like your middle child’s Social Security number or the name of your insurance agent.
Storing your family emergency binder
Ideally, your family emergency binder will be kept in a secure location that is both fire and waterproof. I keep mine in this safe.
You should also inform a couple of people who you really trust with the location of your emergency binder. It’s going to be full of sensitive information, so you don’t want just anyone getting ahold of it. You can tell a close relative, best friend, the person who would become your children’s guardian, or who you’ve named as the executor of your estate.
Thinking about that stuff feels pretty morbid, but you are taking the stress off of yourself and those who rely on you in the event that something really horrible does happen.
The In Case of Emergency Binder
The easiest and most efficient way to put together your emergency binder is to use a premade one like the In Case of Emergency Binder. This family emergency binder was created by Chelsea Brennan, founder of Smart Money Mamas.
This ICE binder has a piece of information about your:
- Medical history
- Personal documents
- Social media/websites
- Burial/memorial service preferences
- What to do with insurance money
One of the things that stand out is how detail-oriented this ICE binder is, which became obvious to me in the section about your children. It asks for information about IEPs. You can write down their favorite food, song, special memory, and there is also a place to write a letter to each of your children in case something were to happen to you.
As a parent, those details really make it stand out.
It’s 90 pages long, which might sound overwhelming, but it’s incredibly organized and easy to work through. If I didn’t have the ICE binder or an article like this, I would have overlooked so many things.
The In Case of Emergency Binder comes as a pdf, which means you can easily keep a digital and hard copy because you can just type your information right into the PDF and then print.
You can learn more about the Smart Money Mama’s ICE binder at the In Case of Emergency Binder Review.
Or, just go ahead and grab your own copy of the ICE Binder if you’re like me and appreciate the simplicity of having a readymade option that covers everything.
How to make your own family emergency binder
For those of you who prefer a DIY approach, learning how to create your own family emergency binder is totally doable. The first thing you’ll need is all of your important information, then supplies for putting it together.
You can put this information together in whatever way makes sense to you. For example: maybe you want to keep your doctor’s contact information in both the emergency contact and medical information sections.
What to include in your emergency binder
It may take a while to gather all of this information together, but you’ll be so glad you did.
Emergency contacts and phone numbers
- Family, friends, neighbors, etc.
- School contacts
- Employer and work-related contacts
- Doctors, dentists, specialists, counselors, etc.
- Local non-emergency phone numbers
- Your utility companies plus account numbers
Copies of vital records
- Driver’s licenses or state IDs
- Social Security card
- Birth certificate
- Credit cards (copy front and back)
- Military records
- Adoption papers
- Foster records
- Immigration or naturalization papers
- Death certificates if you have a recently deceased family member
- Medical history
- Copies of your insurance card (front and back)
- Prescription list
- Immunization records
- Homeowner’s policy
- Auto policy
- Life insurance
- Agent information
- Insurance cards
- Home inventory
- Bank account number, password, pin, copy of debit card, and voided check
- Credit card account number, password, and copy of cards
- Investment accounts – account numbers, contact information, name and brokerage contacts, and passwords
- A copy of your most recent statement for each
- Safety deposit information
- Power of attorney
- Marriage license
- Deed to your house
- Titles to your cars
- Lease information
- Power of attorney
- Printed copy of your emergency plan: where you will go, who will meet you, radio call signs, etc.
- Spare keys to your house, car, and storage spaces
- Evacuation checklist
- Photos stored on USB drives if you don’t have them on the cloud
- Maps with evacuation routes
- Cash (having a little on hand if you have to dash out of your house can never hurt)
Emergency binder supplies
I personally like using a high-quality view binder. It gives you an easy way to label the spine so you don’t have to think twice about what you’re grabbing. After reading that list it’s no surprise that you’ll want a pretty thick 3-ring binder, and 3” is about the right size.
To make it easier to find everything, use page dividers to divide your sections and label them.
Rather than punching holes in everything, using page protectors gives you even easier access to your information, and it, you know, protects your pages. That link is for a pack of 200, which should be plenty.
For photos and a digital copy of your emergency binder, you need a USB drive.
For cash, your USB drive, and any other small items, a waterproof pouch will keep everything safe. Bonus, you can find waterproof pouches that fit in your 3-ring binder!
Having a small safe in your home is never a bad idea. So if you’re putting a family emergency binder together, now is a good time to shop around. The safe I have worked really well. This bag is another option if you want something a little smaller that will be easy to grab. It’s fireproof and waterproof, and it would easily fit your laptop, tablet, etc.
Free family emergency binder templates
The In Case of Emergency Binder is $39, and I truly believe it’s money well spent. But, if you want to create your own with templates, here are some options:
This is a pretty comprehensive family emergency binder with tips for customizing it.
These are free printable worksheets for finance, health, babysitter, school, insurance, etc.
This blog has a bunch of emergency printables to choose from. From emergency contact to an evacuation plan.
The federal government has a number of stripped-down and simple templates meant for emergencies. There’s also information about creating your own disaster relief plan.
The final word, is it cheaper to make your emergency binder?
The reason we put together things like emergency binders is to be prepared, completely prepared. Purchasing an emergency binder template that has been thoughtfully crafted and gone over with a fine tooth comb is peak preparedness.
Not only that, the In Case of Emergency Binder has space for way more information than any other template I’ve seen. You can definitely add in all the extras the free templates overlook, but that takes time.
$39 to save me time and give me that kind of peace of mind? Take my money.
In all honesty, you’re going to have to pay for some part of your family emergency binder. It’s not going to be free, but however you do it will be money well spent.