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How to Safely Store Your Stuff

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

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

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.

Fire Protection

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 yoRenters Insuranceur safe can stand up to fire.

Water Protection

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.

Security Protection

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.

ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York).  The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company licensure and states of operation information.

The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of July 2022 and may be changed at any time. 

Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. 

The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states.  ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York.  ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia or New York.  ERIE long term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York. 

Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.

Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer questions you may have before you buy.