Backup Important Documents for When the SHTF

Computers crash all the time, and in some cases, the data stored on the computers cannot be retrieved. Where would this leave you if you had not backed up your data? Practically everyone has a cell phone, and with today’s technology large amounts of data can be stored on a Smart Phone or even on a tablet. The data stored on a cell phone or tablet can be accessed as long as you can power the device during a crisis.

Some people do all of their banking online, and this can pose problems if it crashes, or you cannot access it for whatever reason. It can be a problematic if you do not have passwords and other information needed to access your accounts stored safely somewhere other than on a PC or laptop.

What happens when the grid goes down and you cannot access a computer that relies on electricity, and you do not have a battery backup system that allows you to retrieve vital information, and vital documents?

You can of course backup data to a separate hard drive, but to retrieve it for viewing you would need a computer. Once the SHTF you may need to access data such as insurance documents, passwords, banking information, marriage licenses, and the list goes on.

Typically Android Smart Phones allow users to add additional storage space, while some iPhone devices do not allow you to add additional storage space. You can use microSD cards to store important data on the cards if your phone allows you to use an SD card. Smart Phones and tablets can be used to access data during a power outage as long as the devices have enough battery life.

Consider a small solar panel for charging devices such as cell phones and tablets during a power outage.

Instead of bundling important documents to carry with you if you have to evacuate your home, you can scan them into a desktop computer and then transfer to your mobile device. You can use multiple SD cards to store large amounts of data on cards that can be inserted into the devices for viewing at any time.

Once your important documents are digitized, you can then secure the original paper copies. The originals will be important and must be safeguarded. If you have to carry the paper documents with you as you leave they can be easily destroyed or damaged. Consider caching hard copies in safe locations ensuring they are well protected.

You can secure the documents in a safe deposit box, or cache them safely on your own property for later retrieval. The problem with safe deposit boxes however, is that you may not be able to retrieve the documents in certain situations. On the other hand, if the crisis is nationwide, and it destroys the banking system and other institutions then the documents may not have much value going forward anyway. This is unlikely but possible.

Whether officials or others will accept the validity of documents stored on a device is a question that no one can really answer. Keep in mind that much of the data stored would be for your own use however. Information such as passwords, pass codes, insurance information, phone numbers, addresses, and map coordinates to locate caches, for example.

Consider military service records, birth certificates for all family members, medication prescriptions, eye glass prescriptions and other relevant medical information. Make sure you have copies of firearm information such as concealed carry permits and purchase information stored safely on a device.

Additional information that you might want to store is information on FEMA and the Red Cross, radio frequencies, in particular ham radio frequencies, and information about your state’s emergency readiness plans along with contact numbers.

You should also have recent pictures of all family members and pets in the event you need help searching for lost family members and/or pets.

It might be a good idea to make copies of drivers’ licenses and passports and then scan them into your computer and then transfer to a device or SD card. If you lose your wallet or purse and you do have copies of certain items this gives you a starting point when you begin the process of replacing those items.

Storing documents this way is by no means a foolproof system, but having copies of everything is certainly better than not having any information at all. During Martial Law or when curfews are enacted you would need proof of identity and residency to be allowed back into your neighborhood for example, or to apply for federal or state emergency assistance.

Some people of course will believe the measures listed above would be in vain because they assume that once the SHTF all is changed forever. In some extreme cases, this may be true but the more likely scenario is a disruption for days or weeks, but at some point things would return to somewhat normal, and then you will need certain documents to begin the long recovery process.

In some cases, you may have to prove the children with you are in fact yours. This would be an extreme case, but it is better to have the proper documents and not need them than to, well you know the rest of it.

Hard copies in hand would be the preferred method, but a bundle of documents would take up considerable room in any pack and the chance of them becoming damaged by water, for example, is high. Smart Phones and tablets are usually with the person and the additional SD cards with data on them can easily be secured on your person as well.


Storing data on a thumb drive is an option, but will you need a desktop computer or a laptop to access the information. Access to computers may be limited, so this is something to keep in mind as you prepare for a crisis.