I Am the Man in the Box: Keeping Your Documents Safe

Yes, that is the opening line to the song by Alice in Chains, but I am not about to talk to you about censorship. I am going to tell you what documents you need to keep safe and how to do it so you too can “become the man in the box.” Most people that have lost everything in fires or floods wish that they would have had one such box filled with the things that would help them get their lives back on track.

These safes/lock boxes have the terms “fireproof” and/or “waterproof” on them, but they are really only fire/water resistant – be sure to read their specifications carefully. For example, many are only rated at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time or to be only in a certain amount of water for a certain amount of time – basically they are supposed to protect your documents during a “normal” house fire and subsequent fire fighting measures or a small scale flood.

As an added measure of protection, it might be a good idea to get a fire-resistant document bag or two. These bags will also make it easier to grab and go if you need to pack your stuff in your BOB and get out of Dodge – a 20 – 40 pound lock box would make that trip a little less than enjoyable. As they say in the “prepper” world, redundancies are necessary – have backups to your backups. In this case, I would put the most important documents (or all of them) in a fire-resistant bag in a zip-loc bag in a fire-resistant bag in my lock box and have a few packs of silica gel thrown in there as well. This is because there have been cases of moisture/condensation/humid conditions/prolonged water exposure damaging items stored in some of these lock boxes.

The packs of silica gel will soak up the excess moisture as well as help prevent rust, corrosion and mildew on other items (ammo, weapons, CDs, etc) you might choose to store. Here is my logic on the fire-resistant/zip-loc/fire-resistant bagging method – if the heat is intense enough to potentially penetrate the lock box, the outer fire-resistant bag will help; if it goes through that it will melt the zip-loc bag onto the other fire-resistant bag instead of onto your documents; the zip-loc bag is obviously to keep out water in the event of some sort of flooding that might compromise the lock box itself. This is just A way – not THE way – to store your important documents.

Another great option for added security on the go is the NV200 Nano Vault by GunVault. Most of the time that I’ve heard of people using this is as a lock box for their handgun in their vehicles because it has a cable that will loop around a solid object and lock into the box. The only major complaint I’ve heard with these is that the crimps on the cable aren’t always tight enough – i.e. check and tighten them yourself or buy a stronger cable. Keep in mind this is a small lock box that will only fit a few essential items – ID, social security cards, passport, extra cash, cell phone, other small survival items, or (as it’s designed to) a pistol and a few magazines. The NV200 is great to use on a regular basis for travel, in a vehicle or as an additional security measure for items in your BOB.

Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for – the following is a list of documents in no particular order that you should consider always keeping in a safe place:

Identification: Social security cards, birth certificates, copy of driver licenses, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, child support orders, shot/medical/dental records

Military (current or former): Duty assignment orders, promotion orders, DD Form 214, contract, SGLI, DD Form 93, any DA Form 1059, NCOER/OER, awards

Legal/Finance: Any power of attorney documentation, wills, property deeds/titles, rental agreement, all insurance policies, all banking/investment information, copy of credit/debit cards

Education: Official transcripts, certifications/titles awarded, diplomas

Personal: Family pictures, backup CDs/thumb drives/external hard drive of all sensitive computer information, maps of your area

Other possibilities: Weapons, tools, small survival cache

It would be great if you had plenty of  notice ahead of time of any disaster that could wipe out your home and/or the means to load your “box of life” into a vehicle and safely evacuate the area, but we all know it doesn’t always work out so easily. I would also recommend keeping at least one copy of everything in your lock box stored at a separate location – a relative/friend’s house or bank deposit box the next state over. If you have the capability to do so, it might be a good idea to share such a location with extra survival items and have one to the North, South, East, and West of you, because you never know which direction or how far you might be pushed from your home – redundancies are the key to your survival!

You can always add or remove items as you see fit. What changes would you make?

Remember – Stay prepared, stay alive!

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