When a ferocious spring storm shredded power lines, flooded creeks and downed trees across town, you missed the frightening wind and black skies while enjoying the Saturday movie matinee. Your house wasn’t so lucky. The stately oak tree outside the dining room landed across your roof and garage.

The damage is dismaying but you breathe a sigh of relief anyway. Why? First, nobody was hurt. Second, you carefully put your paperwork long ago in order in case of disaster or emergency. Here are the records you gathered and stored in advance, placing them in an easily accessible location safe from harm:

Homeowner’s policy: Many people know they have a policy but aren’t sure where it’s kept. You put yours, along with the phone number of the agent, in the box, along with the…

Personal inventory: Again thinking ahead, you created a detailed personal inventory of your belongings in both written and video form. You also gathered receipts that showed each item, its date of purchase and place of purchase, model numbers and serial numbers, and associated documents like instruction manuals that prove you own these items.

Now that the disaster has occurred, you’ll call your insurance agent promptly, then begin creating a few more documents to go in the box along with the policy and inventory. Start with an…

Event description: You will record the time and date the damage occurred, and any particulars of how it happened and what was damaged. You will take photos as well. You’ll keep a copy of descriptions and supporting photos and, if requested, submit them to the insurance company to assist the claims adjuster. That first call to the insurance company will be entered into another important document you’ll begin compiling. It’s a…

Restoration record: Throughout the process – from disaster through complete restoration – you will record every interaction with anyone involved in responding to, reviewing, mitigating or repairing the damage. You will list interactions sequentially, noting date, time, contact information, company and a brief description of what occurred during the interaction. This timeline helps you track and understand the recovery process, as well as the roles and tasks and decisions of the people involved. In the back of the notebook, you’ll tuck…

Receipts: The roof is leaking, so you will relocate temporarily. To help the insurance company reimburse you properly, you will keep all receipts for expenses during the relocation process.

Having a tree fall on your home is certainly not a desirable event. Fortunately, you planned ahead in case the worst occurred. And with your superb record-keeping? Getting you back in your home after that spring storm should be a smoother process.