An Emergency Evacuation List
Copyright © 2007,2008 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
If it should become necessary to quickly evacuate your current home or apartment, what would you take with you? The quicker you can load your car(s) the quicker you can be on the road and the better your chances will be that you will be able to reach a safe destination without getting caught in a traffic grid-lock situation.
The following list of items is arranged in the order I consider them to be important. No single list could possibly address the needs of every possible family. Therefore the following list of items is only offered as a general planning guide. Each family should add to or subtract from this list as they see fit.
Your family should be your first priority. If you lose one or more of your family members during a disaster then it will adversely impact everything that happens later.
How big is your family? Does your immediate family include your parents, your brothers and sisters and their families, your children and their families, your grandchildren? How many people will you be personally responsible for?
Where is everyone at different times during the day, and on different days of the week? How could you get them all together in a short period of time? If you can't find them all, what would you do? These are difficult questions and there are no simple answers.
However, if you discuss the possibility of an emergency evacuation with all the members of your family in advance, then you can all agree on some type of plan that might work. Cell phones would be an obvious first choice for communication but what if your cell phones don't work? Your family should choose at least one contact person who lives at least 100 or more miles away. If you get separated then each of you should try to contact that individual in order to find out where everyone else is and then make plans to get together. Each family member should also know the location of a safe meeting place outside the potential disaster area. If you get separated then everyone will already know where to go in order to meet up with everyone else.
If you make these decisions and choices ahead of time and everyone agrees to them, then you will have a much better chance of becoming reunited during an actual disaster. It will also help to minimize anxiety because everyone will already know what to do, who to contact, and where to go in an emergency situation. This will also give you more time to actually collect your necessary belongings and load them into your cars so you can be underway at the earliest possible opportunity.
Families that have pets will face a unique set of additional challenges. Each family will need to address their pet issue in a manner that is acceptable to them.
Medicine and First Aid Supplies:
Collect all your prescription medicines and all the emergency first aid supplies you normally keep on hand.
Be sure to take all your cash, credit cards, check books, bank books, jewelry, and any small valuables that could be quickly sold for cash. Use your credit cards whenever possible and save any cash you might have for a true emergency.
Legal documents are small and they don't weigh much. They would require very little space in your vehicle and they would be of tremendous value after the disaster has passed. The difficulty is that most families do not keep all their documents together in one location. During a disaster a family could lose a lot of precious time trying to find each of their important documents, and even after a time consuming search they may not be able to find some of them. It would be much better to take the time now to collect all of these documents together and make sure you have every one of them. This would include birth certificates, passports, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, deeds, car titles, vehicle registrations, wills, loan documents, insurance policies, social security cards, retirement statements, IRA statements, cemetery and prepaid internment receipts, and a variety of other papers. The original copy of all of these documents should be stored inside a ziplock plastic freezer bag inside a locked fireproof box. You should also have copies of your prescriptions, child immunization records, medical insurance cards, doctors names and phone numbers, family addresses and phone numbers, bank records, credit card numbers, driver's licenses, educational diplomas, school transcripts for yourself and your children, proof of citizenship, and tax records for the past few years. You should have a photocopy and a digital copy of each record. Making a photocopy is usually easier than making a digital copy. And a photocopy can be examined without the need for electricity or a computer system. Just put all your credit cards together on top of a copy machine and copy them all at once. Then flip them over and copy the backs of the cards. Photocopies and digital copies are not valid for most legal purposes but they can provide the necessary information to replace the original items once you are safely established in your new location. If a disaster occurs you should obviously take your fireproof box containing all your legal documents with you. If these documents are already together in one secure place then you will not lose precious time trying to locate each one of them.
Include several changes of clothing for each member of your family, and a jacket, coat, and an extra pair of shoes for each person. For each person also include a towel, washcloth, pillow with pillow case, and a good blanket. Even if some of your good clothes are in the laundry basket waiting to be washed you should take them with you. You can find a washing machine at your destination. Although you could pack your clothes neatly inside a suitcase this would probably not be a good idea during an emergency disaster evacuation because a suitcase takes up a lot of space inside a car's trunk. Instead it might be better to cram your clothes inside your car's trunk and inside your vehicle in random locations wherever there is an open spot between larger objects or containers, or above the rear seat in front of the rear window. This would better utilize your available space and it would allow you to take more things with you.
Food and Water:
Take as much of your canned food and dry food as possible. If you have an ice chest, then put your food inside it even though you won't need to keep the food cold. The ice chest may be useful when you get to your destination. Put perishable items such as bread and cheese inside your car so you can eat some of it while you are traveling. Also take some drinking water and a quality water filter. A portable Katadyn Pocket Water Filter is shown in the picture on the right. If you need assistance in the selection of a good water filter then please click on the following link:
Safe Drinking Water.
You should also take all your vegetable seeds and your basic garden tools (shovel, rake, hoe). If you need some assistance in this area please click on the following link:
Index of Gardening Tips.
(Note: If you have a lot of cash and the current disaster has a very limited impact area, and you are certain you can buy more food when you eventually reach your destination, then you should probably leave your food at home unless you still have enough room for it in your car after you have collected all the following items.)
Take a few cook pots, dishes, tableware, steak knives, kitchen slicing knives, manual can opener, dish towels, and dish cloths. (Note: Later when you finish loading your cars, if you have still have some room in one of your vehicles then you may also consider taking a microwave.)
Fire and Heat:
You will need matches and butane lighters. A small portable propane heater might also be useful if you already own one and if it is cold outdoors.
You will need flashlights, rechargeable batteries, and a solar battery charger. After the hurricane or fire has passed, the sun will shine again and you can recharge your batteries if you have a portable solar battery charger. During disaster events batteries quickly disappear from all the stores. If you have a solar battery charger and rechargeable batteries then you will be in better shape than most of the people who evacuate. If you do not yet have a solar battery charger then you can read about them at the following link:
Solar Battery Charger for Flashlight Size Batteries.
You should have a small L.E.D. (Light Emitting Diode) flashlight for each member of your family. An L.E.D. bulb lasts for approximately 100,000 hours and it consumes a fraction of the power compared to a normal flashlight bulb. You could purchase a head mounted L.E.D. flashlight that uses three AAA batteries of you could purchase an inexpensive single battery L.E.D. flashlight and securely attach it to the side of a simple head sweat band or to the front of a cap or hat. This would allow you to use both of your hands to do any necessary work.
If you have cell phones then be sure to take them with you even if they are not currently working in your area. You should also have a portable battery operated radio or a solar powered radio with a manual hand crank option. If you would like some information about a solar power radio then please click on the following link:
Solar Power Radio with Manual Hand Crank.
Protection, Hunting, and Fishing:
If possible, take all your guns, ammunition, hunting knives, snares, traps, fishing tackle, gill nets, and all your other miscellaneous hunting, trapping, and fishing gear.
Take a good quality tent, tarps, camping gear, cots or air mattresses, sleeping bags, wilderness survival books, and maps. If you don't already have at least one good survival book or a Boy Scout Handbook, then I recommend the following book:
SAS Survival Guide, by John "Lofty" Wiseman.
Also take your laptop computers with a DVD drive, and your software program CD's and your laptop's Restore CD so you can reinstall all your software in the event of s total system crash. Also take your personal care items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand soap, shampoo, nail clippers, etc.), family photo albums, family portraits, family heirlooms, playing cards, board games, children's toys and coloring books, toilet tissue, small hand tools, DVD collection, bible, and paperback books to read for entertainment. (Note: Unless you have been out-of-work for an extended period of time you may not appreciate the true value of good paperback novels.) (Note: You can save some space by removing your movie DVD disks from their factory cases and carefully packing the DVD disks into a small box or carton. Leave the empty DVD cases inside your home. Later if you return to your home you can always replace your DVD's in their original factory cases. If you have a music CD collection you can take it with you in the same manner.) If you have one, take a 12-volt inverter that converts car battery DC power into 110-volt AC power (see picture on right). If you still have space in one of your vehicles you can take your children's electronic game stations and their electronic games. The collection of game cartridges usually cost a lot more than the game station and they are a lot smaller. Therefore if you have to choose between them, take the small game cartridges and replace the game station when you can afford to. (Note: Later, if you are in desperate need of cash, the small game cartridges and your DVD and CD disks can be sold. If you suspect that this might become necessary then you should not remove your DVD and CD disks from their factory cases because they usually will sell for a slightly higher price with their original factory case.)
Some of the things that should probably be left behind include large, bulky, heavy items such as furniture, bed frames, mattresses, and appliances.
Last Minutes Purchases:
Resist the urge to make purchases inside the disaster area at the last minute. The stores will be overcrowded and most of the important items will already be gone. When you reach your safe destination you can purchase the items you might need in a more leisurely less stressful environment. The one exception might be gasoline if you did not have the foresight to buy some 5-gallon gas cans and fill them up in advance of the disaster. Having to wait in line at a gas station will put you near the end of the line of cars that are evacuating the danger area (assuming the gas station is still open and that it has gas).
Loading you vehicles:
If you have teenage or older family members then you should consider assigning each person the task of collecting one or more of the above groups of items and bringing them to the area where you will be loading your car(s). As the individual items are delivered mark them off your master checklist. If you have roof racks then use them strategically to carry waterproof items. Tie everything to your roof racks very securely. If it is cold then put your blankets and pillows inside your vehicles. Also put a roll of toilet tissue inside each car in the event you are forced to use the bathroom in the woods along the side of the road. Take all your cars and strategically divide your items between your cars. In other words, don't put all your food or all your clothes in one vehicle. Look at how low each car sits on its springs as you load it so you don't inadvertently put too much weight in one of your vehicles. Put one-of-a-kind items, such as your fireproof box of legal documents, on top of your other gear in your car trunk. In the event one vehicle becomes disabled you will still have half your supplies in the remaining car and you can continue to your destination without losing a lot of precious time beside the road trying to completely rearrange and repack your vehicles. You would only need to transfer your family members and a few of your more important items to your remaining vehicle(s). Lock the doors on your disabled vehicle and then continue on your journey. There is always a chance you might eventually be able to return to your disabled vehicle and salvage it and your possessions. However you should not be surprised if your vehicle is vandalized while you are escaping with your life and the lives of your loved ones. Resist the urge to stay behind and protect the disabled vehicle. Ask yourself this question: What is in the vehicle that is worth your life or the life of one of your family members?
Driving to Your Preplanned Safe Destination:
Prior to the disaster you should have purchased and filled one or two 5-gallon cans of gas for each vehicle so you can quickly top off the gas tank in each car before you leave. (Note: Remember to add gas stabilizer to each can of gas when you first purchase the gas. It is also a good idea to write the date you purchased the gas on the label on the gas can so you will remember to put that gas in your cars once a year and replace it with fresh gasoline.) If you are stopped in slow moving traffic for more than one-minute then turn off your engine and restart your vehicle each time you move forward. Do not let your car engine use up your valuable gas during long delays. Each time you restart your engine let it run for at least three minutes to keep your car battery charged. You may use your car's heater but do not use your air conditioner. Being hot or cold inside your car is not as serious as running out of gas and becoming stranded by the side of the road. Long-term survival should be placed ahead of temporary comfort in this type of life-threatening evacuation situation. If you are not able to drive the entire distance to your destination before you require sleep, then someone in you car should remain awake and on visual guard duty so they can wake you up if someone approaches your car or tries to steal the gas out of your car's gas tank while you are asleep.
Revised January 1, 2008 - Added a few more items to the Miscellaneous Group of Items.
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