BOSTON (CBS) – If you were told to evacuate within the hour would you be able to gather up the kids, the important papers of your life, the baby pictures, wedding photos, the cat, sensible shoes and leave in an hour?

You should be able to. Don’t worry about clothes for the Red Cross will provide some, just grab the important stuff.

Planning for a catastrophe means you will need to be organized. It means that other people, people you trust, may need to help you and they will need to know where you keep your important papers.

Set up a filing system. Sort through all of the places you have stashed those important papers. People store things in shoe boxes, in plastic bags, in suitcases, in closets, and in drawers. Organize the stuff into piles and begin to catalog the stuff you have gathered up.

If you have the space, use a filing cabinet. If space is an issue, try those plastic bins that stack well.

Set up a master file and list. Think of it as the “table of contents” of your life. Where are the important documents of your life stored? In the filing cabinet? At the attorney’s office? Safety deposit box? List the document and where it is located. Also put together a list of all of your investment and retirement accounts, insurance policies, EE Bonds, credit card accounts.

Create a list of all of your PIN numbers. This is key if someone needs to access your computer files. A list of your advisors with their telephone numbers. Include your doctor, financial planner, attorney, tax preparer.

Keep this master file in a safe and accessible place. You want to be able to grab the master file if you need to evacuate. It goes in the Disaster Bag.

On my website, there is worksheet entitled Document Locator. Download the information and use it to record where your important papers are kept.

And while you are in the organizing mode, video tape the contents of your home in case there is ever a catastrophe.

Be sure then you keep the video in a safe, accessible place if you suffer a loss or are told to evacuate and need to take it with you.


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