Emergency Planning – Storing Documents

When there is an emergency, hopefully you have time to grab the essentials, ie family and pets. However, there are times when you just can’t get anything else. It is important to plan ahead in case something should happen to your home and you aren’t able to grab any personal papers. Even if nothing ever happens to your home, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to scramble for important papers at say, tax time???? Or when your 3rd grader has to start soccer and they need their medical records tomorrow. Or when you go to get a passport and realize they need your original birth certificate. I can feel the panic setting in just thinking about some of these scenarios. So everyone, it’s time to get your documents in order! These are just my suggestions, there are a million other ways to make sure your papers are safe. If you have any to add, please feel free to add them to the comments.

-Safe or Safety Deposit Box – For legal documents, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, previous tax returns, etc, I have a fireproof safe. It is not too expensive for a small one. Not only does it protect against fire (for a limited amount of time based upon the model you choose), but it is a good place to keep all of the super important documents together. Many of them are waterproof too. It is also good to be able to lock them as an added safety measure. Another option is to get a safety deposit box. The point is to keep the most important papers together and protected.

fireproof safe

-Back up and copy – I try to backup my entire computer onto an external hard drive at least once a month. For work stuff, I try to do it more often because I am constantly adding documents to my computer. For super important documents that I mentioned above (ie tax returns, marriage license), I also try to keep a digital copy. For my kid’s birth certificates, I ordered 3 ‘original’ hard copies of them when each kid was born. We kept one and another went to each set of grandparents. This is great because not only is there a copy, but should their birth certificates ever be needed during a visit, they are already there! Also, keep a copy of your passport on your computer and a paper copy with you when you travel in case something happens to the original.

-Scan in photos or other memories – I am currently scanning every single picture I own as well as kid’s art projects, cards from our wedding and anything else I might want to have a copy of if anything should happen to the originals.

-Upload to an external source – for the photos and memories, I upload them to an external website so if something should happen to my computer, I still have the files somewhere. I have just made the switch to Shutterfly so after using it for a bit, I’ll be able to post on the pros and cons.

-Minimize the paper – The less paper you have, the less you have to wade through, copy, scan, back up etc. So be selective in what you keep. Check out the ‘Paper Pile Purge Series’ on the blog for tips on how to do this.


Take the time now to go through your important documents. Know what you have and where everything is. That way, if you are ever in a bind, hopefully your documents will be the last thing you have to worry about.




Emergency Planning and Fire Relief

I am deeply saddened by the Black Forest Fire, which is is currently devastating so many homes right now in Colorado. We are not too close to the fires, but feel the impact still. It was almost exactly a year ago that evacuated friends from the Waldo Canyon fire (also in Colorado Springs) were staying at our house.  I will be doing a small series (at the same time as my paper clutter series) focusing on disaster planning and relief.

Today I’ll focus on relief efforts, as that is what is truly needed right now. There are many local and national organizations pitching in to get supplies to where they are needed most. Many individuals and small businesses are also stepping up to collect supplies for displaced families as well as the firefighters. When there is a disaster in your area (whether it is a fire, tornado, hurricane, or other disaster), it can be difficult to locate the right resources and to make sure your donations are being used in the proper way. Unfortunately, there are people who take advantage of others during a crisis, so you want to make sure you are working with legitimate organizations. Here are a few tips for making sure you can feel confident in your relief efforts.

1) Donate to a well known national organization, such as the Red Cross.

Red Cross and other national organizations have a reputation to live up to and you are also able to choose to make a general donation to them or choose a local chapter for your funds to go to.

2) Become familiar with your local food banks now and find one that you feel comfortable donating to. In Colorado Springs, there are many food banks and organizations who are helping with relief efforts. However, there are several large ones that most commonly come up, such as Care and Share.

3) Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. There are so many smaller organizations out there that are doing an amazing job at helping with relief, but not a lot of people know about them. Ask around to see if you can find a small organization that you would like to donate to. A friend of mine was familiar with an organization called Battle Bumms who provides cloth diapers to low income military families. She told me they were doing a relief drive for the Black Forest Fire victims. They are currently collecting clothing, toiletries, toys, etc for donation to the over 400 families who have lost their homes already. They are also collecting food donations which they will then take to Care and share. I went through my kid’s closet and was able to get a garbage bag worth of clothing, books and toys to donate. I also went through the bathrooms and compiled a bag of toiletries, including lotions, soap, diaper rash cream, toothbrushes, etc for donation.


This type of donation is nice because you don’t have any expenses, items are already on hand, and you don’t have to wonder what was purchased with a monetary donation. In addition, the items don’t have to be purchased by an organization so, in theory, they are able to be distributed more quickly.

4) Check the local news for recommendations. Though the news is not 100% accurate, they also have reputations to live up to so they usually do a good job of recommending legitimate sources. Our news station’s websites and Facebook pages are full of resources and information on how to help. For the Black Forest fire, there was also a Facebook page set up by several local people who wanted a place to post all reliable information, updates and resources. It is the Colorado Black Forest Fire 2013 page and is getting a lot of press as being up to date, honest, and reliable.

5) Volunteer your time. Many organizations need help during a crisis and there are all sorts of ways to help. You could volunteer to help load food at one of the food banks. A friend of mine is taking her kids to help walk dogs at an animal shelter that is housing displaced animals. There are so many ways to help and I believe that the spirit of giving back is not felt more deeply than when you are able to see the good you are doing.

If you would like to donate to help the relief efforts of the Black Forest Fire, you can click on the links in this post or feel free to find other, reputable sources.  Keep Colorado Springs in your hearts right now. Thank you.




Things I Love Thursdays – Say Cheese!

This week I’m going to talk about one of my favorite things ever….my camera. I know what you’re thinking….”everyone has a camera, how is that an original idea?’ But I just have to mention the reasons why I love it so much and one of them is very pertinent to what is going on in my life right now.

-First off, I love it for all of the reasons most people love their cameras – photos of my family and friends. I am marginally obsessed with taking pictures. Now I am NOT a photographer, I just love taking pictures of pretty much anything. And I do like to pretend I’m a photographer every once in a while and try to get crafty with my shots. I actually look at my pictures all the time. I try to print them, but I also keep them on my computer and I go through them a lot. I also upload them to a photo site so I can share them with friends and family.

-Reason Two! I also take pictures of things I want to have the memory of, but don’t want to keep. Case in point…I do crafts with my son all the time, but do I really need to keep every finger painting, pipe cleaner animal and sticker chart? No. So I keep my very favorites and take pictures of the rest. Well, I actually take pictures of all of them, but that allows me to be very picky with the ones I keep. He is the cutest little artist. Look at this masterpiece!

-Third Reason: I try to always keep a camera with me just in case I really need it. Here are some scenarios I’ve come up with in my mind. If I get in a fender bender, I might want to document possible damage to one of the cars. If I happen to see a bear or some other fleeting wildlife scenario, I want to be able to capture it on film. Here’s an example:

My husband and I were on a drive and all of a sudden we came upon 11 deer, all bucks, in a field. Now we have a lot of deer in our area, but to see 11 big Bucks is pretty rare for us. It’s not the best shot, but I’m so glad I had my camera!

-Fourth Reason: Photos are a great way to take inventory of your home and possessions. Right now, we are plagued by wildfires in Colorado. I am not currently in danger of being evacuated, but I have friends who have been. We actually are watching 2 dogs that belong to a Colorado Springs police officer (who we have never met!) because his home is evacuated and he is working in the Springs. We also had friends stay with us last night. There have been almost 350 homes lost in this fire in the last several days and this was clearly completely unexpected. Here is a shot my husband took from the town next to us:

It’s incredibly sad and my heart goes out to all of the families who have lost their homes. Right now, we are doing things at our house to prepare in case we might have to evacuate for any reason. One of the best things you can do to prepare is to inventory what you have. It literally takes 5 minutes to walk through your house and snap photos of every room, closet, appliance and valuable. You might be thinking that you are not in danger of a wildfire. But what about house fire, floods, burglary? You never know what kind of situation will come up so it’s best to be prepared. And you know what else? My house is quite a mess right now. The organization bug in me wanted to clean the whole house before I took pictures, but then I realized these pics are not for the masses. They are only for documentation. Once I got over that hurdle, I was able to quickly snap photos of every room so I always know exactly what I have. I plan on redoing this every year and I’m uploading them to my photo site so that I can access the ‘Home Inventory’ album from anywhere at any time.

Please take 4-5 minutes and walk through your home with a camera. Snap photos of each room and inside each closet and cabinet. Then download them into a file and back the file up. This could save you a ton of time, money and sanity if something should happen to your home. They don’t have to be pretty or even good, just take the photos!

I don’t want to leave you with that, so I’ll just leave you with a couple of my favorite photos from the last couple years:

Stay Safe!


Safe and sound….and preparing for more

Hi all! Earlier last week I posted about Nixle, which is an emergency notification system that can send you emails or texts with any advisories or warnings in your area. You can read the post here.  Well, it turns out I have been using that service quite a bit this week. I live in Colorado and yesterday a fire started just west of Colorado Springs. It has already grown to over 2500 acres and is working its way towards my community.

It probably won’t reach us, but the little town close to us is on pre-evacuation standby. This means every0ne has to be ready to leave. This is scary stuff. Here are the things I am doing to prepare:

-I have texted or emailed friends in the pre-evacuation area to let them know they can come to our house if they are evacuated. The reason I am texting and emailing is because the phone lines are in heavy use and it can be difficult to get through.

-I have filled our truck up with gas. You never know when you will need to leave and when you’ll get a chance to fill up.

-All of our windows and doors are closed because the smoke here is fairly heavy.

-I have let my out of town friends and family know what is going on and that I am ok.

-I have been in contact with my neighbors so we are all on the same page with what to do if this gets any closer to us.

-I have the news on, am keeping an eye on internet updates and am getting my Nixle texts.

-I TRIED to go the grocery store to stock up. Let’s keep in mind that the closest good size grocery store is 30 minutes away and towards the fire. My husband was out of town (and is trying to get home!) so I packed up the kids and went all the way to the store. I pulled into the parking lot, reached over for my purse….and reached for my purse…..um, no purse. Are you kidding me? I forgot my purse? So I texted my husband to pick up water on his way home and I drove ALL THE WAY home. We have enough food to get us by if they close the grocery store, so we’re ok, but I was so frustrated. That taught me the following HUGE lesson:

Keep your written evacuation checklist handy! So I wasn’t evacuating and it wasn’t technically an emergency yet, but I was flustered and I forgot a critical item when I left the house. I don’t think I’ve left the house without a purse in 15 years! If this had been an actual evacuation, I could have been in real trouble. I do have an evacuation list for when we have to leave to the house, but this little incident showed me how being distracted, scared, busy or time crunched can really affect your thinking. So if you don’t have an evacuation checklist already, get one now, get it printed and make it easily accessible.

I have found several good resources for examples of checklists and evacuation info:

Red Cross Evacuation Checklist

FEMA – this is just a good reference all the way around when it comes to emergencies

Phantom Ranch Checklist – This is probably the most in depth list that I’ve seen. I have no idea really what this website is about. It’s actually a mish-mash of topics, but they are all very well thought out and informative. There is an extensive list of items to take on the checklist and also a list of what to do before leaving.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t always have long to grab things before evacuating. I just heard the best idea for if you have only a couple minutes….Grab the P’s!

The P’s:






Easy enough right? Well, it’s still a good idea to have a written list that you can check off, but if you only have a minute, remember the P’s! I’m exhausted so I’m off to bed. But look for an upcoming post with links to my checklist, which I plan to post. I’m hoping that even if people don’t write their own checklist, they might at least download one for reference!

Sunday Survey Time:


Burned out

A few weeks ago, there was a safety fair in the town pretty close to me.

The sad thing was that there was NO ONE there! I mean nobody, except the exhibitors. It was sad really. Safety in your home, on the road, in the wild, with your family is so important and NO ONE was there! I guess there’s just not a big exciting draw to car seat safety and bear attack prevention booths.

One thing I did find out about though was…

Nixle. Have you heard of this??? It’s a national notification system that offers free email and text notifications for alerts, advisories and warnings. Now, in my neck of the woods (in the Colorado mountains), many times these alerts and warnings are about forest fires.

You may be saying “Well, I’m living in a concrete jungle or suburbia. Why in the world do I care about forest fires?”

Well, Nixle is not just about natural disasters or rural issues. Let me give you an example. I have signed up to alert for my zip code, but also for my parents zip code and my in-laws (you can set up to 5 zip codes to automatically alert). My in-laws are in Atlanta and the other day, I got an alert for them because there was a major accident on the highway closest to them and it was closed. Now isn’t that useful and timely information? For free.

Back to rural Colorado. So we have had forest fires near us and I hadn’t been too concerned because they usually are able to contain them in a reasonable amount of time. But combine high winds, high heat, and no rain, we just had one get out of hand about 8 miles from us.

Springer Fire – Eleven Mile Canyon – June 2012

Smoke Blocking the Sun

It is called the Springer Fire and is now slowly being contained. But we had the possibility of evacuation if the fire came this way. Instead of me searching online or calling the fire department, I have been getting daily reports on the status of the fire, any closures, and the amount of containment. Genius!

So go to their website and spend 30 seconds getting yourself set up for these alerts. It could make a difference in your commute or it could save your life. Either way, it’s worth the time.