Weekend Projects

There’s One Organizing Project Most People Never Finish—And It Could Save You in an Emergency

published May 23, 2019
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Credit: Viv Yapp

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Disaster preparedness is not a fun topic, but actualizing it rather than shoving the thought aside is a far better way to hush that nagging voice. When it comes to house fires, it’s easy to succumb to the dangerous “Oh, that will never happen” mentality, but for over 355,000 households in the U.S. a year, the seeming inevitability becomes a terrifying reality.

This weekend, we’re going to do something we should have done long ago (if we haven’t already) and organize our important documents into a firesafe box.

This weekend: Buy a firesafe box and put important documents in it

Before discussing what items to put in the firesafe box, it’s important to note a few things about the boxes themselves:

  • Not all firesafe boxes are waterproof. Place documents in plastic before storing them in the box, or purchase a firesafe box that’s waterproof.
  • At high temperatures, firesafe boxes won’t prevent plastic items like USB drives or SD cards from melting. Look for this rating as well.
  • Consider thieves and a firebox with a lock mechanism that will prevent important documents from getting into the wrong hands.
  • Also consider storing the firesafe box in an inconspicuous location.

Check out these recommendations for top-rated fireboxes from The Spruce and Wirecutter.

Store These Documents In Your Firesafe Box

In general, the documents you’ll want to put in your firesafe box are those that are difficult to replace. While many of these items used to be stored in safety deposit boxes, these days, many of us just hang on to them at home. But it’s important to keep them safe if disaster strikes.

Here are the items you should store in your firesafe box:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Social security cards
  • Passports
  • Wills (yours and those for which you’re an executor)
  • Medical directives, power of attorneys, health care proxies (yours and those you’re named in)
  • Financial papers that include your bank and other account information
  • Property titles
  • Car titles
  • Home inventory information
  • Insurance information (home, car, and medical)
  • Medical information, including doctor’s contact information, prescription medication and pharmacy details, and emergency contact information
  • Cash
  • Spare car keys
  • Rarely worn valuable jewelry
  • Funerary directives
  • Hard drives, memory cards, or USB keys containing scans of old family photos and/or copies of digital family photos

Digital Storage

Storing important items digitally is a great backup option. Aside from the obvious benefit of not taking up space, it’s easy to share and access your information, should the occasion arise. But you shouldn’t rely on digital storage in lieu of a firesafe box.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding how to use digital storage to supplement your firesafe box storage:

  • Digital storage is susceptible also, from security breaches, ransomware, data failure, and viruses.
  • Think twice about the risk if someone were to get their hands on your personal information, such as your social security number. Are the possible repercussions worth the convenience of storing that information digitally?
  • Make sure you phone and computer are password protected in case they get stolen or into the wrong hands.
  • Beware of temporary files and your cache when you scan documents. Clear them.
  • Make sure you wipe your disks if you donate or sell your devices.
  • Back up your data.
  • Consider implementing the 3-2-1 rule: have three copies of your important documents, stored in at least two different ways, with one of those being offsite.

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You can catch up with weekend projects right here. Share your progress with us and others by posting updates and photos on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #atweekendproject.

Remember: This is about improvement, not perfection. Each week you can either choose to work on the assignment we’ve sent you, or tackle another project you’ve been meaning to get to. It’s also completely okay to skip a weekend if you’re busy or not feeling the assignment