Friday, February 10, 2012

Emergency! Prepping for Total Destruction

Over a century and a half old
but it could be ashes in two hours.
     I have spent hours today performing a task that I hope will be a waste of time, but will in any case provide a small measure of peace of mind. I gathered all the important papers I could think of and made copies to be kept off-site in case, heaven forbid, this house should ever be destroyed.
       No, this is not a happy thought, and it's something we all take for granted will not happen to us, but it could. Our house is a 160-year-old tinderbox. We use woodburning stoves for heat and a gas stove for cooking. Cold weather drives mice inside. They love chewing on electrical wires. Once a fire started here the place would be fully involved within minutes and a pile of smoking rubble soon afterwards. Before my husband's family moved here many years ago, a micro burst destroyed the horse barn. It could just as well have been the house. The original barn was torched nearly a century ago, we are told, by a fired hired hand. Someone could set fire to the place just to see it burn. We have occasional tornadoes here, too.
       While I don't expect any of these things to happen, I am taking what action I can to prepare for the worst. If you lost everything in a fire, for instance, how would you start to put your life back together?  Having names of companies to call, their phone numbers and your account numbers available will help you deal with this ordeal at a time when you are least prepared emotionally to do so.
       Here is a partial list of information you might want to have copies of kept elsewhere, as in a safe deposit box or a relative's home safe. For some of these all you may need is a company name and contact number. For others you may want the full document.
       Birth certificates, marriage certificate, last will and testament, inoculation records, health insurance documents, drivers' licenses, social security documents, school records, income tax records, property tax information, automobile titles, mortgage information, auto and homeowner's insurance, banking information, credit card information, and information on pensions, annuities, 401Ks, stocks and bonds, and prepaid services like funeral arrangements.
       If you don't have a home safe, think seriously about getting one. While a portable-sized safe won't stop a thief, it should protect your papers from destruction by fire. Keeping a second or even a third set elsewhere as backup should insure that the papers will be available when you need them.
       When I finished (more or less) copying my pile of documents, I realized that the task was barely begun. If this place burns to the ground (shudder) everything inside will be history. Some things, of course, will be irreplaceable, like photographs and original art work, but the insurance company will demand a list of everything they are supposedly covering. That means taking a thorough written inventory of the contents of your house, with photographs or a video, and what you paid backed up by receipts if possible, or perhaps replacement cost if it has been a long time since the item was purchased. All this should go into storage with the paperwork listed above.
       I loath this sort of prepping as much as I loath the need for it. Now is about as perfect a time for this task as any, while the snow flies and you are more limited in outside activities. I urge you to do more than think about this. Do it now. You may be one of the unlucky ones who have to deal with the heartbreaking loss of nearly everything that you have worked a lifetime to attain.

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