Essential Records for Evacuation

Many tools exist to help families decide what to carry with them when they evacuate during an emergency. While most cover essentials such as food, water, and first aid materials, few discuss essential records, the records that protect your family’s health, identity, and financial resources. The following information has been prepared by the Georgia Archives to assist you in planning for an emergency.


Before an emergency occurs, decide which records are most essential to you and your family. The following guidelines will help you think about what is most important during an emergency.

Essential (Grab-and-Go) records: During an emergency, some records are essential to protecting your health and safety; others will protect you financially in the event of a major property loss

  • Backup of key computer records

  • Bank account information (including online account User ID and password)

  • Birth certificates*

  • Contracts, leases, and other agreements that obligate others to make payments to you

  • Driver’s license

  • Immunization records

  • Insurance records (dental, disability, health, life, property, vehicles)

  • Medical history/records (including list of allergies, medical conditions and current medications, and

  • History of medical emergencies and hospitalizations)

  • Pet records (shots, medical history, registration papers)

  • Photo identification (for persons without a driver’s license)

  • Social Security cards

High-Risk records: In a rapid evacuation it may not be possible to carry away every essential record. As you decide what to evacuate, one factor to consider is how readily a lost record could be replaced. The loss of any of the following records could result in major financial or personal damage, but many are duplicated by governments or financial institutions and so may be replaceable. There is one other factor to consider, though: unless the duplicate record is stored far away, it too could be destroyed during a widespread disaster. Courthouses and banks are not immune to hurricanes, fires, and floods.

  • Adoption records*

  • Child support and alimony settlements/payments

  • Divorce settlement records*

  • Income tax records

  • Leases (rental properties, storage facilities)

  • Marriage certificate*

  • Mortgage

  • Motor vehicle and vessel titles

  • Passports

  • Proof of intellectual property (copyrights)

  • Property deed(s)*

  • Records of current legal proceedings (probate, civil, criminal)

  • Records of donations and contributions

  • Records of educational attainment (transcripts, diplomas)

  • Records of household improvements (for insurance purposes)

  • Records of loans and loan payments

  • Records of recent work history and income (Social Security, payroll)

  • Stock certificates, certificates of deposit, bonds, other banking and investing records

  • Will, other estate records*

Irreplaceable records: Some records cannot be replaced if lost during a disaster.

  • Family photos and historical documents
  • Inventory of household goods


There are many ways to prepare your essential records for an emergency. The chart at the end of this leaflet lists several possibilities.  Whatever method you use, remember to keep your records up to date. Ideally, all records will be updated as soon as older ones become outdated. At the very least, though, choose one day each year and review your essential records to make certain they are current and ready to evacuate. Many archives do this each year during an event called “Mayday”. It’s held on May 1, and it’s an easy way to remember to review your plans and make corrections as needed.