We’ve probably all experienced the mild panic attack that misplacing an important document induces.
Not to sound all “mom knows best,” but this is one instance in which a little preparation beforehand would save a lot of time and stress later on.
How to safely store your stuff
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends taking an inventory of your important documents and valuables. A checklist of items worth adding to your inventory can be found on their website at FEMA.gov.
Once you have an inventory, it’s time to think about how to safely store them. Two options are bank safe deposit boxes and home safes.
Bank safe deposit box
A bank safe deposit box is often a good solution for coin collections, family heirlooms or other items that you don’t need to access all the time. The contents inside are protected against floods, fires and other disasters.
There are, however, a few disadvantages. One of the main ones is that anything stored in the safe deposit box can only be accessed when the bank is open. The American Bar Association also notes that safe deposit boxes are sealed when the owner dies. So a bank safe deposit box isn’t the best place to stash wills or advance directives.
Contents inside bank safe deposit boxes are not insured by the bank or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). They are, however, typically covered by standard homeowners insurance and renters insurance policies against most perils. Check with your insurance agent to find out how coverage works when you have items in a bank safe.
Home safes are often used to protect legal documents, photos, jewelry, passports, health records, birth certificates, insurance policies and other paperwork you may need to access in a pinch.
Before buying one, consider the following questions.
1. What are you looking to protect?
Some documents only need to be kept for a year while others should be kept for a lifetime. Not sure what to keep and what to toss? Then read up on which kinds of paperwork is worth keeping.
2. What size do you need?
Homes safes come in a range of sizes and can include adjustable shelves to accommodate larger or odd-shaped items.
3. What are you protecting against?
Homes safes are typically rated for protection against fire, flood and burglaries.
Safes can undergo an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) test that reveals how long contents inside a safe can be exposed to fire while remaining undamaged. Look for a UL symbol on the packaging to ensure your safe can stand up to fire.
It’s estimated that your home has a 26 percent chance of being damaged by a flood during the course of a 30-year period. If you store documents in your basement or an area that may be prone to flooding or moisture, seriously consider moving your documents to higher ground and into a safe. Look for the ETL verification, which ensures protection from flood and other water damage. Safes can receive ETL verification in two categories:
- Waterproof safes: Product can be completely submerged with minimal water entry (0.5 grams, or 8 drops).
- Water-resistant safes: Product can withstand 15 minutes of 1,000 gallons of water spray as well as 1 hour standing in 6 inches of water.
Pry-resistant doors, solid steel construction, bolt-down kits—you’ll want your safe to have all three features when it comes to protection against thieves.
4. How do you want to access your items?
Home safes offer a variety of access options, including standard key, combination, electronic lock or a mix of several options. Which one you find easiest to use is a matter of personal preference.
Of course, no safe is 100 percent foolproof. That’s why you’ll also want to make sure everything inside your home or apartment is protected with homeowners insurance or renters insurance. Contact an insurance professional like an Erie Insurance agent in your community to learn more and get a free quote.