Most of us are aware that the world is full of “WHAT Ifs.”
“What if… my house catches fire, and I have to get out quickly?”
“What if… my purse or wallet is stolen?”
“What if… my family is separated, and I need help finding them?”
One of the most useful items in a well-prepared survivalist’s inventory can help in almost any disaster scenario… and is simple and inexpensive to acquire. We call ours the “Bug-Out Binder,” but you can give yours any name you choose. The best part of an Emergency Binder is that it is completely customizable, and easy to assemble.
We started out by purchasing the following items:
1. A ziploc, cloth-covered, three ring binder. Ours has four interior files, an interior pocket, several exterior pockets and pouches, and a “headphone access” slit. We bought our binder for $13.00 at a popular department store, but prices range from $9-$20.
2. Two packs of 8-count tabbed dividers (These came from the local dollar store). You may need more, or less, depending on how many sections you want to include.
3. Two three-packs of waterproof, zip seal document covers (These also came from the local dollar store).
4. A pack of the binder inserts that hold baseball cards (you will probably only use a couple).
5. A printer, paper, and a hole-punch. Alternatively, you can use notebook paper, if you are willing to do your note taking by hand.
Once you have gathered the necessary items, you are ready to start putting your binder together.
Step one: Decide, on a piece of notepaper, what categories you wish to use to organize your binder. Make your list. Afterwards, reread it. You may find that some of your categories can be put together. Others may be too expansive, and you might want to separate those into individual sections. Underneath each category, you may wish to jot notes on the types of subjects each category may cover.
As an example, here are the sections we chose to include in our binder, with examples of the contents of each one:
The first section is dedicated to our home files.
Emergency contact numbers (including work, school, neighbors, poison control, gas leak hotline, power outage hotline, and so on)
Family emergency plans
Shut-off instructions for utilities
Operating/maintenance directions for well pump, generator, back-up heaters and oil lamps, etc.
Wallet contents, with bank and insurance information and contact numbers
2. STOCKED FOOD-
Inventories for pantry, freezers, icehouse/root cellar, and food stockrooms (with exp. dates)
Shelf life/Expiration chart for food items
3. STOCKED NONFOOD-
Inventory of first aid supplies, by location (with expiration dates of medicines)
Inventory of hygiene supplies
Inventory of firearms and ammo, cleaning supplies, and repair supplies
Inventory of tools and gear, by location
Contents lists for EDC, BOBs, INCH bags, etc.
Planting and harvesting charts
Propagation and seed collection/storage
Preservation guidelines (canning, freezing, drying/dehydrating, etc.)
Yield guides and conversion charts
Planting and harvesting charts
Propagation and seed collection/storage
Preservation (drying/dehydrating, oils, freezing, etc.)
Culinary/medical/personal care usages, dosages, indications
Recipes for teas, tisanes, salves, etc.
(sorted by type of animal)
Care guides… feeding, breeding, shelter, etc.
Recognizing/treating injuries and ailments
Charts for each animal (birth date, health history, breeding record, date and cause of death OR slaughter date and yield)
Maps of each room, indicating measurements of room, windows, doors… location of outlets/plugs/vents… fabric and paint swatches
Fuse/Circuit Breaker box chart
Cleaning supply inventory
List of various info (like the bag and belt sizes for the vacuum, household chore lists…daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal/annual, etc.)
Directions for completing common housecleaning chores, without electricity/running water
Cleaning supply recipes
Stain removal guide
Inventory list of all valuables, with serial numbers, etc.
Info on replacement parts (bulb sizes, tire sizes, etc.)
Auto emergency kit inventory, and expiration dates of any perishable items
The second section is more "survival-oriented." It includes:
1. FIRST AID-
First aid guide (with emergency pages on neon paper)
Several shelter types
"Camping furniture" instructions
Purifying and filtering
Firestarting (several methods)
Burn index of wood types
Traps and snares
Other uses for body parts (bones, organs, etc.)
Bait suggestions and recipes
Water temperature chart for various fish
Line fishing tips
Fly fishing tips
Other fishing tips (nets, fish traps, etc.)
Cleaning and preserving fish
Plant identification and usage guide
Mushroom identification guide
Tree identification and usage guide
Compass and map
Weather prediction guide
Cold weather survival
Hot weather survival
10. CORDAGE AND KNOTS
Tying knots and lashes
Weaving (basketry, etc.)
Clothing patterns, sewing stitches
Crochet stitch guide
12. TOOLS AND WEAPONS-
Making primitive tools
Ax, knife, archery, and sling manuals
Constructing ovens, stoves, etc.
Glossaries of codes, signals, etc. (Morse, phonetic alphabets, and such)
Soapmaking and saponin chart
Basic hygiene (latrines, bathing/showers, dishwashing, laundry, etc.)
Recipes for toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, lotion, etc.
Communicable disease prevention
Trash and sewage disposal
Some of these categories may not be practical for your particular plans. Eliminate those, or replace them with topics that suit you and your lifestyle better. Some suggestions might be Pets (Pet supply inventory, pet care routines, pet food recipes, first aid and medicine, etc.), Childcare (Activity ideas, baby food recipes, infant supply inventory, home schooling curriculum outlines), Religious (favorite Bible verses, prayer journal), Sewing (patterns, fabric charts, techniques), Internet (favorite web sites, user names and passwords, Microsoft and Windows certificate numbers), or anything else you find suitable.
Step two: Label each of your dividers, according to the topics you want to include (and in the order you wish to include them).
Step three: Now, it’s time to compile your information.
For the home sections, this will include taking inventory of supplies, measuring rooms, noting what each of the circuits in your house and vehicle fuse boxes operates, copying contact numbers, listing family emergency plans, documenting the numbers of bank accounts and insurance policies (as well as contact numbers, in case the cards are stolen or a claim needs to be filed), writing down the locations of utility shutoffs (and how to shut each off),documenting the identifying information for household valuables (for instance, the Makes, models, and serial numbers for electronic goods… plus the date of purchase, store, and cost), guidelines for household chores, and so forth.
You may want to print off copies of food storage guideline pages, stain charts, and so forth, to finish this section of the binder.
Step four: For the “survival section,” remember that most articles and books on these subjects contain information you may already know, or that is repetitive of other articles, or paragraphs that are better placed in a separate category. If you include all of the material you compile from the wealth of pdfs, online pages, or books out there, you will have a mess. It will be disorganized, and far too bulky. Your mission, here, is to sort through it all and pull out the most important details for your notes. Use your word processing program, and collect these notes (and any relevant diagrams or illustrations). Keep your notes concise, but helpful. When you are satisfied with your material, print it out and include it in your notebook in the appropriate section.
Step five: Print a current photo for each family member, trimmed or sized to fit into the baseball card page’s slots. On the back of each, list the medical and identifying information for that family member. Birthdate, height, weight, hair and eye color, identifying marks, piercings or tattoos, allergies, medical conditions and current medications, blood type, shot records, dates of illnesses/hospitalizations, etc. may seem like a chore to document, but it could make all the difference in the event that one of your family members is missing, or injured in an accident.
Put each photo into a slot of the baseball card sheet, and insert this in the front of the binder.
Step six: Separate your important documents into the waterproof document holders. Since we have four folders, we divided ours in the following manner-
FILE ONE… LEGAL
Family (marriage certificates, divorce records, custody and child support papers, protection orders, current grade cards and school schedules, diplomas, military discharge/I.D.s, etc.)
Property (Deeds/leases, vehicle titles, and so forth)
FILE TWO… FINANCIAL
W2’s, copy of prior year’s tax form, banking account information, retirement/pension information, and other related papers.
Health (For each member, I included shots records, eye prescriptions, dental records, copies of current prescriptions (if any), and health insurance information)
Death (information on organ donation wishes, Living Will, Last Will and Testament, life insurance information, letters I’ve written to each family member, etc.)
FILE FOUR… IDENTITY
Social security cards, birth certificates, passports
Again, customize your folders in a manner that suits you.
Step seven: If you wish, download your favorite files in their entirety to a disk or flash drive. You can do the same thing for favorite movies, books, photographs, pictures of the items in your home inventory list, computer games, music, or anything else you’d like to preserve. Jot the contents of each media storage item on an index card or print the list out, and store these in your binder. Many flash drives, today, come with a keychain attachment which you can attach to one of the concealed key rings, in these binders. Alternatively, you can store the flash drives or disks in a binder pocket, and use the key ring for duplicate keys to your home, car, business, safe, etc.
Step eight: Complete your binder, by adding whatever additional items you desire. You can tuck maps into the back interior pocket. The pouch with the headphone slot can store an E-reader and charger. Another pouch (or, if you have the space, a pencil case made for a binder) can store items like a multitool, firestarter/lighter, compass, first aid items, a mini fishing kit, or anything else you wish to store!
Step nine: A lot of people express concern, at having this much security information in one place. They are justified in their concerns. Consider a safe spot where you can keep your finished binder. It should be secure from theft or snooping eyes, but it should also be easily accessible to other family members. A fireproof safe is an expensive, but excellent, solution. Alternatively, you might want to keep your binder with your Bug-Out Bags. Whatever you decide, make sure that it is easy to grab (or retrieve) in the event a sudden evacuation is needed, but that it is also protected from theft.
Step ten: Update your binder, regularly. Update inventories, replace family photos, add to medical histories, add new notes, reorganize as desired… this is your binder. Practice your family emergency plans, and take notes on what worked and didn’t. You can use these notes to reformat your plan, for the next practice run. Practice the skills, in your survival notes. If something you took notes on doesn’t work, get rid of it! If something works well, highlight it or add a foil star sticker beside it. If you make changes or adaptations, write them down! Before you know it, you will have… the Ultimate Emergency Binder.