There are a few reasons I believe getting a fireproof waterproof box should be your next step in your EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS journey.
- It naturally follows the step of being prepared for a house fire, which was Step 3.
- It’s relatively inexpensive.
- It’s relatively easy (can be done in a day)
- Regardless of where you live, NO ONE is safe from the possibility of a house fire or a flood.
- This is not only going to help you in the event of a fire or a flood. This will help you get ORGANIZED in general, and have ONE place where all of your important documents are kept, to help simplify everyday life. I love it when things have a dual outcome!
- Not only will this help you protect important documents, but it will draw your attention to anything that might be MISSING. This is a great time to make sure you aren’t missing any birth certificates, shot records, social security cards, etc. These are things that take time to get replacements of, so you are better off starting the process NOW to get replacements if anything is missing. **Tip: If you are divorced, it’s worth the $20 to get an extra birth certificate so you have one at both mom’s and dad’s house for each child (in my opinion)**
- It’s extremely important. So…let’s get to it!
**This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you**
Before we begin, I want to give this disclaimer:
Fireproof waterproof boxes are NOT 100%. They DO fail. Some of them do, some of them don’t. This is NOT a guarantee. Many of them are only rated for a certain amount of time in a fire. Ours is rated for 30 minutes. So basically, if it is consumed in flames for longer than 30 minutes (up to 1550 degrees), our stuff will be toast anyway. Even the flood protection is only good for 24 hours.
And even then, I have heard of them failing. So where this is not a 100% slam dunk, my personal feeling is, it’s better than nothing. If I am going to do the work to gather all of my stuff, I want to do everything I can to keep it protected. However, I would STILL recommend digitizing all of the things in your box, and keeping copies of them off-site (for example: a relative’s home). But again, I would rather increase the odds of saving the original documents if possible.
#1 – WHY do you need a fireproof waterproof box?
To protect your important documents from:
- FIRE – House fires of all kinds (see Emergency Preparedness Step 3)
- FLOOD – Floods in your house of all kinds (not only nature-induced, but broken/leaking pipes…this can happen to ANYONE)
- THEFT – Ugh. Why do we have to deal with this? I hate this one. But it’s reality.
#2 – WHAT documents are you protecting?
How do you decide which documents are important enough to put in the box, and which ones are okay in a normal drawer/filing cabinet in your house somewhere?
Well…it all comes down to a matter of choice. I have a list here of documents I personally deem worthy to put in our fireproof/waterproof box. But ultimately, it’s up to you. You are limited to whatever space is available in the box you choose to purchase, so you likely won’t be able to put every single paper you would ever want to keep in this box.
A good rule of thumb is, if it would be a hard or lengthy process to replace it, you should definitely put it in the box. If it would cost money to replace it, put it in the box! If it would be helpful in the event of a fire or a flood, PUT IT IN THE BOX!
Possible Things to Put in Your Box
To get your free printable checklist for this post
If you are already a subscriber, these printables are available to you on the subscriber-only printables link that is included in every email.
- Birth/Death/Marriage Certificates
- Copies of Driver’s Licenses
- Social Security Cards
- Citizenship Papers
- Divorce Decrees
- Prenuptial / Postnuptial
- Adoption Papers
- Wills, Living Wills
- Immunization Records
- Medical Records
- Emergency Contact List/Phone Numbers
- Livescan/Background Check Papers
- Insurance Policies (home, renter’s, vehicles, life)
- Property Tax Statements
- Titles to Automobiles
- Retirement Info
- Investment Plan Documents/Summaries
- Bonds and Stocks Certificates
- Certificates of Deposit
- Credit Card Statements
- Bank Statements
- Utility Statements
- Work Papers
- School Transcripts
- Professional Certificates
- Veteran’s Papers / Military Orders
- Powers of Attorney
- Genealogical Records
- Religious Records/Certificates
- Family Pictures
- Internet Passwords
- Household Inventory
- How many years should you hold on to?? This is directly from the IRS website, April 2018: “Keep records for 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return. Keep records for 7 years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction.”
Is there anything I missed? PLEASE comment below if I missed anything you think should be on this list!
#3 – HOW should you ORGANIZE your box?
This is also entirely up to you. I have included our personal list below, as well as an explanation of how I have ours organized, along with pictures. But this is your own box, so do it whatever way makes the most sense for you and your family.
I have 2 sets of hanging folders. The front set of 5 hanging folders is red and the back set of 5 hanging folders is blue. I’ve color-coded this list, so you know exactly which folder is where, and which color it is.
Some of those hanging folders are the only file folders for that category (for instance, our Medical Folder doesn’t have a ton of stuff in there, so I just lumped it all together and didn’t separate any of it out into subfolders.)
Other colored hanging folders have quite a bit of stuff in them, so I put normal file folders inside them, to help organize the documents further. (I am too cheap to buy new colored file folders, but I just love color too much to not use it. So I re-purposed some old file folders that were already labeled, and just ripped 3 pieces of colored masking tape a little longer than the length of the tab, stuck all 3 of them one right on top of the other, wrapped the corners around the edge of the tab, and voila! The labels are now brightly colored, and I didn’t have to buy new file folders! But if I had to buy new ones, I’d pay the extra couple bucks and get these cool teal ones!)
An example of when I used normal folders inside a hanging folder, is our Insurance hanging folder. The three folders inside it are:
- Life Insurance
- Automobile Insurance
- Homeowner’s Insurance
Things in Fireproof/Waterproof Box
In Front Before Folders Begin
- List of Contents
- *Important Info
1. BIRTH // SS // PASSPORTS // SHOT RECORDS
- Birth Certificates // Social Security Cards // Passports // Shot Records
- Wills // Advanced Health Care Directives
- Marriage License // Certificate
- Copies (driver’s license, etc)
- Life Insurance
- Automobile Insurance
- Homeowner’s Insurance
- **Home Inventory
- Credit Reports
- Current Loans
- Loan Payoffs
- Individual Ordinance Summaries
- Blessing/Baptism/Priesthood Certificates
- Patriarchal Blessings
- Eye Glasses/Contacts Prescriptions
- Hallie – Ear
- DENTAL X-RAYS
7. DIVORCE – Tyler
8. DIVORCE – Melanie
*Important Info: I decided that rather than putting one of each of our bills in this box, I would rather have ONE document with everything like that listed on it. We have a password-protected document on our computer, with all of our important information in one spot. Account numbers, company customer service phone numbers, web addresses, usernames, passwords, etc. Gosh. I see another post coming…let’s make it Emergency Preparedness Step 5 ! Anyway, that’s what is at the very front of the box.
I print out an updated copy of that document every six months and replace the existing one in the firebox.
**Home Inventory: we will cover this SOON in a future post!
#4 – WHERE should you keep this box?
There are a few things to consider when deciding where to put this box.
- DISGUISE – Since this box contains pretty much every single personal identity document that you possess, this would be a gold mine for a robbery. You don’t want to put this box in an obvious location. Disguising it would be a good idea.
- ON MAIN LEVEL OF HOME – You also may want to consider the fact that if you were required to evacuate your home, the information in this box would be incredibly important to take with you. So having it in a place that would be easy to grab it and go would also be a good idea.
- WEIGHT – When empty, the box is relatively heavy, due to the materials used to make it fireproof and waterproof. Add to that the dense folders and papers, and you’ve got yourself a hefty item. So don’t plan on storing this on the top shelf of a cupboard. The lower the better…
- EASY ACCESS – I don’t get into this box on a daily basis, but I do open it quite frequently. When you consider all of the things that are in there, it’s not like you can put it together and then forget about it and not touch it for years. I am in this box every time…
- a kid has a doctor appointment (shot records)
- a kid signs up for a new sport (birth certificates, shot records)
- I fill out school paperwork (shot records)
- someone applies for a new job (social security cards)
- we buy or sell a car
- any of our insurance policies change
- anyone gets baptized, blessed, etc
- I print out an updated important info sheet
- we get our taxes done
- we need to look up anything in our divorce agreements
- …you get the idea. While opening this box isn’t a daily occurrence, it is quite frequent.
#5 – WHICH box should you get?
PLEASE make sure whatever box you decide on has these 3 features!
It seems silly to go to the work of gathering all of these things, and to spend the money on a box, if you aren’t protecting these things from everything you possibly can. So I would highly encourage you to get a box that does all 3 of those things.
- Small: They do have boxes that are quite small, that aren’t as tall as a file folder.
- Smaller to store
- Less conspicuous
- Easier to carry in the event of needing to evacuate
- Obviously these can’t hold as many papers/documents/things
- Harder to organize because they don’t accommodate file folders
- Large: I’m talking about the ones like mine, that can hold file folders
- Holds a lot more
- Holds several file folders, making organization easy peasy
- More expensive
- Harder to store
- Harder to conceal
- Harder to carry out in an evacuation
If you are going with a larger one, I would recommend wheels. I got one without wheels and really regret it. This sucker’s HEAVY! It would be really awesome to have it on wheels when I need to pull it out to get something out/put something in. And imagine grabbing it and getting it to the car for a quick evacuation. One word. WHEELS!
#6 – WHERE should you purchase your box?
I got mine at Walmart on a rollback for $60ish. Other places that would have them: Target, Staples, etc. Mine is the older version of this one on Amazon.
If I had to do it over again, I would get THIS one on Amazon. It looks like better quality and it has wheels. It has great reviews and looks like a solid buy. But that’s just me. Let me clarify: I have NOT tried this box. But I am very tempted to upgrade to it…
CHECKLIST FOR EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS STEP 4 – FIREPROOF WATERPROOF BOX
This is easy. Do not let the long list of documents overwhelm you. It goes a lot quicker than you think. I promise.
Decide on the size box you want and order it today. That is your first step. It’s easy. If you are getting the larger box and you don’t have file folders, you can order those on Amazon as well. Those are the only “supplies” you will need. If you would rather go to a store to purchase these things, go put them on your Target or Walmart or Staples or whatever list. (If you don’t have a constant list going for one or all of these stores, check out my Store Lists post to get you organized!)
You can split this up and gather a few documents a day, so that by the time you have your box and file folders, everything is ready to organize. Or, wait til you have the supplies, block out a morning or an afternoon one day this week, and GET IT ALL DONE IN ONE SHOT!
Okay, so now for reals. Here is the checklist.
- Buy a fireproof waterproof box
- Buy file folders (hanging and/or normal, depending on how you want to organize it)
- Print out the printable PDF checklist
- Gather all documents you want in your box
- Find a good spot for it
- Move on to Emergency Preparedness Step 5 – Organize Important Information in ONE PLACE (you’ll love this one – it’s FREE!!!! And will only take you a couple hours max!)
For a helpful post on digitizing photos, home movies, journals, and other important memories, read this post HERE!
For other Emergency Preparedness posts, go to the EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS tab, or click HERE.