Document kits can help protect personal records from disaster
Ready Army logo - Get a Kit - Make a Plan - Be Informed
Story by: Katherine Rosario
1st Inf. Div. Post
Ready Army, a campaign aimed to increase resilience throughout the Army by providing hazard prevention information to Families, encourages Soldiers and Families to make a personal and financial records kit.
Whether it's after a natural disaster or a Soldier or Family member just can't seem to find an important bill, keeping records in one, easily accessible kit can make locating documents quicker.
Erik Stewart, installation emergency management specialist, said personal and financial records should be kept as long as they are pertinent.
"The Internal Revenue Service recommends keeping tax returns for three years, unless you have extenuating circumstances (fraudulent return, bankruptcy, etc.), then you should keep them forever," he said.
Keeping an electronic or hard copy of utility bills can help a person who runs a business out of their home when it comes time to itemize their taxes. Utility bills also help prove residency and provide account numbers and contact information for the provider, Stewart said.
Other important records to keep close at hand are previous year's tax returns.
Stewart also recommends Soldiers always keep an end of the year Leave and Earning Statement handy.
It is important to always have an extra copy of records, he said. One way of keeping copies is by scanning and saving documents to a CD or backup drive.
Sealing records in an airtight bag and placing them inside a fireproof box is another good way to keep originals and copies safe, he added.
"You should maintain a hard copy of all important documents. If the disaster is large enough, power will be diverted to critical areas such as hospitals and shelters for heating or cooling. You may not be able to access computerized documents. Some documents, such as wills and powers of attorney, must be original and signed ink," Stewart said.
Many people turn to safety deposit boxes at banks to keep their items secure. However, sometimes keeping those items at home may be better.
"Safety deposit boxes are a tricky thing," Stewart said. "They are not covered under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. You need to have separate insurance to cover the items that are maintained there. Plus, if the disaster is large enough, the bank most likely won't be open to retrieve items and/or documents."
Any notes or high valued items paid in full, such as a loan, should be kept in a kit as well.
"Keep a hard copy of your address book and keep it in your fireproof box," Stewart said. "I also recommend keeping a list of any regular medications you, your Family and pets take on a regular basis."