Ten Things You Should Never Leave Home Without: #4: Keys

What is it: Keys are used to open and secure locks – usually but not always on doors – to houses, apartments, offices – but also car ignitions, bike locks, desk drawers, lockers, etc.  Keys can also be electronic key cards or remote radio frequency push buttons (of the type to open car doors).

I don’t get as excited about keys as some of the other items on this list, admittedly, and my family and friends have never heard me rant and rave over the utility of keys – flashlights and empty bags maybe – but never keys.

Keys, especially when you have a lot of them, can be bulky, as the picture of my key ring(s) will attest and the challenge here is to have the ones you need with you at all times.  Especially when you have a few extra items attached to your key ring (such as a flashlight and that other blue device we’ll get to shortly).

Keep all your keys attached to one another – as it makes it less likely that you will leave behind the keys that you need with you that way.  So don’t keep your car keys detached from your office keys detached from your house keys.  Clip them all together.  You are much less likely to lose them this way.

The list of keys you should carry with you at all times includes all of the obvious ones – home, office, car, drawer locks, bike locks, anything that is locked that you might need to get into or get to in an emergency/after a disaster.

I would not include safety deposit box keys on this list – which should be stored somewhere more secure that you can get to as needed in a (personal) emergency – but usually not a disaster – as the type of items stored in a safety deposit box should not be anything you might need after a disaster and you might not be able to get to or into your bank after a disaster.

I also recommend carrying keys to anyplace that you might need to get into following an event that prevents you from returning home (and fetching those keys) – such as your family meeting point outside of your neighborhood or city of residence.  This might be a relative’s or family member’s home or a vacation home or other spot nearby that you have access to.

Utility on a Daily Basis: Keys are about as utilitarian as it gets.  And it is usually hard to go out without them, because if you don’t have them with you, you often find it hard to lock your door, start your car, etc., so you go back for them quickly.  We all use our keys on a daily basis, so I am not going to belabor this point.

My KeysPersonal Report – Is Mark Living Prepared™? Mostly.  For the past few months, our family has been living in a rental apartment while we do some renovations to our home.  I kept the keys for this apartment on a separated ring for a while (see photo under “flashlight”) as it seemed more convenient as sometimes when running out to the corner deli, I just needed these keys to get back in.  But then, wouldn’t you know it, while out, I decided I wanted to fetch something from the back of the car, and I didn’t have my car keys with me.  And I wasn’t Living Prepared.  So I’ve now put them all together (as shown).  But I also had to assess just what keys I was carrying.

Here’s a run-down of the keys I found on my key ring today:

  • House (2 keys for separate upstairs/downstairs locks)
  • Car (wireless/door alarm & ignition)
  • 2 Kryptonite bike locks (2 locks for 2 different bikes)
  • Family Vacation Home in Connecticut (Rally point #1)
  • Mother’s House in Massachusetts (Rally point #2)
  • Bike lock on roof rack of car
  • Rental Apartment (2 keys for inner/outer door) where we are staying here while our house is being renovated.
  • The Club steering wheel lock
  • 3 Unknown small lock keys
  • Duplicate house key for upstairs lock

This was a good exercise – I removed the last five keys from my key ring – as I no longer use the Club – in fact, I don’t even have it anymore; the small lock keys are pretty useless without the matching locks being in use; and a duplicate key serves no purpose on the same key ring.

What is missing from my key ring?  (1) the lock to my fireproof safe; while I normally keep this unlocked, the key for it should be on my key ring – I keep important documents in the safe – including my passport – so I should be able to lock and unlock it without having to look for the key; (2) keys to my mother-in-law’s apartment in New York which are not always left with her doorman.  She spends the winters in Florida and this is a logical in-city relocation place for our family.

Criticality after a disaster: The keys that are important to emphasize here are the keys to places that we don’t use every day, and that we might need after a disaster – such as keys to a relative’s house in the same or a nearby city – or located a safe distance away.

Our family emergency plan includes a strategy to relocate and meet at a shared family vacation home in Connecticut – about 100 miles from New York City – that we all know how to get to and get into – should something happen where it is not safe to stay in the City and we get separated.  Every family’s emergency plan should include a similar rally-point outside of your city of residence.  Both my wife and I carry a key to this place at all times so we can get in when we need to.

There are lots of foreseeable disasters which might force us to temporarily or permanently move out of our homes and seek shelter in another place.  Hurricanes regularly force temporary evacuations from the Carolinas, Florida, Louisiana and Texas; wildfires force residents of San Diego and Los Angeles to temporarily evacuate their homes; and after 9/11, residents of lower Manhattan had to temporarily evacuate their residences.

Not everyone is going to have access to a vacation or second home, but most of us do have immediate family members (parents, siblings or children) or close friends who live elsewhere.  Having a plan and mutual agreement to use each others homes as a rally point and evacuation location is smart.  It’s a lot better off than ending up in a shelter.

Having a key to this place with you when you need it is part of Living Prepared.

See, I was wrong, I can certainly preach about keys if given the opportunity and enough time to think about it.


The Living Prepared Scorecard:  Keys

  • Easily Carried: YES
  • Not too heavy: YES
  • Practical Purpose on a Daily basis: YES
  • Critical Purpose when Disaster Strikes: YES


So, carry your keys with you. If you do, you will be Living Prepared.


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