How to Pack Your Emergency Evacuation Bag

If you do not live in a disaster prone area, you might think that this will never happen to you, but unfortunately it is not. A few years ago, a fire broke out on a tiny footpath at the foot of the Santa Ana Mountains in Anaheim, California. He moved fast, and on the news we watched him kite heading towards our sleepy suburban area. In the evening, a forced evacuation began half a mile from us.

It took me and my husband two hours to get home from work due to road closures, and once we got there we also had to evacuate. (Fortunately, my two children were with my mother, away from the fire.) I rushed about, grabbing valuables and clothes. But then I froze. I had no idea what I needed to pack. Sentimental photos? Piece of art? I looked around my house and thought that I could afford to lose. A neighbor reminded me to collect our important documents, and I didn’t forget to put on the antique jewelry my grandmother had left me. But I got so panicked that in the end there were only suitcases with inappropriate clothes, passports and paintings. (To my credit, I didn’t forget to pack the cat.)

Of the many people hit hard by fires in California over the past few years, we are very fortunate. This particular flame grew to about 5,000 acres, but half a day after the start of the fire, the winds died down and firefighters were able to localize it further away from our homes.

Evacuations are fairly common in the United States, according to FEMA . In addition to natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes and hurricanes, people are often encouraged to leave their homes due to traffic or industrial accidents. Our fire in the canyon pushed me to be more prepared if disaster struck again.

Here’s how to prepare an “evacuation bag” that you can grab quickly in case you ever need to evacuate.

Choose a bag

Each family member should have their own. Start with a backpack or nylon camping laundry bag with drawstring.

Take pictures of all your rooms and valuables

Save these photos to a cloud server and back them up to a flash drive.

Scan and save all important documents

You can also store them on a cloud server if you have a reliable encryption service, or store them on a flash drive.

Place flash drives with photos and important documents in your bag. These documents should include:

  • Driver’s license
  • Document for your house
  • Your will and / or trust
  • Proof of insurance
  • Medical records
  • Passports
  • Social Security Cards
  • Birth certificates
  • List of personal contacts with their addresses and phone numbers.
  • Your children’s vaccination records
  • Vaccination records and medical history of your pets.

Add essentials to last for a few days.

This includes water (one gallon per person per day), non-perishable food, first aid kit, flashlight, batteries, clothing, diapers, and pet supplies. At Ready.gov have a complete checklist sets for emergency aid, which you can download.

Make an evacuation to-do list

Check the items you want to pack during an emergency: your travel bag, pets, and a list of valuables (jewelry, paintings, photographs) that you cannot live without. Also list your actions, such as shutting down utilities and locking your home. When you need to evacuate, make an evacuation to-do list, check each box and go to hell.

In addition to the “travel bag”, there are other important ways to prepare for an emergency:

  • Get first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Check with your local American Red Cross offices for information.
  • Buy and learn to use a fire extinguisher.
  • Buy a fireproof and waterproof safe. I looked for them after the fire and realized that they are not as expensive as you think. They can cost anywhere from $ 25 to $ 1,000.
  • Find out how to safely turn off all utilities – electricity, water, and gas – in your home. (FEMA has tips for shutting down utilities.) Many fires are exacerbated by natural gas explosions following natural disasters. Share your knowledge with all the people in your family.
  • Make sure your pets have microchips.

In situations like natural disasters where it seems like things are out of your control, having a few packed bags ready to go can help.

This story was originally published in 2017 and was updated on February 1, 2021 to follow the Lifehacker style guidelines.

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