Red File – Your Grab & Go Case for Emergency Situations
Print related fact sheet (382 K PDF)
Devastating disasters like a flood are a vivid reminder of life’s uncertainty.
Have you ever wondered what you would do if you suddenly became a victim of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, fire, or other unexpected event? Would you know what to grab if you only had minutes to escape your home?
The plans you've made in advance and what you choose to take with you will influence how quickly you rebound from disaster (whether you have the information to file claims, contact information for accounts, etc.).
National agencies that work with disasters recommend that important items be gathered and kept in a file case in a place where all family members can quickly “grab it and go.” Make sure that your file case is small enough to easily fit in a backpack or other small travel bag. The following information should be in your file case:
List of vital information
- Contact information (family members, financial advisors, attorneys, accountants, bankers, employers, doctors, etc.)
- Insurance policy information (homeowners, renters, vehicle, health, etc.)
- Bank, credit union, and credit card account information and phone numbers
Use the Roadmap for Important Papers (279 K PDF) to help you organize this information.
Photocopies of important papers
- Birth and marriage certificates and/or divorce decrees
- Social Security cards of household members
- Driver’s license and other wallet cards
- Will and/or trust documents; Powers of Attorney
- Recent income tax return
- Passports and/or other identity documents
- Military discharge papers
- List of your prescriptions – name of medication, dosage, pharmacy, etc.
See "Replacing Your Important Papers" if any important papers are missing.
- Safe deposit box keys and/or safe combination
- Computer usernames and passwords; CD with relevant personal, financial, and legal files
- Some emergency cash
Electronic Red File
If you have access to a secure server and internet connection, make an electronic Red File.
- Scan your official documents to make electronic copies.
- Send these documents to yourself in an email so that you can access them from any internet-connected computer, or
- save copies of these documents on one or more CDs or USB drives and then store them somewhere outside your home that is secure (a locked cabinet at your work, with a trusted friend or family member, etc.).
- Include an electronic copy of your completed Roadmap for Important Papers.
Remember that you will still want to store original hard copy documents in a safe place.
See the Related Video or Audio:
Do You Have a Grab & Go File?
FEMA — United States Department of Homeland Security. (n.d.) Ready.gov. Washington, D.C.: FEMA — United States Department of Homeland Security
List It or Lose It — The Case for Household and Property Inventory — Tips for doing an inventory of your personal property.
Roadmap for Important Papers (279 K PDF) — Interactive form to help you organize all your important information.
Disaster Recovery — Resources for your family following a disaster. Includes the Recovery After Disaster: The Family Financial Toolkit.
Extreme Weather — Extension resources for floods, wind damage, winter impacts, and more.