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Red File – Your Grab & Go Case for Emergency Situations

Rosemary K. Heins, Extension Educator — Family Resource Management

Reviewed March 2014 by Sara Croymans, Extension Educator — Family Resource Management

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

Use the Roadmap for Important Papers (279 K PDF) to help you organize this information.

Photocopies of important papers

See "Replacing Your Important Papers" if any important papers are missing.

Other items

Electronic Red File

If you have access to a secure server and internet connection, make an electronic Red File.

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?

Do You have a "Grab and Go" File?

Rosemary K. Heins, Extension Educator — Family Resource Management

Reviewed June 2013 by the author.

Emergencies and possibly disasters happen — are you ready? One way to be ready is to have a "Grab and Go file." A Grab and Go File is a collection of all the important papers and information that you can just pick up and leave with, if, for instance you had to evacuate your home. With the flood season coming up, this is one way to be ready. It would also very helpful in other family emergencies since the important papers are together.

What should one put into the Grab and Go? Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep a master list of financial information — bank account location or locations, credit cards, insurance coverage, tax preparation records. Forms for a master list are available from many sources. One is the University of Minnesota Extension website Just insert the words "household inventory" into the search area and you’ll be directed to a couple of sites with these forms.
  • Include legal documents or copies of them — like wills, birth, marriage, divorce certificates, passports, military discharge papers
  • Lists of prescriptions for household members
  • If you have a safe deposit box key this is a good place for the key
  • Keep computer file information and information scanned onto a CD
  • Have some emergency cash — remember if an area is flooded it could be very difficult to get money out of an ATM machine!

This is a beginning point. You may discover other papers or information that would be difficult to replace. Include this in your grab and go file. It will give you a small bit of "peace of mind" to know that you are as ready as you can be before disaster happens.

Find out more about household inventories at: List It or Lose It — The Case for Household and Property Inventory.


FEMA — United States Department of Homeland Security. (n.d.) Washington, D.C.: FEMA — United States Department of Homeland Security

Related Resources

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.

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