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Dealing with documents/important info when SHTF

New here to the website and forum, and things look fantastic here!

Relatively new in preparedness, in the process of becoming better prepared for scenarios that are more likely for me in the shorter term (inclement weather, live on the Prairies in Canada, am way better prepared than in the past for winter issues eg: short power outags, a car kit for driving, but am working on getting better prepped for such things as increasing severe winds and summer storms we have had the last number of years and increased risk of tornadoes I sense happening, or for more longer power outages).

Have at least 2 months of food in the house (normal for us anyways), working on more expansive water supply (currently have almost a week’s worth for family of 4), have some battery packs for devices and such, but longer goal is a generator, have first aid supplies/medical supplies, some alternate cooking methods eg: propane campstove, etc and the main things now I am in the process of dealing with getting better set up “grab and go/or OMG-got-a-tornado-warning-get-in-the-basement bags”

*****What is everyone’s approach to dealing with personal documents for bags or for getting out of dodge as they say?  *****

I am talking about things like a list of emergency phone contacts both local to you or distant family (just in case), info as to where our bank accounts and wills are, copies of drivers liscence, house insurance, access to things/copies of like birth certificates, Social Insurance numbers, etc.  Even things like your safety deposit box key at the bank.  I have some things I am wondering about in these regards:

-Where to keep it (we have a “main bag” with things like supplies for the dog, maps, tarp, etc and are working on smaller bags for each family member).  Do you duplicate things and then in each bag?  Have two very late teen/early young adult in the house who unfortuntely don’t drive yet, as far as getting away (they are working on it).  Goal (such as in the case of inclement weather-getting into the basement as an example–is for them to grab the main bag at least, and each of theirs and just leave mom and dad’s alone (such as in a case we are not home with them).  Duplicate documents in every single bag?

-some of this info is sensitive eg: birth certificates, SIN number etc.  I have seen everything from scanning everything on paper, and keeping in ziplocks bags in your pack, to having on a USB stick, or both.  How to keep info like this safe?  I think it is fairly unlikely someone would come break in and steal such stuff, (and that may be naive of me perhaps but anyhow), but what do people do to keep that sort of info secure?  You can’t just grab a fireproof safe when running out of the house. And what about scenarios of massive natural disaster like no access to a working computer for your USB stick anyways or your cellphone does not work and your battery pack is now dead?  Can you encrypt them with a password, but what if you forget it?

-I also am lamenting the fact here that there is such a COMPLEXITY aspect to this nowadays (the paperwork and household affairs).  I am an old fart early Gen X’er, who remembers life pretty much completely on paper, no online banking and you logged your info in a chequing ledger for example, and just everything on paper/in the mail.  I have never been through any sort of natural disaster, the most I have endured is a 10hr power outage in the winter.  What do people do in those circumstances.  For example, I may have documentation of everything like where my bank is, but do I indicate account number in my saved info, but then there is the whole issue of a password for example, I do not want others to access that, but then what if I cannot even remember that info myself like my password!  How do people who survive massive things like tornadoes flattening a city even do to get on thier feet in regards to stuff like that? I had been thinking lately of all this documentation even in light of prepping my husband for my future demise (have seen the agony my sis in law is going through recently with sorting the household affairs she was clueless about when B-I-L died), but have been thinking of this in line of disaster prep too.

Sorry for the essay!  Would love to hear some words of wisdom from you all.  Once again very happy to find this place….!

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  • Comments (7)

    • 3

      Welcome!

      I keep a paper copy of the most important items, such as scanned identification, passwords, and key phone numbers.

      I also have those same items on a USB, plus a lot more because USB can hold a lot without being any heavier.

      Yes, there is a risk of these being stolen. I accept that risk because it’s so important to have access to it myself. When away from home, I would protect them by keeping them close to me.

      Regarding multiple copies, my wife and I each have copies in our own main bag. I don’t have kids, so would not be able to give good advice on kids’ bags.

      Here’s a similar previous discussion that you might find helpful.

      https://theprepared.com/forum/thread/carrying-id/

    • 2

      I recommend consulting an estate attorney in your state about the REALLY critical papers (will, powers of attorney, healthcare wishes, etc).  In my case our attorney has a copy, we have the originals (which are the officially accepted ones in our state), and a trusted friend has another copy.  But I have a friend who stored the originals with the attorney (most have a vault for this purpose) and he carries the copies.

      For the rest I have multiples where I can. For example I carry my drivers’ license in my everyday bag, my passport is in my go bag, and my passport CARD (which is a different form of ID) varies between being in my everyday bag and my car.  That way I have some form of government ID always accessible. I have no idea where my social security card is but I remember my number, and I suppose if I had to I could always go back to the clerk of court to get copies of birth certificates etc.

      One thing our attorney told us is that we can have certain documents, like a financial power of attorney, recorded with the clerk of court in our town (I guess not all towns do this). That way if we need it in a hurry we can get a certified copy from them. The money we spent on the estate attorney was worth every penny for the peace of mind it has brought us. 

    • 4

      Welcome to prepping and the forum! Here’s another forum thread I previously commented on with a list of which documents to carry.

      Now to answer a few of your questions. 

      These are my opinions, so don’t take it as what you should do, but do what makes sense for you.

      I do think you should duplicate important documents in each family member’s bag. If they get separated then they will have all the valuable info they need still. USB flash drives are cheap and it’s easy to just copy and paste your important documents. You may not want to have the full load out of paper docs in each bag, but at least do digital.

      In the parent’s bags, have a copy of everything. All of your info, your spouses’ info, and that of your kids. But your kids don’t necessarily need to have all your documents.

      If you encrypt the documents on a flash drive then there is no worry if it gets stolen because they can’t access it without the password. And it should be a password that you will remember and store in a password manager. But I do see your concern with paper documents getting stolen. But they could get stolen in your house at any time if someone were to break in anyways right?

      I strongly recommend looking into a password manager if you are worried about forgetting passwords and how to store account numbers. In my password manager, I have all my banking info, username, password, account numbers, etc… plus all the accounts for utilities, mortgage, Facebook, and every online account I have. It’s a great place to store all your info under one strong master password that you won’t forget. If you are interested, I recommend checking out Bitwarden.

      • 1

        I came to comment about the utility of a password manager, too. I’m glad @Supersonic beat me to the punch!

        Make sure that if you do use a password manager, you purchase a paid service that doesn’t share your information and that tells you how your data is stored and where their servers are located. I opted for a LastPass premium subscription for $36/year, and it’s fantastic to have on all my devices. You can read reviews of other password managers on PCMag; some notable options include Keeper, LastPass, 1Password, and NordPass.

    • 4

      I use 1 Password for passwords and stuff. It is a subscription, $5 month I believe but you can share with family. You can jot quick notes like a PIN, upload credit card details, documents, and of course it tries to track passwords.

      Passwords are the bane of digital society! Google, mac, 1Pass all vying for supremacy over my passwords. They are all available across devices with varying success at being dependable. When I get a notification that some site has been breached trying to figure which has my latest password is a trial. Getting better though as mac and google try to do better.

      Anyway, 1 Pass is great but it needs to be running, you can get an agent for your browser that really helps. Convenience of accessing and tracking accounts is great but a double edged sword. Your one password needs to be doubly strong if all your accounts are there, as does access to any device set up to access it. Not giving away too much to say I use random words, not made up like pa55word but actual random words. Here is one suggested by 1 pass just now:

      twig gurgle DILUTE cannabis ethics

      Easy enough to remember, but long and random enough to be hard to machine hack. I use their typical generated random letter/number passwords for all other accounts.

      PS, it is imperative that you make some trusted other aware of your one password and how to work the software because your accounts will be very hard to access without it! There is a recovery process involving a long alphanumeric key with instructions that can be printed to hard copy and saved, if you have a safe place to do so. But again, the convenience of storing what could be valuable access to ALL your accounts has the downside of making them all accessible under ONE password .

      • 2

        Being able to just pass off your password manager’s username and password is so smooth and nice for family members when doing estate planning. 

        For my master password, I like to do a pass-sentence. Typing out a sentence makes it long and complex and also very easy to remember and type out. 

        Something like: “I love to eat popsicles all summer long”

      • 4

        One thing I’ve done is to combine what is suggested above with “blocks” on my accounts.

        My credit is frozen – no one can open credit in my name, and the password for unfreezing THAT is not in my “master list”.

        I limited my financial institutions to the smallest number possible, and have set up account restrictions such that if someone tries to charge, transfer, or withdraw more than a certain amount it will be blocked unless I call the bank to pre-approve it.  I can’t withdraw more than a few hundred dollars from an ATM at a time (by my choice).  The accounts also have a “trusted contact” assigned to them such that if there is unusual activity on any account the trusted family contact will be notified.  That way if I’m traveling, sick, or somehow otherwise incapacitated the trusted contact can intervene if someone is messing around with the funds.

        This has been great on many levels.  It has stopped me from overspending!  A few times I tried to make a large purchase and the bank stopped it.  Just the act of having to call them to preauthorize it made me think twice about whether I really needed x, y, or z.  It makes it easy to say no to those endless credit “come ons” at stores – since my credit is frozen, opening a new account is such a pain that I’m just not tempted.  

        I also have my accounts set up so that if they drop below a certain balance I get a text notification, or if my credit card goes above a certain balance I also get a notification.  That way if someone does hack their way into my accounts it minimizes the time between the activity and when I can lock them down. 

        Most banks have these restrictions available but they require proactive intervention on your part; it is not automatic. It used to be that you had to call to set them up, but  now most of them let you set it up online.  And you’ll get a text or email if someone else tries to change those settings, too.  

      • 2

        You’ve done a great job! Not only are you more resistant to identity theft and normal theft, but the steps you enabled gave you other benefits, that I wasn’t even aware of, such as not purchasing as much and opening endless credit cards.