Sometimes stuff happens and families go through unexpected crises. If and when those crises occur, it’s very helpful to have an In-Case-of-Emergency binder.
An In-Case-of-Emergency (ICE) binder is a binder that holds all of the important information you or your loved ones need to know in the event of an emergency.
As you’re making your ICE binder, you want to think about all of the information others might need if you’re incapacitated, unable to get home, or have some other type of emergency event.
Table of Contents
- Why You Need an ICE Binder
- You’re the Main Financial Manager in Your Family
- You Want to be Prepared for an Unexpected Event
- You Want to be Able to Minimize Stress During a Crisis
- You Want to Help Your Family/Yourself be Prepared for Any Situation
- What to Include in Your In-Case-of-Emergency Binder
- Personal Information
- Medical Information
- Bank Account Information
- Investment Account Information
- Insurance Information
- Household Information
- Will and Estate Information
- Pet Information
- Military Information
- Call Logs
- Personal Notes
- How to Create an In-Case-of-Emergency Binder
- Who to Share Your ICE Binder With
- Where to Store Your ICE Binder
Why You Need an ICE Binder
There are several reasons why an In-Case-of Emergency Binder is a must-have for you and/or your family. Here are four important ones.
You’re the Main Financial Manager in Your Family
If you’re the main financial manager for your family, an ICE binder is so important. In many families there is a main financial manager because one partner is just not interested in dealing with the finances.
That’s okay if it works for you, but what if the day comes when your partner HAS to deal with the finances? Would they know what to do? Where the money is located? How to pay the bills?
In a lot of partnerships, the answer to those questions is “no.” Don’t leave your spouse in a situation where they are having to deal with a crisis and having to take a crash course on how to manage the money for your family.
Have a family emergency binder ready to go in case you can’t be there to help them.
You Want to be Prepared for an Unexpected Event
Unexpected events do happen. And it doesn’t even have to be a deadly event to cause a stressful situation. What if you’re traveling across the country for work and an EMP bomb goes out and takes out half the country’s electronic capability?
Your spouse is at home with no way to contact you and no idea how to manage the family’s finances. Or what if there’s a weather event that leaves you unable to get home – or destroys your home?
A family emergency binder located off-site will help you quickly gather all of your information and be able to keep your finances in order.
In the same way that you should have an emergency fund for unexpected financial events, it’s wise to have an ICE binder for unexpected life events.
You Want to be Able to Minimize Stress During a Crisis
Crises are stressful – even small crises. Don’t increase your family’s stress level by adding “gather all personal and financial information from all corners of the earth” to the to-do list.
Create your ICE binder and put it in a place that is easily accessible and ready to go.
You Want to Help Your Family/Yourself be Prepared for Any Situation
Having an In-Case-of-Emergency binder is simply smart planning. Do yourself and your family a favor and prepare yourselves for any type of emergency or crisis.
The more prepared you are for the variety of crises that can happen, the less you’ll have to focus on deciding what to do and the more you’ll be able to focus on doing it.
What to Include in Your In-Case-of-Emergency Binder
Basically, include anything your loved ones might need to know if you suddenly weren’t around, or were having a medical emergency.
The Personal Information section in your ICE binder would include information such as:
- Your full name
- Your date of birth and where you were born
- The names (and contact information) of your parents, siblings, spouse, and children
- When and where you were married
- Your height and weight, eye, and hair color
You would also store important documents such as your birth/marriage certificates, passports, and so on in a section or nearby. The goal is to include information that would tell people exactly who you are, where you came from, and who your closest family members are.
This section should include all medical information one might need to know about you. For instance, you would include:
- Any medications you’re currently taking, and in what doses
- Allergies to any medications
- Where your pharmacy is located and contact information for your pharmacy
- Name and contact information for your primary care doctor and any other medical professionals
- Your health history, including any surgeries, injuries, pregnancies, etc.
- A list of any health conditions in your family
You might also include any other pertinent health information for you or your family members that others may need to know. For instance, you could put your health insurance/Medicare information in this section. We’ll also talk about putting health insurance information below.
Bank Account Information
This is the section where you’ll want to list all pertinent bank account information in your In-Case-of-Emergency binder. Be sure to include bank names, account numbers, and the type of account (i.e. checking, savings, money market) it is.
In addition, include the type of ownership on each account. In other words, is the account solely in your name? Are there joint owners on the account, and if so, who are they and what is their contact information? What are the names of any beneficiaries on the accounts?
If you’re including Certificates of Deposit or IRAs, be sure to include the current interest rate, term, and expiration dates. Update the balances in the accounts regularly, or store the most recent printed/paper statements in your binder.
This section in your ICE binder is where you would include any information about safe deposit boxes you hold as well. Include the box number, bank name and location, and the location of the keys for the box, as well as a list of what is in the box.
Investment Account Information
And don’t forget to include all of your investment account information. Include the following information for investment accounts:
- Name of the bank/investment company holding the account
- Account number
- Ownership/beneficiary information
- Type of account (mutual fund, bond fund, retirement account, non-retirement account, etc.)
- Name and contact information for any investment representatives or financial advisors you work with
- Most recent statement for each account
Include any other information about your investment accounts you think might be relevant as well.
This section will contain policy numbers, expiration dates, payout amounts, and payment amounts for all insurance policies you have. Be sure to include information for all auto insurance, renters or homeowners insurance, life insurance, and medical insurance policies.
When you create the medical insurance information page, it wouldn’t hurt to keep a copy of it in the section with your medical information as well.
In this section, you’ll want to cover all that someone would need to know about running your household. Some ideas as to what to include in this section are:
- Utility company and billing information
- Average price or history of utility bills
- Age/replacement date of mechanicals and appliances
- Contact information for service providers such as appliance repair companies
- Warranty information on mechanicals, roofing, etc. or direction as to where to find warranty information
You’ll also want to include information on operation and maintenance of mechanicals where applicable to your home.
Note: Consider including a copy of your personal finance information as well. Include a copy of your monthly budget, as well as what you spend annually or monthly on items such as clothing, car repair/maintenance, home repair/maintenance, etc.
Create it so that the person reading has a good understanding of how much money it takes to run your household on an annual or monthly basis.
Last but not least, keep a list of all accounts and passwords in here, for every account you have.
Will and Estate Information
This section will contain copies of your will and estate information. You can also add information for and about, powers of attorney, any end of life directives, resuscitation or living will directives, burial and service requests, etc.
Use this section to reiterate who should get custody of your children in the event you and your partner are both unable to care for them. And include contact information for your attorney here as well.
Yes, we are including attorney contact information in other areas, but a bit of overkill won’t hurt.
It can be helpful to include pet information in your ICE binder too. Compile the ages, birthdates, and names for all of your pets, including their breeds.
Include their feeding and bathroom schedules, any care or exercise schedules, and a list of any medications they might need, as well as where to get those medications. Also include contact information for veterinarians and other service providers for your pets, such as groomers.
Lastly, you’ll want to include who should get your pets in the event that you and your immediate family can no longer care for them.
This section should be included if you or your partner are or have served in the military. You’ll use this section to outline any military benefits you have due, survivor benefits, retirement plans, and any contact information for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Local VA hospitals, etc.
This is a separate section with space for recording who you talked to and what information you received from them when you made calls regarding specific emergencies or events.
You’ll appreciate having this section if you are dealing with some type of natural disaster or accident where insurance and/or authorities are involved. It will help you keep track of what needs to be done and what has been done to help you get your life back on track.
And lastly, this section covers personal notes. Most people use this section to write love letters to their partners, children, or family members. While this may seem unnecessary, it can be very helpful for family members to have love and encouragement in times of emergency.
You can use this section to reiterate what you discussed in the wills and estate section, or you can use it to write personal letters to those close to you, or both!
You can use it to tell loved ones how much you care for them, what you want for their lives, etc. What you put in each note is up to you.
How to Create an In-Case-of-Emergency Binder
Of course, you can create a binder yourself. Gather all your important documents, notes, account information, etc and put it in one place.
However, if you want something premade, where you can just fill out the information without forgetting anything, Chelsea over at Smart Money Mamas has created an ICE binder printout set that has all of the information you’ll need at your fingertips.
The Family Emergency Binder has sixteen well-organized sections divided into three main modules: Family Information, Financial Information, and Need to Know Information.
This binder is a PDF downloadable that lets you fill out your information online and save it electronically or print and fill it out manually. The printable version uses less color than the online version to help you save on ink.
It also comes with a setup guide that shows you exactly how to use it. Chelsea’s Family Emergency Binder even comes with online email support to help you answer any questions.
And at just $39 (for the digital copy), it’s very affordable. So, if you don’t have the time to create your own ICE binder spreadsheets or documents, you may want to consider this ready-to-go version.
They also offer a Flash Drive version for $59.
Be sure to store your binder information in a quality binder. And use page protectors for each sheet as well as page dividers to separate each section.
You can store the binder in a waterproof, fireproof bag so that it stays safe even during a weather disaster.
Also, consider putting the information on a flash drive as well. That way there are both hard copies and electronic copies available.
Check out the Family Emergency Binder
Who to Share Your ICE Binder With
Depending on your life relationships, there are a few different people you may want to share a copy of your ICE binder with. Some ideas can include:
- Your children
- Your parents
- Siblings or other relatives
- Your closest friends
- Your attorney
You get the picture. Just be sure that the people who would need it in case something went wrong have it – or at least know where it is.
Where to Store Your ICE Binder
Besides storing a copy of your In-Case-of Emergency binder with those closest to you, you’ll want to store your own copy in a safe place (or two).
Maybe you’ll have a copy in your office and another in your safe deposit box at the local bank. Storing your copy in a waterproof/fireproof lock box or bag like the one linked to above is a good idea as well.
That way it’s safe from the elements in the case of a natural disaster.
The thing about unexpected crises is just that: they are unexpected. Having an In-Case-of Emergency Binder is a smart way to be organized and to help yourself and/or your family prepare for a multitude of different emergencies or disasters.
Being prepared will help you and your family minimize stress and be able to more quickly gather all they need to deal with an unexpected life event.
Do you and/or your family have an In-Case-of Emergency binder? If not, what’s stopping you from creating one?
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Joyce Wirch says
Price of Family Emergency Binder as of 1/7/22 is $59, not $39 as listed in article. Quite a jump (50%) since Sept 2021 when article was updated!
Jim Wang says
Hi Joyce – the $59 price is for the Flash Drive Box, it’s still $39 for digital files only.