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Hurricane season prep: Here's what should be in your 'go bag'

Key Points
  • Ahead of hurricane season, prepare a "go bag" of important documents to bring with you in an evacuation.
  • Pack documents that would be difficult or inconvenient to replace.
  • Collect insurance policies and a home inventory to speed insurance claim processing.
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What key personal and financial documents should you bring with you in an evacuation? With hurricane season starting June 1, it's smart to have a plan in place.

Priority in an evacuation should be given to your own safety, said certified financial planner Ann Coulson, an assistant professor at Kansas State University's Institute of Personal Financial Planning. While it can help to bring with you harder-to-replace documents (like birth certificates) or ones that can help in the aftermath of a storm (such as your insurance policy), tracking those down shouldn't delay evacuating.

"A lot depends on time," she said. "Their lives should come first."

Ideally, consumers should have important documents already gathered and stored in a watertight, fire-protected safe as part of a disaster preparedness plan. You might consider making electronic copies that can be uploaded to secure cloud storage service, in the event you are not allowed to return to your home after a storm.

Based on recommended lists from the Red Cross, the Insurance Information Institute and ASPCA, here's some of the documentation that would be good to bring with you, if possible, in an evacuation:

Insurance records
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Have on hand everything you'll need to get a claim started quickly:

• Insurance policies
• Contact information for your insurer and agent
• Copy of a recent home inventory

If you have time, take a few pictures of your home ahead of your evacuation. Experts say those "before" pictures can help streamline the insurance claims process, showing possessions you left behind and the state of your home ahead of the storm's arrival.

Important documents
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Create a grab-n-go folder with any papers that might be difficult or inconvenient to replace, such as:

• Birth and marriage certificates
• Social Security cards
• Passports
• Driver's licenses
• Wills
• Deed or lease to your home

Medical details
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The Red Cross recommends bringing a seven-day supply of any medications and necessary items, as well as paperwork that can help with getting care, including:

• Prescriptions
• Important medical records

Pet records
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The ASPCA suggests bringing a recent photo of your pet (in case you're lost or separated), as well as critical records like:

• Copies of your pet's medical records
• Up-to-date identification tags for your pet's collar and carrier

Cash
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Extra cash is a go-bag must-have, in case the power is out and you can't swipe a credit card or access an ATM after the storm.