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In case of emergency have documents prepared and safe

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Over the past few months a number of disasters, both natural and manmade, brought to mind that the unexpected can come quickly and in many forms. Preparing ahead can make recovery a much smoother process.

According to Department of Homeland Security websites like FEMA.gov and Ready.gov, every person and family should have an emergency plan in place well before one is needed. The plan accounts for important considerations like food, medicines, communication, and essential documents.

Having documents regarding property, insurance, identification and pet vaccinations in the aftermath of a tragic event can take care of both known and unknown possibilities, said Capt. Kevin Mitchell, 21st Space Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Legal Assistance chief.

“Always be prepared,” he said. “There are some things that are always needed and can be kept in a small fireproof box. It should be one that is portable and that can be grabbed on the go without having to track it down.”

Mitchell recommends an updated will, healthcare power of attorney and advanced medical directive (if desired), updated insurance information, medication and allergy lists for all family members, certified copies of birth certificates, and copies of pet vaccinations if applicable.

Having documentation regarding pet vaccinations is valuable in case quarantines are imposed, something people do not always think about, he noted.

Mitchell also suggested keeping a list of family contact information in the secure container.

“Keep contact information for people who are both near and far,” said Mitchell. “You may not be able to get through to people nearby who are in the same situation. You can kind of distance-proof your contact list.”

When children are involved, there are certain considerations that should be handled ahead of time as well.

“If children will be traveling with another family member, make sure you get a Loco Parentis Power of Attorney,” he said. “In case that person has to make a medical decision for the child, like admit them to the hospital, this allows the holder to act in place of the parent."

For deployments, there are a few more legal tools to consider in addition to what has already been mentioned.

“Make sure your spouse and children have the ability to access the services on base,” said Mitchell. “Members need to ensure their family has access to military-specific resources, so a power of attorney for military personnel, finance and identification card issues is a must. Additionally, a general POA is also advised so the spouse, or holder, can make the day-to-day decisions on a variety of issues that may come up while the member is deployed.”

Seasonal concerns also create the need for certain powers of attorney, he explained. For example, tax time always comes in April and a POA can ensure someone can assist in the preparation of your taxes while you are deployed.

There are other types of POAs that might be appropriate given the situation. For help determining which documentation might be the most useful, or for assistance deciding what documents should be in place and protected, the 21st Space Wing Legal Office is available to provide some direction.

Services such as POAs, legal advice or wills, among others can be provided by 21 SW/JA staff.

“Appointments fill up fast,” Mitchell said. “Don’t get caught off-guard. Be sure to mention whether you are deploying when you call. Remember, Airmen deploy, don’t wait until notification to prepare for it.”

For questions about any of the documents discussed in this article, please contact the 21st SW Legal Office at 556-4871, or stop by the Legal Office, located in Building 350, Suite 1055.

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