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Do You Have Your Grab & Go Box?

December 19, 2018


Susan Cosgrove
Senior Extension Associate


Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University extension service.

Susan Cosgrove:

Do you have a Grab & Go Box?

  1. What is a “grab & go box”? This is sometimes called an evacuation “to go” box, or a portable file of important documents you can grab and take in case of emergency evacuation. Portable fire & flood-proof boxes or bags designed to store these files are available online and at many stores that sell office supplies. The boxes may be heavy and don’t have a lot of space, so plan carefully about what you will include in your box before you purchase one to be sure you get the right size. I also want to stress the importance of keeping this box locked, even if the key is attached. It will be more likely to stay shut in a storm. If you plan to place documents inside a waterproof plastic bag, place them in a paper envelope inside the bag just in case of fire so the high temperature will not melt the plastic on the contents. Why the plastic bag? You are taking an extra step just in case the box is not waterproof.
  2. What should I put in the box? I am making edits right now to our Extension publication on this topic. You still include what is most difficult to replace, such as copies of Social Security cards, vital records, school records important phone numbers, account numbers, insurance policies, estate planning information, deeds, titles, loan documents. Copies – front and back, of credit cards. Color copies of driver’s license and passports. Tax returns for last 3 years. Immunization record for household members. Labeled photos of household members. Proof of pet ownership such as tag numbers, microchip information or photos of you with your pets. List of prescription medications and eye glasses. Digital version of home inventory. Digital copies of irreplaceable photos. Data inventory of valuables. List of all electronic access user IDs and passwords and PINs. List of debt obligations, due dates, contact information. The location of safe deposit boxes (with key location) and names of authorized signatories.
  3. So what should I put in my safe deposit box? This is where we store our original papers and other valuables. These boxes are located at our financial institutions. Examples of what to put in a safe deposit box include: deeds, titles, mortgages, vital records, child custody papers, military records, appraisals, leases and other contracts, investment documents, insurance policies, home improvement records/receipts, jewelry, medals, other collectibles/keepsakes.
  4. What if I have too much information to fit in my grab & go box? It’s better to have digital files than no information, but the reason to have paper copies is in case of disasters and you need immediate access to your information. So scan your documentation front and back to reduce the number of pages. Don’t forget to include cash for several days of living expenses along with several blank checks. Natural disasters can shut off access to banks or an ATM.
  5. Why can’t I just store all of this in the cloud? We do recommend backup and digital files. Store the contents of your grab & go box and your safe deposit box (with no duplications) on a secure, password-protected jump drive. You may also consider saving them to a virtual file like Dropbox, Google Docs. There are several productivity apps for mobile devices that make it easy to use your phone as a scanning device. When you have your final digital version of your grab & go box and your safe deposit box, send a copy of it to a trusted friend or relative who lives at least 300 miles away. You may ask the purpose of this. It’s because disasters like hurricane Katrina or tornadoes. By sending it that distance, a natural disaster should not affect the location where you send it. You may also want to provide your attorney with a copy in a sealed envelope to be opened with your permission if you become incapacitated.
  6. How do I maintain this important information? Our lives change so quickly when there are births, deaths, moves, marriages, divorces and similar events. You may buy a house, sell one, or buy new property. The best Evacuation “To Go” Box, or “Grab & Go” Box will not last forever. Experts recommend you review and update your information annually. Perhaps at tax time or preparing for hurricane season would work well. Whenever you review your box, mark your calendar with a reminder to go through it to make sure the contents are current and accurate.

Mississippi State University Extension has information sheet #1801 – Preparing Your Evacuation “To Go” Box available at your county Extension office or online at

You may also contact Susan at 662-773-3091. Planning and preparation can help the unexpected from becoming a harsh financial reality.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University extension service.

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