Are You Prepared For the Next Disaster?


Question:  I am hoping sometime you could do an article on what you should take with you (records etc.) in case of a fire. I remember a long time ago you had an article...probably before we were in the digital age....and I could certainly use a refresher article on that subject...since it is such a current worry with the drought,,,,(just heard sirens...and high winds this afternoon).

Answer: It has been a while since I addressed this subject, so thanks for the prompt; it is time for a refresher. Most disaster kits contain items such as water, batteries, food, candles, a flashlight, and a first aid kit. But you will need to function financially once the earthquake, flood, fire, power outage, or terrorist attack is over.

You should gather the items on the following list and put them in a container or backpack that you can quickly grab and carry.

  1. Copies of the past four years’ tax returns. 

  2. Cash -- as much as you need for a week.  Credit card machines and ATM machines won’t be working if the electricity is out.

  3. Copy of the final escrow for home purchase if you own your home and a list of any major improvements to the home and their cost.  You may need these to prove the pre-disaster value of your home.

  4. Copies of important papers such as wills, trusts, birth certificates, citizenship papers, social security cards, green cards, etc.  It is true that you can probably get new certified copies of these documents, but think of the time and money you will save if you have copies to work with.

  5. Copies of the front and back of your ATM and credit cards.

  6. Electronic backup of the data stored on your computer if you don’t use a cloud service such as Carbonite.

  7. Copies of driver’s license(s) for all drivers in the family and the titles and registrations for all the cars you own or lease.

  8. A list of all your current prescription medications including the name and strength of the medication and the telephone numbers for family doctors and pharmacies.

  9. A notebook containing negatives of important family photos and photos of the inside and outside of the house if you don’t have them saved on your computer backup.

  10. Copies of all insurance policies (home, life, auto).

  11. Important telephone numbers for family members, doctors, baby sitters, schools, work numbers, and the telephone number for an out-of-town contact (relative or friend).  These may already reside on your cell phone.

  12. A list of investments and bank accounts with telephone numbers for each.

If you need help getting your information organized and in one place, Hospice Foundation offers a loose-leaf binder $20 ($25 if mailed) entitled "Notes to My Family.”  The binder lets you catalog important information such as the locations of your financial and legal documents.  It even has a place to record the location of the shut off valves for the water and gas lines in your house. The binder also includes front and back pockets where you can stash documents. You can visit the Hospice Foundation office at 80 Garden Court Suite 201 in Monterey, go to their website at, or call them at (831) 333-9023.

Kenneth B. Petersen CFP®, EA, MBA, AIFA® is an investment manager and Principal of Monterey Private Wealth, Inc., a Wealth Management Firm in Monterey.   He welcomes questions that you may have concerning investing, taxes, retirement, or estate planning.  Send your questions to: Ken Petersen, 2340 Garden Road Suite 202, Monterey, CA93940 or email them to