Q&A: Something to leave out of your disaster kit: Original documents

Dear Liz: My wife and I are having a disagreement regarding documentation for our disaster recovery kit. She wants to put in hard copies of drivers’ licenses, credit cards, financial records, including bank and equity accounts. I think that all we need are account numbers, because the financial institutions will hold actual documentation in safer places, away from any disaster that may hit our community. I’m worried that someone may find these documents and use them nefariously, especially if we’re away from home during a catastrophic event. How much disaster planning is too much?

Answer: Security expert Avivah Litan said you have a point.

“The risks are higher than the benefits when it comes to storing hard copies of sensitive documents,” said Litan, vice president and distinguished analyst at research firm Gartner Inc.

Litan recommends storing the account numbers in a disaster recovery kit and keeping an original document that proves your identity (such as your driver’s license or passport) with you at all times in case of disaster. She suggested storing electronic copies of vital documents in a secure online storage account from a reputable provider. That way you’ll have access to what you need regardless of where you are.

Also consider allowing others to get access to the account if something happens to you. Some services allow you to appoint a trusted person who could be granted access in case you’re dead or incapacitated, or you could share your password in advance with that person.