CLEMSON — With Hurricane Matthew threatening South Carolina, agricultural producers need to be sure they have all important documents safeguarded.

Clemson University experts say keeping important papers safe from fire or flood in a fire resistant/waterproof file box, or digitally can help speed up any insurance claims that may need to be filed following a disaster.

Clemson University experts say keeping important papers safe in a fire resistant/waterproof file box or digitally can help speed up any insurance claims that may need to be filed following a disaster.
Image Credit: Denise Attaway / Clemson University

This includes having updated inventories of all possessions — business and personal — in the event insurance claims are filed once the storm passes.

“An inventory will prove the value of any possessions that are damaged or destroyed,” said Nathan Smith, Clemson professor of agribusiness production.

An inventory consists of a description of each item, including model and serial numbers, as well as when items were bought and how much each item cost. It also is a good idea to have photos and/or videos to accompany such an inventory.

Inventories can be kept in both digital and printed forms. Smith said it’s important to keep up-to-date copies in a secure place.

“Valuable papers should be kept in watertight, fireproof, locked containers,” he said. “This will help ensure access in the event of a disaster.”

Scott Mickey, Clemson farm business consultant, said people should consider scanning these documents and saving them on the cloud.

“Also, Quickbooks allows users to attached scan receipts to checks or deposits, which really helps with locating documents,” Mickey said.

Anyone incurring losses is advised to immediately contact their insurance agent and provide the following information:

  • Name, address, policy number, as well as date and time of loss;
  • Contact information (if unable to stay in home); and
  • Follow-up phone calls with letters detailing any problems. Keep copies of all letters.

Insurance agents will arrange for adjusters to visit any property for which a claim has been submitted. According to Mickey, property owners should make sure adjusters are properly licensed. To do a licensee check, contact the South Carolina Board of Financial Institutions or the South Carolina Department of Insurance.

Mickey advises people to work with adjusters and insurance agents to help the claims process move along more smoothly.

A list of valuable documents that should be kept in a safe deposit box or other secure location includes:

  • Crop and livestock sales and purchase records
  • Copies of insurance policies
  • Income tax returns for at least the past seven tax years
  • Copyrights and patents
  • Contracts (including promissory notes)
  • Certificates of stocks, bonds, etc.
  • Important receipts and bills of sale
  • Supporting documents for years of large transactions, unusual losses or deductions
  • Automobile titles and bills of sale
  • Social Security cards
  • Copies of wills
  • Marriage licenses
  • Passports
  • Immunization and medical records
  • Trust agreements, living wills, powers of attorney

Valuable papers that can be kept at home in watertight, fireproof locked boxes include:

  • Safe deposit box key
  • Safe deposit record and inventory of items
  • List of emergency contacts, such as doctors, veterinarians, clergy, reputable repair contractors and family members
  • Rental property records
  • Guarantees and warranties
  • Appliance manuals
  • Copies of insurance policies
  • Loan payment books
  • Employee benefits
  • Bank account, loan, credit card, investment account numbers
  • Social Security and driver’s license numbers
  • Copies of veterinary and/or vaccination records
  • List of logins and passwords for accessing online accounts.

For more information on how to prepare for a storm, go to