Cassandra On the War
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Preparedness Week: Paperwork

Continuing what has become both a repost and a bit of an expansion of some previous preparedness posts. You can find an archive of all of them here, and I would also urge you to go back and read the "fundamental" posts and -- especially -- the comments here, here, and here; and the post on walking home and Monday's post on looking after yourself is here. Tuesday's post on room kits is here. Wednesday's post was actually a two-fer looking at car kits and power. Thursday's post is actually several posts, combined into one looking at packs, snivel gear, and more. Friday's post is another several combined into one dealing with packs, cans, and protection.

Today's post deals with issues of paperwork, for disasters and dissapointments come in all sizes and shapes. It also reflects my theory that whatever you plan for doesn't happen; so, plan for the worst, hope for the best, and take what comes. Detesting paperwork as I do, this is the area where perhaps I need the most improvement, so do as I say -- not as I do. :)

First up, come up with some checklists for a variety of potential emergencies. Now, as I pilot (and someone who is somewhat absent minded), I do like checklists. They make sure you do what is needed, don't forget anything critical. Checklists can keep you from pulling one such as in Bloom County years ago, where Opus got all the canned provisions in the fallout shelter, but forgot the can opener... Use the checklists in non-emergency situations to test and refine, and to get in the mental habit of using them.

As part of the checklists, come up with emergency gathering spots: if there is a house fire, everyone meets at X spot for headcount and triage; if there is a bad storm, everyone goes to X place; if something happens during the day, is there a spot other than home that is equidistant from all that would be a secure rendezvous point; etc.

Make sure you have the emergency paperwork discussed earlier this week. Copies of prescriptions, drivers licenses, wills, deeds, titles, powers of attorney, insurance information, and other things likely to be required are good to have in several secure locations, ready to go.

While technically not paperwork, are you prepared electronically? As I wrote back in 2004:

One of the things I do as a consultant on disaster preparedness issues is emphasize the need, and ease, of doing backups. While this is primarily computer, it also applies to paper records as well.

For computers, I have three types of backups: on-site, local, and long-distance. On-site is what most people do, but it is the least secure in terms of a real disaster. If your system crashes, it is great in that it is right there and all that, but if there is a fire, flood, storm, or man-made disaster, just call yourself Boston because you are scrod.

The way around this is to have an off-site, but local backup. This can be as simple as backing up your work computer or system and taking the backup to your home. You can get fancy and use a climate controlled facility for computer and paper backups, but you need something local that is physically removed from your main location. Updated regularly, it gives you security in the event something happens to or at the main site. If it is local, consider having a direct connection so that the system can be updated daily, or even mirrored.

Yet, nature can delight in being cruel and really do a number on any given locality. So, the way around this is to have off-site, non-local backups. It can be a different part of the company, relatives, friends, or any place else which is at least semi-secure and geographically isolated/remote from the main site. That way, if a tornado comes through and does unplanned urban renewal on your area and takes out the on-site and local backups, you still have options.

Another idea to consider here is to work with someone you trust who also needs to do backups. You each buy suitable storage/hard drive, and set it up where you back up to each other. With the right security protocols, both are safe and you both have inexpensive non-local backup. Want other ideas, or expansion on any of these? Hire me.

Also, make both paper and electronic backups of important documents. What I have done for some is to copy them, and then shoot digital high-res photos of them and burn same to CD. Make several copies each way, and store them in each of the areas above. That way, if something happens, you will have the needed copies of deeds, wills, and more so that you and yours are protected from bureaucrats and other officious types of all sizes and shapes.

Finally, test the system. I have been bitten before by things that should have worked, but did not. Be as prepared as possible.

I love the idea suggested earlier this week on thumb drives. They are getting much larger in capacity, smaller in size, and less expensive; and, make a handy way to carry important electronic files with you. They even can be hidden easily against theives and such during an emergency.

Insurance, be it provided through work or by you, is something that people often don't want to think about. The amount is given thought, but the beneficiary is often something avoided. Word of advice: it matters, and if there is reason to change the beneficiary because of marriage, divorce, or some other major (or minor) change, then do it right then -- not later. Later may never come, and it ends up screwing over innocent people and causing a lot of grief, pain, and just plain stubbornness to get put right. Make multiple copies of those numbers and any critical documentation that they can ask for later.

A will is critical, I don't care your situation. Do NOT give strangers -- or worse yet -- the government control of you or your estate. I've had a will since I was a teenager (or maybe even younger) because of some property and other circumstances). While you often can draw up a will yourself, some states do require that a lawyer do it (or did, hope that bit of workfare got shot down or withdrawn everywhere). You can save some time and expense if you work with a lawyer by drawing up as much as possible ahead of time. Just be careful about using old language or forms: my first will was drawn up by a lawyer who was also my Sunday school teacher, and I used an old form. When he read the "having no legitimate children" part of what I had drawn up, he fixed me with a glance and asked if I had something I needed to tell him???

You need to have a power of attorney, power of attorney for healthcare, and a living will/declaration in states that support/require same. Have them all, and talk with the people who hold them. Again, do not give control of yourself to strangers or government, for they will neither know your wishes or care about them.

Nor should this be just anyone. To be honest, none of my blood hold them, for the people that the state would look to are people I do not trust with same. The reason I don't trust them is that both Dad and I tested some people, and the person I had hoped I could count upon failed every test that came their way. Since blood family was not up to the task, I turned to my "real" family, those that I have chosen as being more than blood to me. If you have no family, go to the family you chose and find a true friend.

As for how I want to die, to steal from Bored Of The Rings I would really rather my death be quick, painless, and someone else's. That not being likely, and my next preference being rather hard on the partner who is left behind (third is being shot at age 142 by the enraged father of an 18-year-old female), I will take what comes. Since whatever you plan for doesn't happen, I have planned for cancer, extended illness, etc. Should such come, all I can say is hospice and home. My executors know this, and I know that they will make me as comfortable as possible. What fate awaits, who knows, but I have planned for those I deem the worst.

Nor does it stop there. Copies of the various POA's and advance care guidance are on file with my doctor, the urgent care place, and the local hospital as well as with those who hold the power. Given the bureaucratic efficency of the local hospital, I tend to keep an extra copy or three around as they seem to need it each time (and to ungarble basic info in my file, but that is another story -- great care, horrid administration). Another thing on file with all is an emergency contact/notification list. It asks them to contact the following people in the following order if I come in in bad shape for whatever reason. I also have those lists with several key people at work, so that if I go down on the job for whatever reason, they know who is my doctor, who needs to be notified, and other critical info (allergies, blood type and blood transfusion guidelines, etc.). Keep that notification list updated for all too as numbers and such change.