6 Ways to Ensure Vital Documents Survive Disaster




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Due to recent record rainfalls and flash flooding throughout the state of Wisconsin many residents have endured substantial damage and even loss of their homes, businesses, and vehicles.  Disastrous events such as the recent flooding in Wisconsin thrust the notion of how important it is to have a disaster recovery plan in place to not only protect your major assets, but your vital documents as well. 


Here are a few ideas that can help you get started with safe proofing your vital documents. 


1. Start with a list

You should create a list of all documents, data, belongings, and property that you own and save it to a flash drive or upload it to a cloud-based system.  If you prefer to store a hard copy of your list, you should have a copy stored in a place that is not at your residence or place of business. 


2. Make copies of key documents

You should keep original documents like bank statements, tax returns, deeds, titles and insurance policies in a waterproof and fireproof storage container.  Copies of these documents should also be given to someone you trust or a family member outside of where the disaster may take place.  If your town is known for flooding, but your parents live an hour away where flooding does not occur, then that would be a great place to store your copies.  Another option would be to scan and save documents on a flash drive or cloud-based system.


3. Photograph what you have

It is a good idea to document what you have by taking pictures or videos of your highest valued assets.  Those visual records can help support insurance claims and tax benefits after a disaster. 


4. For businesses that have payroll

Businesses should check with their payroll providers or client’s payroll providers to see if they have a place to protect their documents in case a payroll service defaults during a flood or other disaster and cannot get to your records.


5. Know who to contact

Prepare a phone list of family members, business contacts, insurance agents, and anyone else that you would want to contact in case of a disaster. 


6. Frequently backup business data and systems

Business data and systems should have backups performed on a daily or weekly basis.  These systems should also be checked periodically to ensure the backups are working properly. 


No one wants to think that disaster will strike, but by not being prepared for the unforeseen, one runs the risk of not being able to recover what they once had if the unimaginable were to occur.  It is always better to be safe than sorry, so by taking the proper steps outlined above, instead of running around and trying to gather vital documents during a disaster, one can focus on staying safe.


Author:  Julie Brickl, Kollath CPA