Personal Finance

Evacuating ahead of Irma? Take these key documents with you

Key Points
  • Hurricane Irma is expected to reach Florida on Saturday or Sunday.
  • Areas of Georgia and Florida are under mandatory evacuation orders.
  • Personal safety takes priority in an evacuation, but bringing some key financial documents can help in the aftermath of the storm.
Cars sit in traffic as they evacuate heading North on Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys on Septeber 5, 2017 in Islamorada, Florida.
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What key personal and financial documents should you bring with you in an evacuation?

Hurricane Irma is on track to reach Florida on Saturday or Sunday before making its way up the coast, and officials in both Florida and Georgia have issues evacuation orders for areas that could be affected.

Florida officials have issued mandatory evacuation orders in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties and voluntary evacuation orders in Collier County, according to a statement from Florida Gov. Rick Scott's office. Broward County has issued mandatory evacuation orders for some areas and voluntary evacuation orders for others.

"Additional orders are expected as the storm nears the state," according to a Wednesday prepared statement from Scott.

On Thursday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 30 counties, and issued a mandatory evacuation order for areas at risk of potential storm surges from Irma.

Priority in an evacuation should be given to your own safety, certified financial planner Ann Coulson, an associate professor at Kansas State University's Institute of Personal Financial Planning, told CNBC earlier this year. 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 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


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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.