Get important papers ready to go

Published May 29, 2005

Now, while skies are clear, think about the paperwork you'll need to take with you in case of a hurricane. Prepare a hurricane file for papers you'll need immediately, and place other valuable documents somewhere hurricane-proof, such as a safe deposit box.

Ask yourself these questions as you decide what to take:

Will I need this to function immediately? For example, you will need money, so take your checkbook, ATM card and credit cards. Take your driver's license.

If power is out, ATMs may not be functioning. Cash can be your lifeline to buy food, bargain for a generator or pay to move a tree off your house. Keep your credit cards in a safe place.

Take health records, particularly if you require medication or have a chronic illness.

Will I need this immediately to prove I'm eligible for benefits? If you're already receiving food stamps, unemployment compensation or other benefits, take your card or other documentation that shows you're eligible. Take your health care provider ID card.

Many people lost their jobs when Hurricane Andrew destroyed their workplaces. Take along a pay stub or other documentation to file for unemployment.

Take naturalization papers, your passport if you're not a U.S. citizen, or your green card.

Will I need this immediately to document an insurance claim? Pack all your insurance policies - car, homeowners or renters, flood, health. After a storm, insurance companies will set up emergency claims centers, and you may be dealing with an agent who doesn't know you. Records may be unavailable and computers may not be functioning, so you'll need your policy to prove you're insured.

How hard is this to replace? Everyone has important papers - birth, marriage and death certificates, Social Security cards, passports, car titles, etc. You may need few, if any, of these immediately.