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Home > Natural Resources > Disaster Resources

Disaster-Proofing Financial and Personal Records

Preparation for disaster includes paperwork and location decisions

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Recovering Financial and Personal Records

Family management requires crisis management skills and an attitude of methodical details. Paperwork just always requires that! After you experience a disaster it is difficult, but can be therapeutic to organize your recovery efforts as a step by step project. Making lists and checking them off can be emotionally reassuring as well as effective in helping you get your home back into operation. Here are some suggestions from the American Red Cross:

Steps to Take After Your Home or Business is Damaged

  • Contact your insurance agent, broker or insurance company as soon as you can to report how, when and where the damage occurred. Provide a general description of the damage.
  • Prepare a list of damaged or lost items and provide receipts if possible. Consider photographing or videotaping the damage where it occurred for further documentation to support your claim.
  • If possible, keep damaged items or portions of those items until the claims adjuster has visited your home. Do not throw away anything you plan to claim without discussing it with your adjuster first.
  • Keep receipts for all additional expenses that you may incur such as lodging, repairs or other supplies.
  • Make copies of all documents and pictures given to your claims adjuster or insurance company. Besides insurance, there are many questions related to taxes, expenses and determining just how you will recover from a personal financial point of view. For helpful advice, please see Disaster Recovery: A Guide to Financial Issues (A5076), which is available from your local Red Cross chapter and at

Vital Documents and Whom to Contact About Replacement

Driver's License Department of Motor Vehicles
Government Issued ID Contact the issuing authority
Insurance policies Your insurance agent or company
Military discharge Department of Veterans Affairs, papers
1-800-827-1000 or TDD/TTY 1-800-829-4833
Passports State Department—Passport Services, 202-955-0430 (24 hours)
Birth, death and marriage certificates Bureau of Records in the appropriate state
Social Security or Medicare cards Local Social Security office, 1-800-772-1213 or TDD/TTY 1-800-325-0778
Credit cards The issuing companies as soon as possible
Mastercard Contact issuing financial institution
VISA Contact issuing financial institution
American Express 1-800-441-0519
Discover 1-800-discover (1-800-347-2683), TDD/TTY 1-800-347-7449
Titles to deeds Records department of the area in which the property is located
Stocks and bonds Issuing company or your broker
Wills Your attorney
Income tax record The IRS center where filed, your accountant or 1-800-829-1040
Citizenship papers Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, 1-800-375-5283
Mortgage papers Lending institution

Precautions to Take

Life is unpredictable, but by living in California we accept the additional cost of living mandated by our western weather and terrain. Floods, fires, mudslides and earthquakes happen, and they happen whether we are prepared for surviving them or not. It's the responsible thing to do to think ahead.

By keeping your important papers in one place, ready for quick exit is step 1. Making a scan or copy of important papers and storing them with a relative or friend in a distant state or city is another good precaution. Putting them on a CD and mailing them, is also a good strategy.

Keeping up with changes in insurance coverage for health and property is part of recovery. Property values and people change over time.

Location is Part of Safety Planning

Being part of your local disaster support community such as a volunteer fire department or the American Red Cross is also an important part of the safety net we create as a community.

Being smart about where you live, and how you landscape that space is also being responsible. Urban sprawl has made the idylic life seem easier and more feasible than it really is -- wilderness is a dangerous place. That's why people have gathered together for countless ages in villages, castles with motes surrounding them, walled cities...and even modern cities.

The wilderness is a nice place to visit, but it is not the best place to live. Building in these edges of civilization damage the habitat for the animals, damage the ecological integrity of the environment, and put personal safety at risk.

Sustainable community is being thoroughly redesigned in light of global climate change that threatens more severe weather patterns. We hope you will consider the ramifications of location before building in wilderness areas.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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