Disaster Services and Preparedness

Here are some tips to prepare yourself in case of a major disaster, casualty, or theft.

Home Inventory 
The easiest way to make a Home Inventory is to use a video camera. (Rent or borrow one if necessary.) Walk through your home and take pictures of everything. Talk about the item as you videotape it: when did you acquire it? how much did it cost? was it a gift or inheritance? If there are serial numbers on items, read them or make a list.

Tape things like jewelry, artwork, furniture, toys, antiques, tools, sports and exercise equipment, clothing, the contents of closets, dresser drawers and linen cupboards (do you know how many bath towels and bed linens you own and might have to replace in the event of disaster?) Videotape in every room of your home: attic to basement to garage to storage shed.

Videotape the exterior of your home too. Describe the improvements you’ve made, like landscaping, patio furniture, fencing, concrete work, sprinkler systems and other renovations. Videotape your automobile, boat, recreational vehicle, motorcycle or any other vehicle or trailer. While you’re taping, describe what you are showing, when you got it, how much it cost. If you can’t get a video camera, use a regular camera and make notes describing the photographs.

Papers to copy or lists to make for your Evacuation Box

  • Home: copies of escrow papers, your title, deed and a list of improvements. Also a list of contractors who did the work and the location of the architectural plans.
  • Auto/Boat/RV: copies of titles, registrations, driver’s licenses, purchase papers.
  • Personal: copies of birth certificates, passports, school records, the page of insurance policies which lists coverage, your will and any trust documents and a list of credit card numbers and issuers.
  • Security/Banking: a list of stocks, bonds, investments, numbers of bank and savings accounts, CDs, etc.
  • Tax Returns: copies of the first two pages of your state and federal tax returns for the last five years.
  • Appraisals: copies of current appraisals of expensive jewelry, art and antiques. Put the original in your Safe Deposit Box.
  • Home Inventory: a copy should go in the Evacuation Box, and the original in your Safe Deposit Box.
  • Photo Negatives: one of the causes of great depression following a disaster is the loss of irreplaceable personal photographs. Most photo or stationery stores sell plastic negative holder sheets which fit in 3 ring binders. The negatives for a full roll of film will fit in one page. You can save thousands of negatives in one binder. Keep the binder in the Evacuation Box.
  • Business Records: keep a file box with copies of important records stored OUTSIDE your office. It should contain:
    • Year-end (Dec 31 or fiscal) general ledger and profit and loss statements for the past five years.
    • A copy of computer backup disks, tapes or CD-ROMs.
    • A copy of client lists.
    • A copy of your most recent periodic inventory (both merchandise and raw materials.) A list of your normal inventory items and suppliers (with addresses and account numbers.)
    • Photos or videotapes of the interior of your office, with descriptions of furniture, fixtures and other assets, with serial numbers. A copy of your depreciation schedule, with serial numbers. (For hints, see how to do a Home Inventory.)

Casualty, Disaster, and Theft Loss Workbook – The IRS workbook for Personal-Use Property in a PDF file.

IRS Form 4506 – Request for Tax Return (PDF) – Useful for rebuilding personal records after a disaster.

Record Reconstruction Guide (PDF) – Following a disaster such as a fire, flood, or earthquake, records may have to be reconstructed in order to prove a loss. This is not always an easy task. This PDF file of tips will help. You need detailed information for insurance reimbursements, FEMA grants and SBA loans. Depending on the type of loss, you might also need this information for tax purposes. The more accurate the estimated loss is, the more loan and grant money will be available.