~~ How to protect your important documents and possessions.
01) Take control of your family documents and records.
Do you have quick and immediate access to all your family's important documents? Do you have access to yours or your children's health card info? What about passwords or other financial data? If an emergency happens right now, would all of your vital documents and records be destroyed?
If you have not stopped and thought about the potential of being in this type of situation, you need to seriously consider a strategy for recording and storing vital family records and documents. There really is much more to organizing important information than just throwing it in a drawer or box.
Every family or person needs to have a place for important documents and figure out a system for getting organized and protecting important information.
02) Create computer files.
Computers play an important role in our day to day life. Now make sure that it helps with important paperwork in case of an emergency. Start by creating a family documents folder. Take some time and create files that record all of your critical information. You should include everything that could be forgotten, destroyed, or lost. I suggest that you do not create these documents in proprietary software. Stick to simple text based documents. This way you can access them on any system with no formatting or other issues. If needed use Templates from Word documents or other online sources but keep the files text based.
You can also scan important documents. Save these files as jpg or other widely accessible picture formats so that you can access them later. Doing this will take up more space but is helpful in situations where you cannot recreate the file in pure text format.
03) Classify your most important documents.
Honestly you should prepare for every type of emergency like a computer crash, natural disaster, or even the unthinkable like death. Make sure to keep a list of all of your important numbers and contacts as well as potential future instructions if family members die. The most essential documents should be stored are: birth certificates, social security and health insurance cards, passports, driver\'s licenses, immunization records, credit cards, wills, power of attorney, insurance policies, bank account numbers, bank locations, computer passwords, etc. This is where scanning can be very useful to help with some of this data.
You should also really list the names and full contact information of your lawyer, accountant, brokers, and any other professional involved in your family\'s affairs.
04) Document your assets Digitally.
A) Create an insurance movie.
No matter what type of disaster, you might and likely will lose something of value to you. It does not matter whether it is a prized toy or picture from your childhood or the latest electronic gadget. If you attempt to replace those losses, it is very helpful to produce some documentation of what you owned before the disaster. Receipts, photos, or videos can be very helpful and with the advent of today's technology a picture or video archive is perfect for proof of ownership.
With a digital video camera you can record the items you own and edit the movie with software like Microsoft Windows Movie Maker available in Windows XP. Then you can burn the video onto a CD or DVD so that you have evidence you did possess the items in question.
A digital picture camera can do basically the same thing and still be edited together as a slide show for easy showing. Digital pictures can take up less space than video if you set the resolution smaller. Make sure though not to make it too small so you do not lose details of the item. You can record audio as well and create a podcast of everything you own to go along with the pictures.
What you will need:
-- Digital video (DV) camera or Digital Camera.
-- CD/DVD burner.
-- Digital video editing software.
B) Capturing the raw footage.
05) Protect your files.
Here is the problem when storing files on the computer or some other location. You need to make sure it is protected. Unless you have a home computer environment set up like Fort Knox, you want to make sure outsiders do not gain access to your computer and this sensitive information. This added level of protection can help as well as hurt you if you do not do it right.
If you use built in encryption you must make sure to keep a copy of the security certificates. If you use another type of security encryption like TrueCrypt, PGP, GPG, or any of the others out there make sure you have a copy of their software along with your documents. Also do not forget the password or however you encrypted the files. Lastly, if using encryption or other means of data protection make sure you keep it up to date with one of the latest versions so you do not have compatibility issues later on.
06) Triple protect.
Store your data in any format you want like a small portable hard drive, CD, DVD, or any other medium is acceptable as long as you can access it later. When all this is done, you must create a backup and store it in another location like a safety box or somewhere else. It is also very helpful to store a third copy somewhere out of state or far away as added protection. You could also consider giving a copy to your lawyer or some other person you trust. Everyone should have an emergency backpack or something and you could consider keeping your files there. In an emergency you should not spend any time getting this important data because you have it at other locations but if it is accessible as you leave the house then you have an added benefit. No matter what do not put your life in jeopardy for the data.
07) Keep things up to date.
Archiving your assets and other important documents should be a practice that becomes a regular habit. You could update your archive every spring when the time changes, or perhaps when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors. For the video information you only need to shoot new acquisitions. The process takes little time and considering the potential cost of not doing it makes it well worth the time.