All told, you can secure your records in a weekend afternoon. One of the first things to do is compile a list of where everything is - account numbers and the locations of important documents. The list will help you or anyone in your family locate things you need for the insurance adjuster or relief worker.
Here is what else you have to do to protect your records and yourself:
RECORD: Once you have made your basic list, save it on a U.S.B. flash drive. A 256-megabyte drive, which you can buy for $20 or even less if you catch a store promotion, gives you enough space for that file and all the other suggestions mentioned below.
Several of the big flash drive makers, like SanDisk and Lexar Media, are now selling more advanced drives that allow you to encrypt the data so others cannot read it without knowing the alphanumeric key that unlocks the code. Some are even shock proofed with heavier rubber and plastic coatings. Those will cost about $10 to $20 more, but are certainly worth it when you consider the sensitivity of the data on them.
It is also a good idea to copy the contents onto additional drives for backup and for other members of the family.
SCAN: Some important documents are on paper and you will want copies of them with you: tax returns for the last three years (Form 1040 is all you will need in an emergency), a recent pay stub, birth certificates, marriage license, the deed to your home and insurance policy pages that list your coverage. If you do not have a scanner or a printer with a flat scanner, take the pile of documents down to a copy center like Kinko's to scan. Record the image files on the U.S.B. drive.
SHOOT: Some personal finance advisers suggest that you make a spreadsheet listing everything you own and enter the date and price paid and then file all the receipts and ... yeah, yeah. You will never do it. But creating a detailed inventory of everything you own need not be a major chore when technology comes to the rescue. Many households now have a camcorder or digital camera. Walk around each room and take a picture of each item. Then, either store all the photos on a memory card (unless you live in the Biltmore mansion, you can load all the photos on a 256- or 512-megabyte card). Or you can transfer them to the same U.S.B. drive with your other documents
SECURE: Now it is time for your medical records. You can place your health history as well as digitized copies of X-rays, scans and electrocardiograms on the same encrypted flash drive. Those with serious medical conditions may want to consider a product sold by the nonprofit organization that developed the MedicAlert bracelet 50 years ago. It sells a special USB flash drive on its Web site, www.medicalert.org, called the E-HealthKey for $85.
Summarized by Copernic Summarizer