Make sure your important documents are secure in the event of a disaster.

Use this guide to ensure that — even when the unexpected happens — your important files, identification, and financial paperwork aren’t lost.     

A person working on their digital document contingency plan in their kitchen

Create your digital document contingency plan.


From flash flooding to unexpected housefires, events that can upturn your life in an instant are no fun to think about. That’s why it’s important to have an insurance policy for your files. Electronic backups like external hard drives can only do so much — if they’re in your home when something happens, even they will be lost. Even events that don’t directly affect you can interfere with electronic documentation by damaging power grids and backup servers. 


Digital documents and backups are essential in a world where USAA says that nearly 100 percent of disaster claims have gone digital. Use this list to start your digital filing cabinet of key docs. 



Start with an important documents checklist.


You can only protect and back up what you keep track of, so the first step of your document contingency plan is taking stock of all your most crucial paperwork. Use these lists to ensure you don’t miss anything vital:



Identifying documents


  • Social Security cards

  • Birth certificates

  • Marriage certificates

  • Passports

  • Proof of address

  • Name change documentation

  • Military identification

  • Tribal identification

  • Citizenship papers

  • Visas

  • Professional certifications

Financial documents


  • Tax information

  • Insurance policies

  • Bank statements and records

  • Invoices

  • Pay stubs

  • Warranty information

  • Proof of purchase for large purchases

  • Investment statements

  • Copies of paid medical bills

  • Beneficiary forms

  • Retirement and pension plans

  • Inheritance documents 
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Property documents


  • Lease agreements

  • Real estate agreements

  • Mortgage statements

  • Vehicle documentation

  • Appraisal information

  • Proof of purchase for expensive items

  • Home inspection reports

Legal documents


  • Living wills

  • Power of attorney documentation

  • Trust documents

  • Death certificates

  • Legal filings

  • Child custody documents

  • Adoption papers

  • Divorce papers

  • Naturalization documents

Medical documents


  • Health insurance cards

  • Vaccination records

  • Copies of paid medical bills

  • Disability documentation

  • VA documentation

Take protection a step further with these document storage best practices. 


You’ll need to take different precautions depending on how you store your physical and electronic documents. Follow these steps to ensure you have copies and separate storage locations to keep everything safe.



Tips for physical paperwork storage.


While many documents nowadays are electronic, there are still some (such as Social Security cards) that must be kept as a hard copy. And as paper can be easily lost or damaged during a fire or flooding, redundancies are essential.


While no solution will work for every situation, these potential backup options for hard copies will give you a place to start:

  • Store documents in a waterproof container. 

  • Store similar categories of documents in the same place.   
  • Establish an intuitive filing system.    
  • Create electronic backup copies if applicable.

  • Lock up important documents.

  • Include copies in a sealed bag as part of your emergency preparedness kit.

  • Store copies in a safe and secure offsite location.
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How to back up electronic copies of key documents.


Electronic copies of documents are easy to access, store, and search. In many cases, they are more secure than physical copies. But even electronic copies can be lost in an accident. Server room damage, faulty maintenance, and poor cybersecurity can put these docs at risk. 


Consider the following measures to protect your important electronic documents in the event of a disaster: 

Future-proofing your documents and data.


If it’s not well-organized, it can be easy to lose track of documents over time in even the most secure digital backup. But with Adobe Acrobat tools you can keep your digital file cache neatly organized and easy to use: 

  • Merge PDFs and other related files together and clearly label them to make important info easy to find.

  • Compress PDFs and other files to reduce the storage space needed.
  • Conduct regular risk assessments.  
  • Periodically review files for accuracy, quality, and adherence to filing standards.
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How small business owners and entrepreneurs can protect their files.


With  fewer resources compared to larger enterprises, it can be a significant pain for small businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to back up and protect files in a simple-to-use system. But it’s still essential to have a plan to protect your files:

  • Review and back up legal documents related to business operations, such as business registration and licensing, accounting information, tax information, client records, and business records.

  • Secure client and financial records, such as contact information and invoices.
  • Keep personal documents and professional documents stored separately.   
  • Conduct a risk assessment.

  • Create a filing system that’s easy to navigate and adhere to for all staff.

  • Digitize documents so that an electronic record of all important files exists. 

  • Use a cloud collaboration and backup system. 

  • Use multifactor authentication to protect both individual docs and the cloud system where they are housed. 

  • Keep digital copies of documents on an external hard drive or physical copies of documents in a separate, secure location.

Explore additional resources to ensure you’re prepared.

  • Adobe Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: This is a program designed to help businesses re-establish normal business operations following a large-scale disruption. 

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency was established to help citizens during and after disasters. 
  • Ready is a public service campaign designed to help citizens properly prepare for and manage emergencies, such as natural disasters. 
  • (Risk Assessment): This page explains what a risk assessment is and provides advice, examples, and additional resources for assessing risks related to large-scale emergencies.

  • This search tool allows you to find and apply for local support opportunities after a disaster. 

When the best laid plans go awry, it’s good peace of mind to know your most important documents are safe in the cloud. Thankfully, digital backup technology like Adobe Document Cloud is your life preserver in times of trouble. It’s a quick and easy solution for all your digital document needs. And you can sleep easier knowing that key files and documents won’t be lost.

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