Mormon Channel Blog

Self-Reliance: Emergency "Grab-and-Go" Binders

January 16, 2016

Misty Marsh is an emergency preparation blogger in Utah. Here, she shares with us some tips and helpful printable documents to aid you as you build your family’s emergency binder.

I love the truth found in Doctrine and Covenants 38:30, where we learn that proper preparation can dispel fear. This truth applies to spiritual, emotional, and financial preparation, as well as emergency preparation. But I also love that in Doctrine and Covenants 10:4 God teaches us to not run faster or labor more than we have strength or means.

Sometimes, fear of an unknown disaster or emergency can tempt us to work on preparing faster than we have strength or means. Yet I do not believe this is how the Lord would have us feel. As He also taught in Doctrine and Covenants 10:4, we are to be diligent, but I believe He will fully accept our best efforts in preparing for emergencies.

The First Presidency taught this concept in the family home storage pamphlet when they said, “Do not go to extremes; it is not prudent, for example, to go into debt to establish your food storage all at once.” Going into debt would be more than your means, and getting prepared all at once would very likely be running faster than you have strength.

In light of this, today I want to share with you something you can do for emergency preparedness that is simple and doesn’t require a lot of money. It is one simple step that anyone can take!

A Grab-and-Go Binder

Having a “grab-and-go” binder full of all your important documents can come in handy during emergencies large and small. Making insurance claims, searching for missing loved ones (heaven forbid), staying in touch with family and friends, registering children for school, administering first aid, traveling, accessing your financial accounts, and more will all be much easier if you have some essential documents, phone numbers, and information at your fingertips.

Creating your own grab-and-go binder doesn’t have to be overwhelming. I'm going to walk you through doing so one step at a time.

I strongly suggest you keep your finished binder somewhere safe and well hidden. I also suggest you provide a copy of your binder to a trusted family member who does not live with you. For example, giving your parents a copy of your binder would allow them to access important information for you and your children if you are out of town or hospitalized for any reason.

For your convenience, you can download and print many of the forms you will need for your family binder by clicking here:My Simply Prepared Binder. This printable packet includes detailed instructions and forms for creating your own binder. Here is a summary of the steps:

Step #1: Gather Your Documents

Gather your family’s important documents. You can find a list of suggested documents here (it will also print as part of the full binder above). Some of these documents should be added to the sections we will discuss next. The others should be put in their own section in your binder.

Step #2: Plan for Evacuation

If you are ever asked to evacuate, you likely won’t be thinking clearly. Take a moment now to plan out (and write down) what you will grab, where you will meet, and how you will communicate. Place this plan at the beginning of your binder where you can quickly refer to it if needed.

Step #3: Record Emergency Phone Numbers

Take a moment to write down phone numbers that may be important to your family in an emergency, such as poison control, a nurse line, your utility companies, and so on. Also record your home address, phone number, and family allergies in case a non-family member (such as a babysitter) needs to call someone for you using this form. You may consider printing this page twice: once for your binder and once to post somewhere in your home for babysitters or others.

Step #4: Record Family and Friend’s Numbers

How many of the numbers in your cell phone do you have memorized? If you want to be able to communicate with family and friends during a power outage or other emergency, you should write their numbers down.

Step #5: Record Medical, Financial, Utility, and Insurance Numbers

Write down information for your medical providers, financial and insurance accounts, and utility providers. This may be useful if someone else needs to access those accounts for you or if you need to access them away from home but can’t remember passwords, account numbers, or phone numbers.

Step #6: Create ID Forms

Create a form with important information for each family member. Include things such as eye color, hair color, distinct markings, and so on. Include a recent picture (and update it at least yearly for children). Consider including fingerprints. For detailed information on how to create this form, download the full Simply Prepared Binder. It includes premade forms for adults, kids, and pets, as well as tips for getting fingerprints and more. You may consider printing ID forms for your binder and another set to keep with you when you visit busy places where a child may get lost.

Step #7: First Aid Quick Guide

Even if you have basic first aid training, you may not remember it in a disaster situation. Keeping shorthand notes of important first aid procedures can help. Make sure you also note any medications your family members are taking in case medical professionals need this information.

Step #8: Assemble Your Binder

This can be done very simply in an inexpensive three-ring binder by using a hole punch and adding all your forms and documents directly to the binder. You can get a bit fancier and keep the documents for each section together in a sheet protector. There are also expensive binders and Velcro or zippered sheet protectors and pockets that you can use to keep your documents more secure. Choose an option that works for you now. You can always upgrade later! Once you have assembled your binder, make sure you store it in a safe, well-hidden location.