How to Create an Important Documents Binder (aka Grab and go Binder)


Why Have an Important Documents Binder

Having an important documents folder (aka grab and go binder, emergency documents binder, etc) organized and together can make your life so much easier now and in the event of an emergency.  I use my "Grab and go" binder regularly and it is so nice having everything in one place. 

 Important Documents Binder3


Making insurance claims, searching for missing loved ones (heaven forbid), staying in touch with family and friends, traveling around the country and accessing your financial accounts will all be much easier if you have some essential documents at your fingertips.

You can read through the comments below to see many, many situations when people have used their binders on normal days as well as in an emergency.


Four Common Questions Answered

Before I get into the "how to" of creating an important documents binder, I wanted to answer a few questions I often get about this post. 

This post was originally published back in March of 2011.  It only included 5 printables then, but still quickly went "viral" on pinterest.  Since that time, I've updated and improved the original printables and add 10 additional pages for a total of 15 pages for creating a grab and go binder.  I believe this to be the most complete free grab and go binder printable available online.

Over that time, I've had a few common requests and questions.  I will address four below and then get into the "how to" of creating your own important documents binder that you can "grab and go."

I'm Misty.  I'd Love to Simplify Emergency Preparedness For You!

1. Get all 15 Printables at Once

In this post, I will link to various printable forms you can use to build and important document grab and go binder.  Clicking on each one will allow you to download and print it.

But many people have asked for a way to download all the 15 forms at once.  If you want to do this, you can join my email list.

Those on this list get an emergency preparedness tip or printable each week.  The first of these emails includes a link to the pages I link to below to help you build your own grab and go binder full of your important documents.  You can join that email list below:

3. A Quality Safe

The #1 question I have gotten about this post is "Where can I find a water proof, fireproof safe that will fit 8x11 documents and is reasonably priced?"   Well, I use the SentrySafe H230 and you can find it by clicking on this link. 

If you want to know what other products I've used to put my binder together, you can find a list (including other options for safes) HERE

2.  Get Electronically Fill-able Printables

The printables I link to below and / or those you get when joining my email list are pdfs that you simply print out and fill in by hand.   These work well for many people.

However, it can be hard to fix mistakes or make simple changes (like a new address or child's teacher etc) on forms you fill out by hand.  As such, many people have requested an electronically fill-able version of these forms.  It took me a few years, but you can now find that version HERE.

4.  Concerns About The Risks:

I've had many, many people comment or send me emails about their concern over this post.  Some have been very kind, others, not so much.

Having all this in one place creates a risk.  But there is risk no matter what.  If you don't have a grab and go binder at all there are risks. You have to weigh which risk is less scary to you. For me, I've decided the risk of not having it is scarier than the risks created by having it.  My folder is very well hidden and does not call attention to itself. 

The risks of not having this folder and needing it are much more common (just read them comments below for times people wished they'd had one), and I feel "safer" having it.  If you don't, then by all means, don't make one!  If you are nervous about the risk and what some other ideas, read the comments below, there are lots of great ideas from my fabulous readers!  One particularly helpful comment from reader Rachel can be found HERE.

Okay, on to the meat of the post!

I'm simply going to walk you step by step through building your own important document folder / grab and go binder.  I keep our folder near our 72 hour kit, but not in it as I access and use it often.   And yes, it is somewhere safe and well hidden.

Step #1: Gather your documents

Gather your family’s important documents.  You can find a list of suggested documents here:  Documents Checklist

Keep these documents in various categories or sections in a 3 ring binder.   For items / documents that do not fit well on a 3 ring binder, use a sheet protector or more secure "pocket" to hold all the documents that pertain to that person / section.  You might consider the following sections:

  • Emergency Plan (include an evacuation plan, cash, maps, family photos etc)
  • Important Phone Numbers (use the forms linked to later in this post)
  • Family Identification (Birth cert. Ids, military records, social security, immunization etc...have one sheet protector or pocket for each family member's documents)
  • Testamentary Documents (wills, trusts etc)
  • Property Documents (deeds, titles etc)
  • Insurance Documents (policies and ID cards)
  • Tax Documents
  • Investment Documents
  • Legal Documents (marriage / divorce cert, prenups, child custody, utility bills etc)
  • First Aid (quick reference sheets, detailed medical info on family members etc)

Step #2: Plan For Evacuation

If you are ever asked to evacuate, you likely won’t be thinking clearly.  Take a moment now to plan out (and write down) what you will grab, where you will meet, and how you will communicate.   You can find a detailed post on how to do this here: Evacuation Imminent. How to be Ready.  

You can use this form to help you plan your evacuation:  Evacuation checklist.  Place this plan at the beginning of your binder where you can quickly refer to it if needed.

I also strongly suggest adding a recent and past family photo here.  If you were to lose a child (during a natural disaster or otherwise) and then find him / her, you may have to prove that he /she belongs to you.  This would be especially true if the child was injured / incoherent and unable to recognize you for any reason.  Having a older and more recent family photo is one very quick way to prove that this child does and has belonged to you for some time. 

I use a 5x7 photo sheet protector for our two pictures and update them each time we have a new family picture taken.

I also keep cash and an extra set of credit cards in this section of my binder.

Step #3: Record Emergency Phone Numbers

There are likely many phone numbers that you may need in an emergency but don't use regularly.  You don't want to waste precious time trying to look these numbers up.  Take a moment to write down phone numbers that may be important to your family in an emergency such as poison control, a nurse line, your utility companies etc..  You might also consider adding these numbers to your phone.  Yes, there are some emergencies where you won't have access to your phone, but many times you will.

Here are some forms that should help.  This form should help: Emergency Phone Numbers

That form also has a spot for you to record your home address, phone number and family allergies in case a non-family member (such as a babysitter) needs to call someone for you using this form.

You might consider printing this page twice: once for your binder, and once to post in the pantry for babysitters etc.

Step #4: Record Family and Friend’s Numbers

If you didn't have access to your phone (or it had died and the power was out), how many phone numbers would you be able to remember?  Eeek!  I wouldn't know more than my own, my mom's and my husbands. 

If you want to be able to communicate with family and friends during a power outage or other emergency, you should write their numbers down.  You can use this form to do so:  Family and Friend Numbers.

Once completed, add this form to the correct section your binder.

Step # 5: Record Medical, Financial, Utility and Insurance Numbers

Medical providers, financial and insurance account and utility providers are all people we typically don't contact that often.  Yet, in an emergency situation, we may need to do so quickly. 

Write down phone numbers and other information for your medical providers, financial and insurance accounts, and utility providers.

This may be useful not only for your, but  if someone else needs to access those accounts for you and / or if you need to access them away from home, but can’t remember passwords, account numbers and phone numbers etc.

These forms should help (or click on the image to the right to download all four at once):

Once completed add these forms to the correct sections of your binder.

Step # 6: Create ID Forms

Create a form with important information for each family member.  Include things such as eye color, hair color, distinct markings etc.  Be sure to also include a recent picture (and update it at least yearly for children).  Consider including fingerprints and DNA (a piece of hair will do).

I created this my own ID forms back in 2011 after searching for a free one online and not finding one I liked.  If fact, that is how this whole post started.   I keep a copy of these pages in my binder and a 2nd copy with me at all times.  If I were to ever lose my child, I'd want the police to have all their information as quickly as possible.  I've heard horror stories of mothers who can't remember their children's birth dates (read similar stories in the comments below), eye color etc. b/c they are so distraught with worry.  I don't want that to happen to me.

Tips for Fingerprints:

  • DO NOT "roll" your finger when pressing it on the paper.  This can cause the ridges to distort.  And don't use too much ink: practice on a piece of paper first!
  • From one of my great readers: "Doing your own fingerprints at home can sometimes be difficult because of smudging, etc. Another option is to get a fingerprint card taken at any local police station/sheriff’s office. It’s free at my local police station, but sometimes they charge a small fee. You just need to take a photo ID with you when you go."

Behind each ID from (in the same sheet protector / pocket), I keep that child's birth certificate, shot record, social security form etc.  My kids have no allergies or health concerns, but if they did, I would keep details on that info in this sleeve as well.  If your child does have allergies, I suggest you read TJ's advice (she is a reader here) about what she does for her kids (read it here)

You might consider printing ID forms for your binder and to keep with you (in the car / your purse etc) in busy places where a child may get lost. 

Here are two forms that should help (or click on the image to the right to download all three at once):

And I don't have pets, but many of you do!  One of my fabulous readers, Wren created a Pet ID Kit based off the ID kit above.  Then, another fantastic reader, Hazel, who is a veternarian added some great items to it.   So, if you have a pet, you can now download and use this fabulous template!  Thanks Wren and Hazel!

Hazel also recommends the AVMA's (American Veterinary Medical Association) brochure on Animal Emergency Preparedness.  It is available for purchase as a brochure, but it also available for FREE as a pdf download HERE.

Once completed, add these forms to the correct section of your binder.

Step #7: Gather and Record Log-in Info:

I keep a printed copy of all our log-in information for our various online accounts including banks, insurance, cell phone, school loans, facebook, email etc.  (And I'm NOT telling you where I hide this folder, so please do not ask) I do not save this anywhere on my computer though I do store it in a secure cloud  (Dashlane)

This is probably one of the riskiest things to have in y our binder, so consider what is best for your family when choosing to include / not include this information.  YOu can find tips for creating secure passwords here, and here is the password from printable: Password Tracker

If desired, add this form to your binder.  I hide mine between other less confidential forms so that only I know where it is at.

Step # 7: First Aid

Even if you have basic first aid training, you may not remember it in a disaster situation. Keeping shorthand notes of important first aid procedures can help. This form contains the basics for the more serious / commons first aid situations:  First Aid Quick Guide

Make sure you also note any medications your family members are taking in case medical professionals need this information.

I like keeping this info right at the back of my binder so I can quickly access it if needed.

Step #8: Finish Assembling Your Binder

Add all the other documents you gathered in Step #1 to the appropriate sections of your binder.

If Your Time is Money

If the idea of creating your own binder is overwhelming to you, or you feel that your time would be better spent on other projects, consider purchasing the Prepare My Life Planner.

While the binder I described to you above worked for me for years, I do wish I'd bought the Prepare My Life Planner sooner.

The Prepare My Life Planner is TWO things in one:

  1. A grab a go binder (will all the necessary forms)
  2. A comprehensive emergency plan for your family

It will save you an enormous amount of time and you will end up with a much more complete and higher quality emergency plan and important documents grab and go binder.

Learn more HERE.

How About You?

Leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts about this folder.  Do you have one?  Will you be updating it?  Will you not make one?  Why?

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The most complete free printable important documents folder / grab and go binder avaialable online.  Also available in an electronically fill-able format to make changing info or correcting mistakes eaiser.  Include 15 pages and detailed tips and instructions.

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926 Responses to How to Create an Important Documents Binder (aka Grab and go Binder)

  1. Jack Mulligan September 12, 2016 at 8:04 am #

    I think having a binder that has all of the information you need inside is a great idea. I’ve been looking to do something similar with my son to keep all of his medical information organized. If you have a child with extensive medical history I think it’s a great idea to put a binder together for their medical information and paperwork.

  2. Wendy Hampton July 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm #

    I have a testimonial for you Misty. An elderly friend with no family told me she could not find valuable papers in her apartment, so I went to her home and a scraps of paper everywhere…in fact, a large trash bag full of paper. I took it home and went thru every scrap to mine for information which should be saved.

    Following your printables and suggestions I recorded every important datapoint I found, then shredded the original scraps. There were the usual keepers — birth certificate, passport, banking, insurance info, a list of her meds and her doctors, but I also found a paper that said she would like to be buried near her parents in New Jersey and the names of her Executor/caretaker in the event she was no longer able to care for herself. I prepared a red binder labeled I.C.E. (In Case of Emergency), filled it with her info separated by tabs labeled with categories (emergency numbers, banks, insurance, financial planner) and put it into her bookcase.

    One scary day, I got a call from a hospital that Ann had had a stroke and the only name she could remember was mine along with my phone number. They asked if I had any information for her medicine, insurance, finances etc. I was able to direct them to her apartment and that RED binder. They were very grateful and amazed that all the information was in one place and they were able to contact her “Executors”to arrange further care for Ann. She never returned to her apartment and was eventually housed in a senior home. When she passed away, the information for her burial wishes was in the book too and she has been returned to New Jersey to rest with her family.

    I am so thankful I had seen your website and was able to use the printables as a springboard to setup her book. Someone going into the apartment would probably have tossed all those scraps of paper thinking they were unnecessary. You made a difference for my friend, Ann, and to all those with whom I have shared your ideas. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Misty July 29, 2016 at 9:48 am #

      THank you so very much for sharing this story Wendy! I am more grateful than you know. It is good to know that this has made a difference. Thank you.

  3. Lisa July 15, 2016 at 12:36 am #

    I have to say, you are right, having everything in one spot does create danger. However, my husband and I came home from a baseball game to find our apartment had been in a fire. After fire crews sprayed our place with hoses, moved furniture and tore up walls, and knocked over shelving, being able to grab our box of information, soc. sec. cards, birth certificates, insurance information allowed us to get what we needed to get our insurance claims going, into a hotel in 1 day and made life so much easier. Putting it in a locked firebox may be a great idea for everyone.

  4. Theresa May 27, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

    Having trouble with the fillable forms I downloaded. I worked on one sheet and saved to computer with a new name for file and when I pulled it up next day it was just blank printable forms. Maybe its my software.

    • Misty May 30, 2016 at 8:39 am #

      If it was the fillable forms that you bought and paid for, just shoot me and email Theresa and we can hopefully figure out what went wrong together!

  5. Nora Chavez April 30, 2016 at 5:57 am #

    Love this idea. I had a similar binder that I created about my mother when she moved into a nursing home which she had planned for. She told me exactly where she wanted to be. When she died I had all the info I needed for her burial — wishes, her burial plan, social security info, my father’s burial location at the national cemetery where he was buried so she could join him, life insurance policies, and so on. It made the process so easy at a time of grief and dealing with family and friends. The funeral director was impressed. I’m turning 62 and in great health, I’m doing one for myself.

    • Misty April 30, 2016 at 7:18 am #

      Thanks for sharing your store Nora!

  6. Sonia Beltrán April 23, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    Hi!! I have been looking for something like this post and finally I found it!!! This is exactly what i need it. Now, I just need to translate it to spanish because i live at Mexico, but, really, thanks a lot for this helpful material!!! The ID form is actually great. I never thought that one was necessary, but, it really does! Again, thanks, thanks, thanks a lot.

    • Misty April 25, 2016 at 9:48 am #

      You are very welcome Sonia!

  7. Daunn January 29, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

    Something that might actually work. Love it

    • Misty January 30, 2016 at 7:38 am #

      Yay! Glad it is helpful Daunn.

  8. Don Rogers January 29, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

    This is excellent. I started my binder when I returned from Desert Storm in 1991 and it is always a work in progress. It is a comfortable feeling for both myself and my family knowing that what they may need is one place.

    • Misty January 30, 2016 at 7:38 am #

      It is a good feeling Don. Thanks for stopping by and for your service!

  9. Debbie January 20, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

    My father was a WWll military guy. When he died at 90, he had a book like this that I kept with me throughout the funeral planning and all the details after. It was my lifesaver and such a gift. I couldnt have done it all as easily without it. Such a blessing. Make one for yourself and let your executor know where you hide it.

    • Misty January 21, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

      THanks Debbie! I appreciate real life stories like yours. Thank you for taking the time to share!

  10. Holly K. January 5, 2016 at 10:04 am #

    Thanks for the printables! I am doing one for my BIL who is single and all the other ones out there are so “cutesy”. I am having trouble with the EMERGENCY NUMBERS/CONTACTS link, it g=keeps pulling up Evacuation Plan

    • Misty January 5, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

      This should be fixed Holly. Thanks for letting me know!

      • Holly K. January 6, 2016 at 5:27 am #

        AWESOME! Yep it works!

  11. Angela January 3, 2016 at 8:01 am #

    Our school sends out a “photo Id card” every year with our child newest school photo, this goes right in to our binder. Also, I store some of the information in a Flash drive, and I have it on my keys. Never know when you will need it. We live in tornado ally! My binder could get blown to the next county

    On that note I also have a well trusted friend that we have exchanged binders with. Just another.. in case measure! If something happen to my husband and I, she will be taking our children.

    • Misty January 5, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

      All smart steps and ideas Angela! Thanks!

  12. Kelley September 8, 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    Regarding saving your information online, what is the safety aspect of the sites you use? I’m way past the point of paranoid with the idea of doing that, which is ironic since I file taxes online.

  13. Comet strebe August 28, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

    I love this idea, but I wish I could download everything you have here and print it off myself. I cant afford 3 separate books. Thank you

    • Misty August 31, 2015 at 2:25 pm #

      I’m not sure what you mean about 3 different books, but everything on this page is downloadable / printable. (-:

  14. Libby August 10, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

    I really like this idea. Both me and my husband are in the military and having everything close by and organized like this will be a huge help. I am curious if also including a section for any weapons such as rifles or pistols would be usefu, in case of theftl. You would need to have the photos of the weapons along with the stock numbers.

    • Misty August 11, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

      THat is a smart idea Libby!

    • Kiera August 24, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

      I think that’s a great idea. I do not currently have any firearms or other weapons (unless you consider kitchen knives), but if I did, those items may fall into my home inventory category and not a separate category. I don’t know if states do this, but maybe consider looking into whether or not you can have your local police department, sheriff’s office, or state police agency will enter the ballistics information (such as them doing a test fire shot) into an appropriate database. It wouldn’t hurt to keep immaculate records regarding your firearms besides pictures and other identifiable information, you may want to include receipts from your purchase as well as the name of the person who sold it to you.

  15. JGee August 10, 2015 at 8:18 am #

    I have prepared two grab-n-go binders, one for important documents and the other containing important photos. I use plastic sleeve inserts for 3-ring binders, very simple & affordable.
    My photo binder contains one sleeve for each child’s school year photo and few other misc photos we’ve taken. My document binder is divided into the following sections: birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license and auto titles. These two binders are easy to add additional pages if/when needed…I love the security of having this prepared and organized.

    • Misty August 10, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

      The security truly is awesome JGee!

    • lynn August 15, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

      Love the idea of a binder too for family photos! I have thousands…from the very, very early 1900’s up until now and mercy…to have a grab and go binder with some of them is the best idea and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself. Thanks so much for your doing so!

      • Misty August 17, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

        So glad it was helpful Lynn!

  16. Katie July 28, 2015 at 6:21 pm #

    I have two binders, one that I use often and one with all the original documents that are considered important. I will update to include the id kits. One thing that I added to mine was a pencil pouch. My children have received a bunch of savings bonds before the system was changed. I keep them in the binder because they can’t be replaced if lost.

    • Misty July 31, 2015 at 10:05 am #

      Smart Katie! A pencil pouch would solve lots of problems about this binder!

  17. Rob July 12, 2015 at 8:12 am #

    Thanks for the post. We’ve had an emergency binder for a while but the ID kits were something we didn’t think of. One thing to note for those just starting this: build your pages FIRST, then decide on a binder. When we started ours, it changed size 3 times as we stuffed it, Save yourself some time and cash 🙂

    Keep up the good work!

    • Misty July 13, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      Great tip Rob. Thanks!