How to Replace Your Important Papers Lost During a Disaster

classified-1241157-640x480It’s salt in the wound — all your important documents destroyed during a disaster like the wildfires California is enduring right now. To make the job of replacing those papers and card a little easier for you we’ve included a comprehensive list of links and numbers.

Replacing Important Papers


Birth and Death Certificates

  • Birth and death certificates can be replaced by visiting your county vital records office or online via the California Department of Public Health at
  • Note that you generally need a notarized copy of your birth certificate—not a photocopy—in order to get other forms of documentation.

Driver Licenses

Social Security Card

  • Go to a Social Security Administration office. You cannot apply for a card online.
  • There is no charge for a Social Security card. This service is free.
  • Different documents are required depending on your citizenship and the type of card you are requesting. To determine which documents are required as well as a copy of the Application for a Social Security Card, visit:
  • You also can request a copy of your Social Security statement online

Vehicle Registration or Title


Military Records

  • Request Standard Form 180 (SF-180) from any office of the Veterans Administration, American Legion, VFW or Red Cross, or download from

Insurance Policies

  • You’ll need to contact your insurance company for replacement papers. Also, ask them what to do about the immediate needs of your home and what they want you to do first (i.e. make a list of everything that was damaged by the fire.)

Transcript of Your Tax Return

  • Call your nearest Treasury Department office, IRS office or 800-829-3646; request form 4506. To find your local IRS office, go to

Savings Bonds/Notes

Credit Cards

  • Contact your bank regarding any debit or credit cards issued through them.
  • American Express: 800-528-4800
  • Discover: 800-347-2683
  • MasterCard: 800-622-7747
  • Visa: 800-847-2911

A good general checklist of steps following a fire, created by FEMA, can be found at

Property Deeds

Marriage Records

  • Public marriage records are available from the county recorder in the county where the license was issued. Confidential marriage records are available only through the county clerk in the county where the license was issued. A list of county clerks can be found here:

Divorce Records

Adoption Decrees

Immigration Documents

  • Contact your county office or the site below for citizenship, immigration, permanent resident card (green card), employment authorization, re-entry permit and more.

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