Having emergency documents in place is a critical part of being prepared. The idea of being prepared for both known and unknown future disasters is not new. For over a century the Boy Scout Motto has been “Be Prepared.” Many organizations have encouraged people to organize their lives and resources so that they are ready for the inevitable emergencies that are just part of life. The newly coined label “prepper” and its cousin “survivalist” are mostly just good marketing and packaging by people who want to sell you something based on your fear. It is well said that “if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”
The purpose of this article is to help you prepare your emergency documents so that you will have less reason to fear when (not if) you experience your own share of life’s challenges.
The most common emergencies we face are not full scale war, zombie apocalypse or complete social melt-down. Everyone at one time or another will have to deal with day-to-day difficulties that interrupt our normal patterns and resources. Most of such emergencies will be a temporary short term crisis like the loss of a job, extreme weather conditions, medical emergencies, or incapacity and age related issues for a family member. Even nasty events such as riots, social unrest, civil strife, and militant conflict have a life cycle and don’t last forever. True preparation is about looking through the emergency to what happens afterwords, not just dealing with the emergency itself.
Smart people have always known that if you eat right and exercise, you stay healthier in adverse conditions. Likewise if you have a spare tire, jumper cables, a few simple tools, and a first aid kit in your car, you can handle basic roadside emergencies. Setting aside some basic food items, water, and other supplies in your home can make a weather anomaly or power outage much less threatening. A 72-hour kit in a backpack is great for an emergency “get out of town fast” situation, but more likely to be used for a spontaneous weekend at grandma’s house. Likewise, “proactive law” is about having certain legal and medical emergency documents in place before you need them, so that when you need them, you are ready.
The opportunity for preparation is lost once the crisis has begun.
In addition to having an appropriate inventory of food, water, medicine, equipment, self-defense, and other such supplies to help with physical survival, there are certain documents that will be essential in crisis situations. Some of these documents are necessary just to travel, even if there is no emergency. They ought to be stored in plastic protective sleeves. Even if not stored in a water proof container, such a container should be readily available so you can grab your essential papers and take them with you. In some instances, digital copies on a thumb drive or other storage media may be sufficient. But if you might ever need to access the document or the information in the absence of the technology required to read such media, a paper copy is a must.
This list of emergency documents is the result of counseling hundreds of families through all varieties of crisis over the last few decades. This is not an exhaustive list. You may require other documents that are not mentioned here. Likewise, some of the listed emergency documents may not fit your particular needs. (Your feedback is welcome if you wish to supplement or comment on this list.) This list is a resource you can use to identify for yourself what emergency documents you and your family will need.
Without certain documents, travel may be very difficult or impossible. The major documents to have ready for travel include:
Traveling with children, particularly in an emergency, can be complicated. In addition to their obvious physical and emotional dependency on the adults in their lives, the adults accompanying children must have the legal authority to make emergency medical and custodial decisions on their behalf. These documents are important in any event. A state of emergency only serves to increases that importance.
In a melt down situation, whether it is just a change in employment or severe social turmoil, what are the chances that you or someone close to you will have a medical emergency? It may be appropriate to provide some of these medical documents in advance to your ongoing health care providers and institutions. It may also be both sufficient and very helpful for your attorney or another service provider to have copies or originals so that they can forward these instruments to your health care providers in an emergency.
For casual travel, having a copy of some of the documents listed below may be overkill. But for emergency situations, knowing where the hard copy can be found and having access as a practical matter is vital.
If you do not take action, reading this article was a waste of your time and writing it was a waste of mine. Now that you know something, do something.