Protecting Important Information During An Emergency: The Ultimate Survival Binder

 

Survival Binder_final

Preparedness is all about protecting what is most important, so it makes perfect sense to spend time keeping the information you need safe and secure no matter what happens. Everything from tax documents and legal identification to canning instructions and local maps could be vital to making it through an emergency. That’s why I recommend creating a survival binder: a collection of all the most important information that you need to survive and thrive during and after a disaster.

 

What Goes Into The Binder?

There are two primary considerations when you’re choosing what to put into your survival binder. Firstly, many people who prepare assemble large survival-related libraries on every topic including medical, outdoors, and personal defense skills. Unfortunately, actually carrying your entire library is somewhat impractical (unless you make it more portable, see “electronic helpers” below) so your binder will need to be streamlined somewhat. This is actually a good thing, though, since you’ll be able to trim the fat a bit and only include information that’s immediately practical to you. For example, the Gardening section below might not be of much use if you don’t plan on gardening or if you live in an area not conducive to growing much.

Secondly, remember that even major disasters don’t necessarily plunge humanity into the Dark Ages without government or law. For example, during the Dust Bowl that destroyed much of the Midwest in the middle of the Great Depression, the Federal government actually expanded its reach rather than collapsing. It was a time of economic disaster and severe drought, but legal documents and identifying papers were still needed and very much useful. Include documents and information that you’d need whether law and order still exist or not, so that you’re fully prepared.

With that in mind, here’s a simple list of suggested items:

Personal and Legal Information

  • Social Security numbers/cards
  • Health,Life, Home and Auto insurance numbers
  • Passports
  • Copies of wills and other related instructions
  • Weapons related licenses, tax stamps, permits etc.

    Supporting Documents for Passport

    Copies of important documents can be vital after an emergency.

  • Bank account numbers
  • Spare credit cards
  • Passwords to all important internet accounts, including online banking and credit cards.
  • Blood type for all household members,
  • Commonly taken medications (if any)
  • Prescriptions (if any)
  • Any allergies listed by person
  • Immunization records (Particularly valuable in the event of outbreaks to have a chance to get through checkpoints)
  • Tax records
  • Deeds
  • Titles
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Stock and Bond documentation
  • Personal contact info, including relatives and friends
  • Current photos of all family members, especially children and mentally disabled, for proof of guardianship and relation.
  • Photos of particularly valuable or insured objects.
  • Rental agreements
  • Loan and Mortgage documentation
  • All licenses and certifications, including college degrees, medical licenses, and even computer course completion certificates.

Local Reference Materials

  • Lists of helpful/harmful plants, fungi/mushrooms, bugs, birds, and animals that live in your state/region. Consult local guidebooks for a good source, or your county/state extension.
  • Maps of each state, especially your own, and a large map of the U.S.

    Topographic_map_example

    A topographic map can be very helpful in seeing elevation and contours of the land.

  • A topographic map of your state.
  • A climate hardiness zone map (such as this one from the USDA).
  • An avg. last frost date map (like this Weather Channel one).
  • Data from your own gardening journals, if any. Take the whole journal if small, but if not focus on frost dates, common times for temperature changes or extreme weather.
  • A list of local police stations/sheriff’s offices, with contact information.
  • A list of gun laws by state, particularly your own and any neighboring states. The Gun Laws By State Website is an excellent resource for basic laws.
  • At least one small, durable map with multiple routes to bugout locations, friends and relatives, and means of leaving the county/state marked.

Medical*

  • An inventory list of all medications and prescriptions. Include dosage amounts and expiration dates.
  • A list of replacement medications for each type you use or store, including generic and brand names, for use in trade or when purchasing.
  • A list of all other medical equipment including splints, bandages, gauze, etc: if you have multiple first-aid/trauma kits, this should be a master list. If you like, separate items by kit.
  • Instructions on basic hygiene without running water/power, including brushing teeth, washing, doing dishes and laundry.
  • Instructions on dealing with common irritants, including lice, poison ivy/oak/sumac, minor bug bites etc. Include homemade cleaning recipes if possible.
  • Instructions on handling corpses of people, animals etc. to reduce disease risk.
  • Instructions on using, maintaining, and cleaning specific medical apparatus you require (sugar testers for diabetics, for example).
  • Basic instructions for CPR.
  • Detailed instructions for dealing with wounds based on the skill of your household. If possible, example pictures of the procedure in question can be helpful.

*Medical, more than almost any other group, should be updated constantly as new medical information comes out. Update the whole list at least once a year, ideally twice a year if possible.

 

Food

  • A list of all food you have stocked, with expiration dates listed.
  • Include a note to emphasize household food-related allergies.
  • Recipes for canning goods using both water-bath and pressure cooker methods. Ball’s Fresh Preserving website is an excellent resource and includes some helpful guides.
  • Recipes for simple foods, using staples like beans, rice, and wheat with stored spices.
  • Instructions for simple snares and traps, particularly for rabbits and other small game.
  • Guides for processing local wildlife including rabbits, squirrels, snakes, frogs, and various birds. If any local wildlife is poisonous to eat or touch, or otherwise inedible, note it.
  • Guides for processing large game including deer, moose, elk, bear etc. Include preservation techniques owing to the large amount of meat.
  • Instructions for safe, discreet disposal of any waste from animal processing.

Livestock (Could be a subsection of Food if you like)

Bacon

Detailed instructions for acquiring bacon: required!

  • Updated list of total livestock, listed by animal type. Include identifying marks (ear tags etc).
  • List of any animal medications available, with dosage and expiration dates listed.
  • List of replacements for any animal medications, including brand and generic names, for trade or purchasing purposes.
  • Simple guide for day-to-day care and feeding, with additional instructions for if power and running water not available.
  • Include charts for animal production. Egg production for chickens, milk for cows and goats, healthy offspring etc. This helps make decisions when culling.
  • Detailed instructions for helping animals give birth.
  • Detailed instructions on essential medical care for livestock, including pictures if possible.
  • Detailed instructions on processing all livestock.

Garden 

  • Seed planting guides from previous years.
  • Seed saving guides for each plant in your garden/seed bank.
  • Care guides and common plant ailments checklist. Include common remedies.
  • Diagrams for building cold frames and other gardening structures.
  • Common plant problems from years past, including pest infestations and diseases.

Water

  • Instructions on using all purification methods you plan to use, including purification times and means of storage.
  • List of all stored water, if any, by container size.
  • If using chemical purification, include list of purifiers such as bleach.
  • List of nearby water sources and relative cleanliness.
  • Instructions on constructing simple water distilling/purifying systems.

Firearms

  • List of all serial numbers.
  • Instructions on disassembly, cleaning, and other maintenance. Include notes if weapon uses corrosive ammunition or needs other special care.
  • List of magazines for each weapon, with capacity.
  • List of all ammunition by caliber and type (hollow point, armor piercing, etc)
  • Instructions on reloading ammunition, including powder charts.

Electrionic Helpers

Cartridge_USB

Some USB Sticks can even hide in plain sight…

Although some situations make electronics into a liability, there are cases where the situation is not immediately extreme enough to make them useless right off the bat. Therefore, I always recommend keeping a copy of your entire binder in a small USB drive. If you want, you could even make several to stash with family, and keep one with the binder as a “master key”.

I’m also a fan of using smaller tablets and smart gadgets that have book reading apps available. I personally use the Kindle owing to its long battery life, but any tablet or even a smartphone would make a good choice for storing your prepping binder. For that matter, you could store your entire survival library in one small pouch in a backpack by putting them into PDF form and saving them onto your tablet. Although not really suitable for long-term grid down situations, that kind of easy access to every single book you own should not be discounted. A wide variety of short-term disasters can have the ability for you to access power in some way, and being able to call up identifying documents or a helpful survival book could be invaluable.

Where To Keep the Binder

Obviously this is going to be a large binder, and is chock full of very personal information that could cause great harm in the wrong hands. You’ll want to keep this with you in your primary residence, if you plan on bugging-in during an emergency. If you plan on bugging-out instead, include mainly a few personal documents and medical information in a smaller folder with you, and leave the bulk of the folder tucked away at your final destination.

 

I recommend keeping the binder hidden in plain sight: its a binder, so it’s already boring. A huge binder stuffed in with tax documents or next to old photo albums isn’t going to raise an eyebrow, and thieves likely won’t be looking to take largely worthless paper. To really seal the deal, mark it with an innocuous name, like “tax records 1985″ or “Family Reunion 2,002″, and shove it next to a couple encyclopedias, in a thick, heavy filing cabinet or with some old photos.

Final Thoughts

This could be just the tip of the iceberg! Again, remember to take only what you need into this binder, but include as much as you can of what you do need. Be detailed when it comes to diagrams and instructions, since you may not have the ability to get that recipe off of a website or to look up pictures once the emergency is in full swing. I might also suggest including a simple checklist in the very front of your binder, which includes basic “what to do if an emergency hits” instructions for when you don’t have the time to search through the whole thing for specific information.

Information is vital to survival in any situation, and emergencies are no exception. Ensure that you have all the knowledge you’ll need no matter what may come.

 

What’s in your binder?

Obviously each person’s binder has different concerns based on their own needs. What would you include in your own binder? Let us know!

 

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Comments

  1. Rev. Dr. Michael E Harris says:

    While I have read all of these suggestions before, this is the first time I have seen anyone put them all together. Thanks.

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