The Job’s not Finished Till the Paperwork is Done

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Through the years, I’ve seen countless lists for building a bug out bag and even written a few of my own. Each time I review the subject, I find additional things to add and usually end up dropping something off that I realized I didn’t need. My personal ideas don’t always match up with conventional wisdom, as they are based upon my own experiences. My work exposes me to lots of new gear, giving me plenty of reason to replace something I have, with something that seems to be better.

But no matter how many bug out bag lists I read, it seems there’s always something missing. Most of that can be attributed to differences in ideas; but there’s one thing I pretty much never see, which I believe came from the first bug out bag lists of them all, the one put out by FEMA.

Now, don’t take me wrong, I’m not a big fan of FEMA’s bug out bag list. As far as I’m concerned, they miss more than they hit. But that’s probably because their idea of a bug out is going to some emergency shelter that they set up. With that being the case, it’s not really surprising that they’re light on real survival gear. They don’t think we need it.

Ok, so what could they possibly have on their list, which the rest of us forget? Paperwork.

Now, I realize that’s pretty much a setup for a joke, considering that it’s the government we’re talking about and about the only thing they are good for is red tape. Nevertheless, paperwork is a very real part of our lives, so it would end up being a very important part of rebuilding our lives, after a disaster.

Without the right paperwork, you can’t prove who you are, what you own or what you know. For that matter, it’s pretty hard to prove that you even exist. While none of that will matter if you’re living off in the woods somewhere, all by yourself; it will matter if you’re living with others. That’s still going to be true in a post-apocalyptic world.

How would you prove that you own your home or car without a title? How could you get your kids back into school, in the right grade and the right track, without being able to demonstrate where they were when the schools closed down? How would you get a job, without being able to prove you’re qualified? How would you get your money from the bank, when they finally open again, without identification and proof that you have an account?

The truth is, we’re much more likely to face a disaster scenario where we need to rebuild our lives in a world that’s at least somewhere near the one we live in now, than in one where everything is gone and we’re starting over. In that case, all that paperwork will be essential.

Since that paperwork is bulky, difficult to haul around in a bug out bag and easily damaged, a much better idea is to scan it all and put it on a thumb drive. If you can, put it on a CD and a 3.5” floppy disk as well. While the internet might not be in operation in such a time, there will probably be at least some working computers.

For extra security, it wouldn’t hurt to make a hard copy of all those documents and put them in one of your survival caches. That way, you’ll have sets at home, in that survival cache and in your bug out bag.