When you first purchased your home, you probably never imagined that one day you might have to leave it with just the clothes on your back due to an emergency evacuation. But that’s probably what many homeowners in California once thought as well. So what are some things parents should pack if they get evacuated? As we watch the California wildfires continue to burn through thousands of acres, it might make you wonder if you, too, would be ready for such a sad, unsettling situation.
Whether it’s due to wildfires or hurricanes, tornadoes or flooding, natural disasters occur all too often. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that each year, natural disasters kill around 90,000 people worldwide and can affect up to 160 million more. That’s why you need to know what potential disasters could occur in your area to be as prepared as possible. You might discover that your home is located in a flood zone, or that your area is prone to getting hurricanes. Once you know what could happen, then you can be ready for it if it occurs.
But that begs the question: Should each person in the home have their own evacuation bag, or should it be just one big bag for the family? “What you want to avoid is children having their own bags,” Mike Gnitecki, a firefighter and paramedic for the Waskom Fire Department in Waskom, TX, tells Romper. “What might happen is that the children may try to find their bag instead of promptly evacuating the home.” And as it turns out, where you choose to store your bag just might be as important as what you put in it. “It’s a good idea to store the bag in the garage,” says Gnitecki. That way, you can literally grab it and go.
Here’s what you should put in your evacuation bag in case of an emergency:
You should absolutely have your ID with you when you evacuate. It can be a driver’s license, passport, school ID, or even a work badge. And be sure that everyone else has their IDs with them, too. It’s definitely better to take them with you than run the risk of them being ruined if they are left behind.
2. Credit Cards & Currency
You never know what type of situation might force you to flee — and for how long. Having credit cards on hand is important if you need to, say, rent a hotel room. But if your entire area is affected by a power outage, for example, your Visa and Mastercard won’t do you much good. Always have cash (and a check) on hand if you need to buy supplies on the go.
3. Important Documents
Depending on the nature and imminence of your emergency, you may have some time to pack important papers. What you’ll need: marriage and birth certificates, property documents, social security cards, and insurance papers. What you can’t take with you, be sure to leave in a fireproof safe to hopefully ensure its safety.
Any prescription medications need to be packed in your bag pronto, along with meds like Epi-pens or asthma inhalers. But the other stuff that you might not think about (like Band-Aids, rubbing alcohol, or even saline solution) should also go into your bag. And if your pets are on meds, be sure to bring those, too. The Red Cross recommends that you bring a seven-day supply of medication with you.
Sadly, looting sometimes happens — even in emergency evacuations, the Chicago Tribune reported. So be sure to lock up your house and bring your keys with you so that no one can stroll through your front door. But those aren’t the only keys you should keep with you. Bring keys for other important things in your life, like a safety deposit box, your office, and other cars.
6. Personal Hygiene Products
Although this isn’t the time to be deciding which shade of lipstick will best accentuate your evacuation ensemble, you’ll still need some basic beauty and wellness products. For example, pack a toothbrush (and toothpaste!), deodorant, razors, a hand towel and soap. If you’re unsure if you’ll have access to water, baby wipes and hand sanitizers can help keep you somewhat cootie-free. And you’ll also need that-time-of-the-month products, too, like tampons and pads.
7. Kids’ Stuff
You can include your kids in the evacuation packing process, especially if it’s not an emergency and time isn’t of the essence. Help them pack by including at least one change of clothes, underwear or diapers, and extra shoes in case a pair gets wet or worn. You can also bring a favorite blankie to keep your child warm and feeling safe.
8. Your Tech
It’s definitely a good idea to toss some tech items into your go bag, You’ll need your cell phone and a charger, the Red Cross reported, but you should also bring laptops, hard drives, tablets, and all the necessary chargers for those items. They can help keep you abreast of changes in your area and keep you connected to your loved ones, too.
9. Keepsakes And Treasured Items
This is a tricky one. You never know what could possibly happen to your home while you’re gone, so you might want to bring every picture possible with you. But time might not permit that, so you’ll have to pick and choose through your possessions as to what is the most important. “Only take what is absolutely irreplaceable in terms of photos and videos,” David Pressler, a firefighter for Miami Dade County during Hurricane Andrew, tells Romper.
10. Emergency Supplies
For the most part, the supplies in your emergency bag can be packed ahead of time, so you can focus on getting your family out of your home safely. Things to have include batteries, a flashlight, water (Ready.gov recommends having one gallon per person per day), non-perishable food, a battery-powered radio, maps of your area (in case cell service is down or spotty), as well as a multi-purpose tool, like a Swiss army knife. “A bag of heavy duty extra large trash bags can be used as rain gear and can be used to make shelters if need be,” says Pressler.
An emergency evacuation can be a scary experience for your family. That’s why being as prepared for it as possible can make things a little easier. And while you might want to stay in your home and ride out the situation, always listen to the professionals and evacuate, especially when it's mandatory. Remember, everything can be replaced — but you and your family can’t be.
David Pressler, a firefighter for Miami Dade County