5/01/2009

30+ Essential Things to Pack in Case of Evacuation

Did you know there are 23 active volcanoes in the U.S.? Do global warming-spawned hurricanes, floods, mudslides, blizzards, or tornadoes have you worried?  Is the foliage around you as crisp as tinder, just waiting for a stray spark to ignite it? Whatever the disaster, here's a quick list of things you should remember to throw into the car if you have to get out of town in a hurry. Note that this is not a "pack everything you could possibly need," but prioritizes items based on size, usefulness, and value.
  1. Personal ID.  Be sure to pack every piece of ID you have: birth certificates, drivers licenses, passports, social security cards (or #s), work IDs, etc.  You won't be able to get anything done without ID.
  2. Bank, financial, and legal records. Be sure to include all checking accounts, savings accounts, investment accounts, college savings accounts, wills, inheritance info, etc.
  3. Deeds/registrations/licenses. Take the deed to your house, mortgage info, titles/registrations for all your cars, and any wedding or professional licenses.
  4. Insurance Information. Grab the policies for your home, life, cars, and HEALTH.
  5. Tax Records. Tax records incorporate tons of important family/financial info. Throw in at least last year's ... 2-3 trailing years if you have them.
  6. Family address book. If you have one, take it. You may needs #s and addresses for physicians, family members, or others.  (Even folks who have transitioned to digital phone lists often don't transfer address/phone info for distant relatives, old acquaintances, etc. - so you may want to pack that "legacy" paper address book after all.)
  7. Credit cards + courtesy checks.  All of them!  Even store cards.  You may not use them, but you need to be able to keep track of the accounts and account numbers
  8. Wallets, purses and keys.  Don't take the time to go through contents - just make sure you take them & you can figure out what you'll need from them later.
  9. Computer drives. This includes CPUs/hard drives, external storage drives, and stick drives. You can always buy a new monitor, keyboard, and printer, but unless you've invested in offsite backup, you don't want to lose what's on the contents of those drives.
  10. All your cars/vehicles. It's natural to want the family all together in times of crisis,  but consider splitting up and taking as many cars as you can.  They provide potentially important mobility, allow you to pack more, and they are expensive to replace.  You can even live in them if worst comes to worst.  By the way, be sure to TOP OFF THE FUEL TANKS as soon as possible (ideally, as soon as you suspect evacuation may be necessary)!  Nothing more useless than a car without gas.
  11. Medication. Be sure to bring prescription meds, but for good measure empty out your whole medicine cabinet + first aid kit and bring everything. You never know what you might need.
  12. Optical needs.  Be sure to remember everything you need to keep your glasses/contacts in working order!  Shelters may not be able to easily meet demand for optical needs. 
  13. Baby/toddler needs. Focus on packing food (shelters may not be able to provide baby-appropriate food), water, food delivery devices (bottles, special cups), diapers & wipes (TONS!), necessary medications, a portable chair/stroller/carrier (you'll need your hands as free as possible), and something that works as a car seat.  Take a blanket or two & some clothes, but don't load up - if you are evacuating to a shelter, they will be able to provide most of these.  Remember that babies/toddlers like to wander, and most shelters aren't exactly wander-friendly zones, so plan in advance how you're going to keep your child(ren) from wandering off - playpen? car seat? high chair? baby leash?  These may also have to double as portable beds for napping.
  14. Elderly/disabled dependent needs. Pack medications, medical records, and medical devices/monitors (wheelchairs, walkers, canes, IV delivery devices, reading/corrective glasses, corrective footwear, hearing devices, diabetic monitoring supplies, etc.).  Make sure you have contact info for all the doctors they see, especially specialists.  Also, if your dependent has special dietary needs, you may want to pack a healthy supply of appropriate foods, as shelters may not be able to meet these needs.
  15. Water and food.  Shelters will provide the basics, but if they're overcrowded there may not be enough, so take some extra food just in case (remember a non-electric can opener).  Also take as much water as you can store.  Depending on the emergency, access to water may not be secure.  (If you don't have a handy supply of gallon jugs, remember that thermoses/coolers, jumbo toy buckets, and baby swimming pools can store water in a pinch.)  
  16. Stuff for pets.  If you will be taking along a pet, be sure to include food, water, essential equipment (leashes, boxes) and vaccination records.  (Vaccination records may be required for admission into a shelter).
  17. Blankets/sleeping bags/towels.  If you are fleeing to a reputable shelter, they will probably have these for you.  Even so, consider taking extra sheets (double as privacy screens, knapsacks, etc.), blankets, towels, and sleeping bags.
  18. Flashlights/camp lanterns. Bring as many portable lighting devices as you can, and don't forget the batteries. If you get stuck somewhere without electricity, you're going to be darn grateful for a source of light.
  19. Clothes.  Don't overpack!  Clothes are easily replaced.  2-3 sets should be enough, so you can wash one while wearing the other.  Do, however, consider throwing in a bottle of dishsoap (can be used for dishes or clothes) so that you can recycle.  Don't forget to consider the weather: you may be spending more time than you think out of doors, so include coats/hats/gloves/raingear, sleepwear, and adequate footwear.
  20. Toilettries.  Don't overpack!  But do take essentials (soap, shampoo, deoderant, toothbrush/toothpaste, hairbrush), so you can freshen up when you need to.  Don't forget sanitary items, contact lens-related items, prescription glasses, and a couple of towels.
  21. Family photos/videos/scrapbooks/heirloom albums/family bibles.  Don't worry about reprints of digital photos that you have backed up to a computer, but DO grab framed family photos from walls, wedding and baby albums, scrapbooks, home movies, boxes of old family photos, etc.
  22. Your keepsakes.  Think treasured family records (geneologies, etc.), childhood momentoes, high school/college yearbooks, wedding stuff ... you probably have most of this in a box somewhere, so pack the whole box!
  23. Your child's keepsakes.  If you are evacuating with children, don't leave them with nothing! Grab treasured toys, blankets ... anything that has emotional significance ... and bring it along.
  24. Jewelry/fur coats/art work/heirlooms/other valuables.  Don't worry about the small stuff (unless it's all in one place and easy to grab) ... insurance will cover it.  But do grab anything with special signicance or with a value over $1000
  25. Portable electronics - all of them!  Laptops, ipods, cellphones, PDAs, handheld game systems, book readers, portable DVD/VHS players, and portable radios. Be sure to also pack ALL car & home rechargers, power cords, extension cords, all the batteries you can find, and 1-2 power strips to keep them all plugged in in the event of limited outlet access. They may take up some room but are *well* worth their keep.  Access to the internet is a necessity, and entertainment is going to quickly become a priority if you have to stay away from home for any length of time.
  26. Ziploc and trash bags - lots!  These can be used for hundreds of different things - from mixing powdered milk to acting as disposable toilets or waterproofing. 
  27. Books/printed materials.  For passing the time, especially if there's no electricity!  (Skip magazines - too little entertainment value for the space they take up.)
  28. Notebook + pens.  To help you keep track of important information.  Don't count on your phone/electronics for the purpose, as electricity may not be available to recharge them.  (Also indispensable for keeping children amused.)
  29. Duct tape.  Because you always need duct tape.  (I'm not kidding - you may need to hang sheets for privacy, secure possessions, or jury-rig electronics, all of which require adhesives.)
  30. Camping supplies.  If you have time and room in your car, go ahead and pack 'em - especially tools that will help you with cooking (camp stoves, fuel, cookwear, mess kits, utensils) and attending to basic needs (FIRESTARTERS AND MATCHES, multi-purpose tools, camp lanterns, tents, tarps, bungie cords/rope).  These items are made to be compact so they probably won't take up too much room.
  31. Camera/Videocam. Worst-case scenario, you'll need this to document damage; best-case, you can use them to document your triumphant return home!

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