Making Your Personal Affairs Disaster & Recovery Ready

Following a disaster, getting financial or in-kind assistance to start putting life back together will hinge on whether or not you have documents to prove who you are and what you actually owned. One of the things that FEMA has recommended is making a “Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (“EFFAK”). [1] The EFFAK is designed to help get you and your family onto the road towards disaster recovery. Often after a disaster, many people lose the documents that they would need to help provide evidence of who they are, what they own, and where they lived. Creating and keeping an EFFAK in a safe place is critical to helping make this happen. Additionally, if you are ever forced to evacuate from the area (which is especially important for those along the coast during hurricane season), having a packet of your emergency documents (like an EFFAK) makes the difference when minutes count.

The List

Because everyone’s situation is different, there is no standard list that can be developed that will be a “one size fits all”. Though you can put anything you want into your own kit, it is recommended that you put photo copies of documents into the kit. This is because you might need to access your kit during the year and forget to put it back. Below is a list of items to think about putting into your package of emergency documents.

  1. Personal Identification:
    1. Driver’s Licenses
    2. Firearms Licenses
    3. Student ID Cards
    4. Voter Registration Cards
    5. Social Security Cards
    6. Passport or Green Card
    7. Naturalization Documents
  2. Family Documents
    1. Birth Certificates
    2. Marriage License
    3. Military Discharge Records (DD-214 & DD-215’s) for all Service Members
    4. Inventory of Household Items
    5. Backup Computer Files (Can be on an external hard drive or “thumb” drive)
  3. Pets & Livestock
    1. Pet ID Tags
    2. Proof of Ownership of Pet (Photo(s) of owner with pet(s) or registration papers)
    3. Microchip Information
  4. Financial Information
    1. Lease or Rental Agreement
    2. Proof of Home Ownership (i.e. Mortgage or Real Estate Deed of Trust)
    3. Mortgage and any Home Loan Documents
    4. Private Mortgage, Renters, and Homeowner’s Insurance Policy Information
    5. Copies of Utility Bills (Not all are needed, just recent enough to prove residency)
    6. Bank Account, Credit Card & Loan Account Information
    7. Vehicle Registration/Title
    8. Life & Health Insurance Information
    9. Recent Paystubs for Sources of Income
    10. Previous Year’s Tax Return
  5. Legal Documents
    1. Adoption Orders
    2. Court Orders for Child Support and/or Child Custody Orders
    3. Divorce Decrees
    4. Last Will & Testaments
    5. Power(s) of Attorney
    6. Advanced Directives/Living Wills


[1] Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK): Strengthen Your Financial Preparedness for Disasters and Emergencies, (Sept. 2015), (Though FEMA published the EFFAK guidance in 2015, the Texas Department of State Health Services’ “Ready or Not?” Campaign has recommended building an Emergency Documents Kit for some time. The department even distributes reseal-able waterproof bags to help compile documents into.)

[2] Tex. Dept. of State Health Svcs., Ready or Not?: Disaster Supply Checklist, (2015),

[3] Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, Be Smart. Protect Your Critical Documents and Valuables,

[4] Fed. Emergency Mgmt. Agency, Financial Preparedness, (Sept. 2015),