During an emergency situation, there will be various documents and paperwork we will need to protect to ensure they are usable for as long as they are needed. From a map to photocopies of our passports, to copies of our driver’s license to allow us to return home after severe weather events, any form of water damage can mean our documents are ruined beyond use.
Without presentable documents, how can you legally drive? How can you prove you have insurance for your home or car? How can you prove ownership of a bank account?
Gain access to Social Security benefits, go to the doctor, or pick up a prescription?
Sure, eventually, you’ll be able to have the documents re-created.
But during an emergency situation such as Katrina, or tornadoes where whole towns disappear, or massive earthquakes where thousands of people are suddenly displaced, you will be getting in line for re-prints with LOTS of people.
That’s not independence. That’s the very epitome of dependence. We don’t do that around here.
Let’s have a look at some methods we can use to protect paper documents and prevent this type of water damage.
1. Laminate – Our first option is probably the most simple – laminate all documents that are, or will be in your bug out bag. If you have a map to your bug out location or survival notes scribbled onto a sheet of paper – laminate it. If you want to keep a copy of your passport, driving license etc – photocopy and laminate before placing any important bits of paper into your bag. This will provide a good layer of protection against any water you may run in to on your travels.
2. Sprays – Another option is the use of waterproof sprays –clear sprays like acrylic spray or lacquer spray add a waterproof coating to your document as it is sprayed over the paper.
With these sprays two or three light coats are preferred over one heavy coat. This method makes your waterproofing a very simple process.
Simply take the document you need to protect and LIGHTLY spray it until both sides are covered. Allow your document to thoroughly dry and then add a couple more light layers of the spray to ensure that water damage will not be an issue.
3. Wax – Another simple method of protecting our paperwork is by using wax from a candle. A big advantage of this is that if you do not have a candle at home already, you can pick one up cheaply from most stores.
We need one of the small round candles. All you need to do is rub the candle all over both sides of the paper until it has a waxy feel to it. Your paper should be water proof at this point. To test – place a couple of drops onto the paper and make sure it stays dry, if needed spend a bit more time rubbing the wax into the paper.
4. Alum, Soap & Beeswax – Another method is using Alum powder. Alum is soluble in water and turns into a liquid when heated (you can find it in many grocery stores in the spice section). If we then continue to heat the liquid it becomes a great waterproof option for our documents.This method takes a bit more time than the others and a few more materials but the results are impressive and worth the effort.
Start by adding alum powder and some Castile soap (soap made from natural oils) to a pan of water. Allow this mixture to boil while continuing to stir it throughout the process. Once the soap and the Alum powder have dissolved, we need to add some beeswax to the pan and keep stirring to help this also dissolve.
Once everything has dissolved in the water and while the mixture is still hot, dip the paper into the mixture. Make sure you do not leave it in there too long, just enough to cover your paper in a coat of the mixture. At this point you just need to leave the paper somewhere to dry off and you have another document ready to take on the elements without risk of damage.
5. Aquaseal – There are products on the market that are specifically designed for the purpose of protecting our documents from water damage.
Products such as Aquaseal cover our documents with a clear, film-like coating that makes them completely waterproof even after folding, unfolding and anything else you need to do to the document to keep it on you.
One drawback with this product is that you cannot use an inkjet printer for your printed sheet. The ink will run. It must be laser or professionally printed materials.
6. Waterproof Paper – There are numerous manufacturers of products such as waterproof paper, notepads and pens. You can get them for laser and inkjet printers, as well as for copied or handwritten documents. They make both the paper you write on and the ink you use completely waterproof meaning your documents stay safe regardless of rain or an unexpected river crossing!
A waterproof paper notebook is a must-have item for every Bug Out Bag or other emergency preparedness cache.
Try all of these methods and find which one works best for you. Your bug out bag is going to be full of important equipment and paperwork that you do not want to risk losing. Make protecting your documents part of your prepping.
Be sure to read, Must-Have Records After TSHTF for a list of documents you should be including in your BOBs and GHBs.