Learn exactly how to set up your very own family emergency binder using this simple step-by-step system and handy free printable Template!
I originally set up our family’s Emergency Binder back in 2012, soon after our first child was born.
As crazy as it might sound, this binder was the peace of mind I needed “just in case” something happened to Dave, to me, or to both of us.
I needed to know that another family member could “easily” take over our home, our finances, my business, our child (now children), in an emergency situation — and this binder seemed like the most organized and efficient way to do that.
At the time, my worst nightmare was not being able to care for my new baby, my business, or our home.
Honestly, this fear is still at the top of my ‘nightmare situations’ list — which is why an Emergency Binder is so important to me!
So… what exactly is a Family Emergency Binder and how can YOU create your own?
I’m glad you asked!
An emergency binder contains all your important documents and information.
The binder should be easily accessible (but not right out in the open) in the event of an emergency or crisis.
Only a few close friends or family members should know how to access your binder.
The Binder We Use:
This is the exact same Samsill Duo Binder we use — however, it looks like there’s only a few available (and only in hot pink!)
Here’s a very similar binder with more in stock.
Personally, I do NOT think you need the exact same binder as we have — just some sort of binder or 3-ring folder that can accommodate several papers in an organized manner.
Why I Created Our Emergency Binder:
Along with the reasons I mentioned above, I am personally “in charge of” all the finances for our household.
I pay the bills, manage the finances, log into our online accounts, set up new accounts, run my business, and make sure our household and our finances run smoothly every month.
Yes, Dave knows the “big picture” about what’s going on with our finances (and I have almost all financial matters set to auto-pay). However, he would be at a loss if he needed specific log-in information for various accounts (especially my business accounts).
I want to know that these important functions can be completed whether I am around and able to do them or not.
Also, as I’ll share more about below, our important emergency binder contains names, addresses, and contact information for very important people that should be notified if something happened to us. No one in our families would know who to contact or how to contact them without this binder.
And finally, I personally use our binder on a very regular basis! It’s a handy tool to quickly look up an account number, find a password, access contact information, etc.
Know that I have all our family’s important information in once place gives me the reassurances that I’ve done everything I can do to make it as easy as possible IF anyone else needs to step into my shoes or “take over my life” for awhile.
Why YOU Need an Emergency Binder!
In my opinion, I feel EVERY household should have some type of organized system to store all their important papers for potential emergency situations — even if you don’t have children, even if you’re single, even if you’re young, even if you’re very old and think you have all your “ducks in a row”.
You just never know when a crisis or emergency might happen.
- Serious injury
- Longterm disability
- Mental instability
- Physical limitations
- Chronic pain or illness
- Displacement (being stuck overseas or stranded without being to travel home again)
The above situations are just a few of the many reasons you might need extra outside help from family and friends. And you know what would make life SOOOOO much simpler, easier, and less stressful for those friends and family members who are trying to take over for you?
An Emergency Binder!
Since I first shared our family’s Emergency Binder on my blog, I have gotten hundreds of comments and emails from people I’ve never met, gushing on and on about how that post was just the encouragement and motivation they needed to FINALLY get their important papers organized and in ONE place!
I’ve read heart-warming stories of how these binders have simplified the lives of complete strangers — reducing anxiety, creating more order and structure, and providing peace of mind.
I’ve also gotten emails from readers who shared their nightmare stories… explaining that if it weren’t for the fact that they had followed my instructions to create their own Emergency Binder, they would have been totally lost.
It’s hard to think about these worst-case-scenario situations… but I’d always rather be prepared “just in case”.
Are you ready to set up your own Family Emergency Binder?
If so, start by reading through the list below to see how WE set up OUR binder.
Then download a copy of my FREE Family Emergency Binder Template (at the end of the post). You’ll get access to the Word document, an editable PDF document, and a Google Doc.
Next, gather all your important documents.
Finally, organize everything, by category (noted on Cover Sheets) in some type of binder.
See… not too bad. Right!?
Wondering what documents to put in your binder?
Here’s a quick run-down of exactly how I set our binder up… this should give you some inspiration!
NOTE: I usually make photocopies of our important documents for our binder and keep the originals in our fire-proof safe. Sometimes, depending on the document, I keep the originals directly in the binder.
- Business cards for all our “VIPS” (bank managers, financial investors, accountant, attorney, website developer for my blog, doctors, dentist, mechanic, school contact information, etc.)
- Information regarding the whereabouts of our fireproof safe and the key
PERSONAL INFO SECTION:
- Cover Sheet (this is the downloadable document I provide)
- Photocopy of our Marriage License
- Photocopies of Dave’s and my Driver’s Licenses, Social Security Cards, Birth Certificates, and Passports
- Dave’s most recent teaching certificate
- Each of our children’s Birth Certificates, Social Security Cards, Baptism Certificate, and immunization records
FINANCIAL INFO SECTION:
- Cover Sheet (account numbers, usernames, and passwords for all our bank accounts and investment accounts)
- A signed agreement from our financial investor
- A listing of all my Savings Bond numbers, valuation, and expiration dates (I got SO many growing up)
- Statements showing our student loans were paid in full
INSURANCE INFO SECTION:
- Cover Sheet
- The current “Annual Report” for both Dave and my life insurance policies
- The contract for our health and dental insurance
- A booklet of information regarding Dave’s life insurance through his school (in the back accordion section of our binder)
- A booklet of information regarding Dave and my extra life insurance (in the back accordion section of our binder)
- A booklet of information regarding our health insurance (in the back accordion section of our binder)
HOME & AUTO INFO SECTION:
- Cover Sheet (account numbers, usernames, and passwords for all utilities and other accounts pertaining to home and auto)
- Official Warranty Deed showing that all real estate we own is actually owned by our Living Trust, not Dave and I personally
- Information for our home title, purchase agreement, certificate of survey for our property, and the mortgage payoff
- Most recent Property Assessment and Taxable Valuation Report
- Information for our home and auto insurance
- Certificate of Title, Michigan Registration, and License Plate Renewal Notice for each vehicle
RETIREMENT INFO SECTION:
- Cover Sheet
- Information for Dave’s school’s pension plan
- Information for each of our Roth IRA’s
- Dave’s most recent Social Security Statement
- Document showing that all our retirement accounts are property of our Living Trust
MY BUSINESS INFO SECTION:
- Cover Sheet
- My most recent LLC filing
- My most recent signed W-9
- My Business filing through the state
- My Employer Identification information through the IRS
- A document from the IRS stating that I file taxes as an S-corporation even though I’m technically an LLC
- A Membership Certificate stating that my business is owned by me and that the ownership transfers to our Living Trust if anything happens to me.
Whew, I think that’s everything!
A Bit More About the Free Workbook:
This FREE printable workbook serves as a simple template to help you compile all your important information and emergency contacts in one easy-to-access location.
- phone numbers and email addresses
- usernames and passwords
- specific account numbers and information
- contact information for VIP’s
- etc. etc.
The at-a-glance “cover sheets” can be printed on one piece of paper each, and put at the beginning of each section in your binder.
This makes it super easy to locate and access your family’s most important information at a moment’s notice.
Yes, it will take a bit of work to compile all the necessary information (especially if you have lots of different accounts). But once it’s done, your Emergency Binder will require very little maintenance.
How often should you update the information in your binder?
I update our family’s binder at the beginning of every calendar year, or if we have a major life-change in the middle of a year (new home/address, changing insurance companies, a new baby with a new SSN, etc.)
This seems to work well for our lifestyle. However, you’ll want to decide what works best for you and your family.
Thanks to my printable workbook, it’s super quick and easy to update this document and print off a new copy every year.
I can usually get everything updated and the new documents printed off in about 30 minutes!
Where should you store your Emergency Binder?
After I fill out the workbook, I save one copy to my portable hard drive, another “encrypted” copy to Dropbox, and then I print off a hardcopy to actually put IN the binder itself.
We store our physical binder in a convenient location in our home that we can easily access.
Both our parents know where the binder is located as they would most likely be the people who would “take over” for a while if we couldn’t.
Here are some ideas of where you might store your binder:
- With cookbooks in the kitchen
- With photo albums in the living room
- Out in plain sight labeled “family vacation” or “favorite memories”
- On the tool bench in the basement
- In the game cabinet
- With craft supplies
- In the office labeled “to-do’s” or “manuals”
I know many people keep all their important information locked away for safe-keeping. However, I figure that if a thief came into my home, they would probably look for a fireproof safe before they bothered looking for cookbooks, family photo albums, craft supplies, or in the game cabinet.
At least that’s my theory!
Plus, as I mentioned above, we actually use our Emergency Binder on a regular basis, so it’s nice to have it easily accessible and not buried away in our safe.
I am 100% confident this binder will be a huge help in ANY type of emergency situation.
I can’t tell you how much peace of mind it gives me on a daily basis!
I hope this information and free workbook motivate you to create your own Family Emergency Binder. I know you will never regret it!