Things To Take With You In An Emergency Evacuation
Sadly, it seems like we hear about these unfortunate situations all the time: Floods, fires, tornadoes, or other extreme weather. I was in a mandatory evacuation once. My daughter was 3-weeks-old, it was the middle of the night in the pouring rain, and we were forced to leave our house because of an approaching hurricane.
Regardless of the disaster at hand, an emergency evacuation is scary. Your mind is racing so fast that it’s hard to think clearly, and you only have a concise window of time to figure things out. While the most important thing is to get yourself and your family out safely, if you do have enough advance warning, there are some items you should definitely consider bringing.
Let’s start with evacuation-related items to help make your time away from home as comfortable as possible:
Medicine, & Hygiene
Focus on the most important things first, starting with any prescription medications. Also consider inhalers, EpiPens, glasses and contacts (with solution and cases), OTC medication (pain, stomach, sinus), baby items if applicable (diapers, wipes, bottles, formula), and basic toiletries (toothbrush, feminine products, band-aids). As hard as it may be to leave your hair dryer or electric razor behind, don’t waste too much time or effort on things you don’t need or can easily pick up after you’re safe. Cash & IDs It might seem obvious to bring cash, credit cards, checkbooks, driver's licenses, and passports, but during a crisis, it’s easy to forget even the most obvious, everyday items. For example, you might think you can grab cash at an ATM, but what if the power is out or the machines are empty?
You should also bring all the essential keys to your home and vehicles and proof of address, which you will most likely have to provide to re-enter a restricted area after the disaster passes. (You’re fine if your current address is on your license or passport; if you recently moved to the area, any mail, like a utility bill or bank statement, should suffice.) Clothes & Comfort How many of us overpack for vacations and only wear half of what we brought? It’s not easy leaving your wardrobe behind, especially if you have an emotional attachment to your clothes, but you need things that will keep you comfortable and safe. This includes sturdy and comfortable shoes/sneakers, long pants (sweats/work pants), long-sleeved shirts, and extra socks and underwear.
Climate should play a significant factor in helping you choose. Don’t forget a warm jacket, hat, gloves, and scarf if it's cold. Regarding other comfort items, depending on where you’re evacuating, you can’t go wrong if you bring a sleeping bag, blanket, pillow, tent, flashlight, batteries, lighter or matches, candles, AM/FM Radio, and plastic storage bags. I find that Ziploc bags can practically be used for anything and always come in handy. Pets It goes without saying you’d bring your family, so if you have any pets don’t forget them or any items they may need: medication, food, cases, leashes, carriers, or cages. Check out this ASPCA article for comprehensive disaster preparedness for pets.
Electronics and Chargers It’s safe to assume you’ll bring your cell phone, so don’t forget your charger. If you’re bringing other electronics like your laptop or tablet, make sure to bring chargers for those. Regarding other electronics (for example: desktop computers), you shouldn’t have to worry if you store important information in the cloud. (Perphaps an Everplan! Hint, hint). If you have all your data backed up on external hard drives or thumb drives, be sure and bring those. Irreplaceable things When it comes to non-essential items, focus on ones that can’t be replaced like memorable photos and photo albums (for example a deceased parent’s wedding album), kid's favorite dolls/toys, family heirlooms and keepsakes (jewelry, a blanket knitted by your late grandmother), and any valuables or collectibles you would be distraught to lose. It’s easy for this stuff to balloon out of control because everything in your home probably has some meaning. This is why you must be discerning and only take what you can fit, depending on your evacuation situation. (You can always get your kids another PlayStation, but you can’t replace their baby book.)
Things you might need in the future
Certain things can be replaced, but it is a hassle to do so. If you have the time, and these things are accessible, try and take any property deeds or rental agreements for real estate, vehicles, Life Insurance policies, and any other significant physical investments, birth certificates, social security cards, and additional licenses or certificates (example: marriage, firearms, diplomas, etc.). Legal Documents If you store legal documents in your home — Wills, Medical Directives, Power Of Attorney, guardian papers, adoption records, financial paperwork that relies on physical documents — it’s best to take them with you to avoid getting new ones issued or re-creating them entirely. Insurance Even though this might be the last thing on your mind at the moment, you might also want to consider taking photos of your home before you leave. These could prove to be very useful when it comes time to file an insurance claim after the fact if you suffer any property damage.
Finally, and to reiterate, don’t spend any extra time in your home gathering all of these items, or taking photos for insurance purposes, if it jeopardizes your or your family’s safety. You can always buy new things. Your safety should always be the priority no matter what.