How to Create an Emergency File for Travel

BY Beth Williams

Emergency Files

Emergencies happen, and usually at a moment when you or your family least expect it. Imagine if something were to happen to you or your home which would prevent you from accessing your home, your office, your bank, your cell phone. Your normal life would come to an abrupt “stop”!

Hard to imagine? It happens all the time, be it due to an unexpected death, or a natural emergency such as an earthquake, fire, hurricane, tornado, flood, or storm. Travel can pose another scenario where you should have a contingency plan to access personal and financial information.

While there are many sources of information that focus on physical preparedness, many do not include what is commonly called a “Red File.” The Red File is designed to include copies of or locations where everything that is necessary for you or your family to rebuild your financial and operational life in the aftermath of an event.

Keep in mind that many potential emergencies may require you to evacuate your home. Some may be short, others longer and still others may prevent you from returning at all. Despite your displacement, many facets of normal life continue. Bills need to be paid, purchases need to be made, bank accounts need to be accessed and memories and important records need to be preserved. If forced to evacuate your home quickly, you won’t have time to gather all of your important files, pictures, and other items. If disaster strikes when you are away from home, a digital red file could be a “life saver”.

Have a Digital File
Everyone should complete a “Red File” and make sure that those important to you and your life know where it is.  Having a digital “Red File” is a must if you need to access it while away from home, like when traveling. Many prefer to keep original or copies of documents in a safe and secure place such as a bolted down fire safe, or even more, inside a bank safety deposit box.

When traveling you should have a copy of all travel documents, financial records like credit card numbers, and possibly needed medical files including eyeglass prescriptions available to you via thumb drive, internet access or hard copies.

ICE (In Case of Emergency)

Program emergency contact information into your cell phone under the listing “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) and carry an ICE identification card in your wallet. Once you make the card, place it in your wallet or purse attached to the back of your driver’s license or state identification card.  This can assist first responders in contacting family and friends in the event you’re involved in an emergency.  Emergency contact information is frequently vital to facilitate treatment during life-threatening situations,  especially if the victim is unable to communicate with rescuers due to illness or trauma.

To program ICE into your cell phone:

  • Access the address book feature of your cell phone.
  • Enter the name ICE.
  • Enter the phone number of your husband, wife, parent or whoever needs to be contacted in case of an emergency.

Emergency Home Files

If you’re a Quicken user, for example, you may have access to Emergency Records Organizer built into the program, which can compile your emergency documents for you, based on the info you put in Quicken. It should be in the “Property & Debt” menu or you might find the program under your Quicken folder under Program Files, View > Classic Menus > Property & Debt > Emergency Records Organizer.

Important Information Regarding Placing Important Digital Information On Your Computer

If you place important information on your computer and it is stolen or hacked you have a higher chance giving a thief complete access to all of your critical, sensitive, as well confidential information.  That’s why you need to make sure any digital file is kept on your computer in a password-protected file.  Consult with someone in your company’s IT department to fully understand the best and most cost-effective way to do this.  Here are a few more thoughts about having a password protected file, as well as who should know where it is, as well as how to access it in case you and your spouse/partner are unable:

  • Put all “sensitive” files in a password-protected folder.
  • Give a close, trusted confidante (spouse, best friend, attorney) the password to the folder. Use a strong, non-obvious password.
  • Tell your next-of-kin that the confidante will be looking at your computer after you die “to organize my personal records”.

How to Create an In-Case-of-Emergency Everything Document to Keep Your Loved Ones Informed if Worst Comes to Worst

If you were hit by a bus today or were otherwise incapacitated, would your loved ones be able to quickly locate your important information or know how to handle your affairs? Many of us have a great handle on our finances, but our record keeping systems might not be obvious to family members or friends who might need immediate access to them in times of emergency. Here’s a step-by-step guide to organizing your vital information so it can be conveniently and safely accessed when needed.  This website also has a link so you can download and create a basic Master Information Kit template that can help provide your family with a digital map of where to find the most important documents they may need in case you can’t be there for them.

The Wall Street Journal’s List of 25 Things You Need Before You Die

This is a link to an article published by the Wall Street Journal that provides a good read when you are putting together your emergency file.

Emergencies: Are You Prepared? Your Personal Checklist of Important Documents

This is a link to a page put together by the University of Virginia Tech on the subject.  It is a one-page document that you can easily copy and page in Word or Excel and fill in the blanks.

Don’t Procrastinate — Create an “In case of …” File Today

Another article on the subject put together by  It also deals with your online identity if you pass away. 

The Big Book of Everything

This is a website put together by Erik Dewey.  In a nutshell, he has created a web page which has both a nice downloadable PDF book as well as an Excel spreadsheet that together will allow you to create a notebook filled with all of the information anyone could need to know about you. The idea is that in our lives we have countless things that we are involved in. On rare occasions, other people need this information and no one knows how to get it. That’s where the Big Book comes in. By filling this out and keeping it current, you can simplify the effort others have to take on your behalf.  Uses for the Big Book are:

  • After you pass away. People will know what accounts to cancel, have access to your email, know where important papers are kept, and otherwise streamline what is already a painful process.
  • Filling out applications. The information in the book is often found in various applications, by having the book you can look that stuff up at a moments notice.
  • Making sure you know what your assets are. By going through and inventory all of your assets, you have a better idea of where you are financially.
  • Forcing you to prepare for emergencies. By filling out the forms, it will force you to be better prepared when an emergency strikes.

Financial Emergency Preparedness

By N. Porter * (6/11)

Quick Facts…

  • Organizing your financial information is a first step towards being prepared for an emergency.
  • Sales receipts and contracts should be filed for easy access if an insurance claim is necessary.
  • Photocopy the front and back of each credit and debit card for easy access to important information if they are lost or stolen.
  • Keep an inventory of personal and household property current with copies in two different locations.
  • Organizing your tax records makes tax preparation much easier and is essential in preparing for an audit.
  • Financial information should be carefully secured and protected against unauthorized access.

Financial Emergency Preparedness

Life’s emergency situations require advanced preparation and planning. The first step is organizing your financial information. Do you have an appropriate place for filing each document? Have you told anyone else where you keep your vital information? Have you shared your wishes in the event of your death? Are your documents available to ‘grab and go’ in case of evacuation? Many situations require that you take action now to avoid financial problems later.

  • Click here to access numerous financial emergency preparedness forms which have been prepared by the University of Colorado.

List It or Lose It – The Case for Household and Property Inventory

A household inventory is an itemized list of your personal belongings. It provides a method of knowing exactly what personal property you own. An accurate household inventory is a necessity whether you are a homeowner or a renter.