|The images from the recent wildfires in California are heartbreaking—families fleeing their neighborhoods at a moment's notice, people returning to find their homes reduced to ashes and their most precious possessions gone forever. With help pouring in from all over the country, Californians are already starting to rebuild.
But the threat of fire isn't unique to California. In fact, the US Fire Administration estimates that fires nationwide caused more than $11 billion in property damage in 2007. Although 91% of Americans agree it's important to prepare for a disaster, only slightly more than half have taken steps to do so.
One great way to make sure you're prepared is to get a fireproof safe. What should you store it in? Here's a list of the top 10 suggested items to keep in your fireproof safe:
- Current insurance policies and agent contact information. You'll need this information right away if your house suffers damage in a fire.
- Your family's passports and original birth certificates. These can be a hassle to replace and will come in handy to establish your identity for other purposes.
- A list of your family's doctors, prescription medications, and contact information for all pharmacies you use. You may need these to get new supplies of medications you use on a regular basis.
- CDs or an external hard drive containing digital copies of all family photos. It's a good idea to scan all older family photos and keep a digital copy of them as well. Your family memories as preserved in photos are irreplaceable.
- Safety deposit box keys. If you store valuables at the bank, you'll want to make sure you can access them in the event of an emergency.
- Important papers related to investments, retirement plans, bank accounts, and associated contact information. You may need ready access to funds.
- Information on your outstanding debts, due dates, and contact information. It's important to keep tabs on your finances and protect your credit, even if you're displaced by a fire.
- Original Social Security cards. These can be difficult to replace and may be needed to establish eligibility for aid.
- Copies of your important legal documents, including powers of attorney, living wills, health care proxies—both for yourself and for anyone else for whom you are designated attorney-in-fact or health care surrogate. Having access to these can help ensure the protection they were created to provide.
- Copy of family wills and all wills in which you are designated the executor. It's important to safeguard wills so that loved ones are taken care of.