Thanks to the heroic efforts of firefighters and fire safety awareness, residential fires aren't nearly as common today as they used to be. Thirty years ago, for instance, approximately 606,000 home fires occurred in the United States, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association. Today, that total is closer to 369,500.
When a fire breaks out, the No. 1 goal is to flee, ensuring that everyone gets out safely. Material belongings can be replaced, but lives can't.
That being said, there are some things that are more difficult to replace than others, making them extremely important to keep in a fireproof safe. The following are some of the more vital documents that you should have safely stored away so they aren't destroyed in worst-case scenarios:
Home insurance policy
Besides your family and safety officials, the first contact you'll make after a fire is your home insurance provider to begin the claims process. Keeping a hard copy of your coverage policy can help you expedite the process and also determine what's provided for.
Everyone receives a birth certificate. Besides being a memento, it's also often needed for registration or verification purposes. Should the original be lost, you can have it replaced, but it will cost you money and can be time consuming. Do yourself a favor and keep it protected.
Social Security card
You may know your Social Security number by heart, but that's not enough, as employers, credit card companies, banks, and telephone providers – just to name a few – need it to verify you are who you are. Keep your original Social Security card safely stowed away.
If you've ever traveled outside of the country, odds are you have a passport. This document is a must for international travel today, plus it can be used as a form of identification here in the U.S. Instead of a desk drawer, consider adding it to your fireproof safe.
Every April, workers make a formal reporting of their earned income to the federal government. The Internal Revenue Service can inquire about declarations made that may not square with what they have on file. Be sure to have a hard copy of your tax documents every year that you file. Financial experts recommend keeping at least seven years worth of tax statements before you can throw them away.
We may be living in an increasingly paperless society, but hard copies are still necessary. Be sure to keep these and other documents your financial advisor recommends in a fireproof safe. It may not save your life, but it will help make things a lot easier when the unpredictable happens.