Preparing for an Emergency

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how hot it was in the Lone Star State. The update is that we're literally on fire.

Wildfires have destroyed hundreds of homes in central Texas, and they're breaking out all over the state (more than 60 fires so far). We were at dinner last night when my mom received four phone calls in quick succession — all family members and friends checking to see if we were okay. In the few hours since we left the house, another wildfire was reported north of Austin and less than 10 miles from our home. That fire evacuated 500 people, burned 300 acres, and destroyed at least 13 homes, but it's not nearly as big as the one 25 miles east of Austin, which has destroyed 34,000 acres and nearly 550 homes.

This led to a conversation about how prepared we were if we had to evacuate at some point, whether in the near future or even years from now. Would any of us be prepared for such an emergency? Mom said she wanted to make a plan, and Dad agreed that it's not a bad idea. “People have done crazy things during emergency evacuations,” he said. “I've heard of people having minutes to leave and taking out the trash.” And minutes is about how long people in our area have had to evacuate, as a combination of drought and wind created the perfect storm for deadly and fast-moving wildfires.

The go bag
Vali Hawkins Mitchell, Ph.D., the leading authority on emotional continuity management and author of “Emotional Terrors in the Workplace: Protecting Your Business' Bottom Line,” wrote about human behavior during an emergency in the article Creating a Go Bag [PDF]:

During a voluntary or mandatory evacuation there just won't be time to think through your choices calmly. You may not be interested in the complex workings of neurology and brain perception that are triggered during crisis. But if you are interested in emotional continuity management you know that people in crisis do really predictably crazy things…When something unexpected happens, people naturally try to grab and protect belongings. This is normal behavior. Unfortunately, normal doesn't cut it during a disaster! It is heart wrenching to see people run back into burning homes desperately trying to retrieve pets or valuables and come out with a phone book, an old pillow, a teaspoon, and a broken heart. Trust me on this. You don't want to be one of those people.

As I sit in my home office, sipping coffee and typing on a laptop, I think to myself, “Surely I'd know to grab the cat, computer, safe box, and camera and make sure my wedding rings were on my finger before running out the door.” But that's not necessarily the person I'll be if I get a call or that knock on the door telling me that I have 5 minutes to get out of my house. That's a scary and highly emotional situation. It's easy to understand why a person wouldn't be able to think clearly.

Create your own emergency bag
Mitchell's idea of creating a “go bag” is a practical solution that won't take much prep time. You'll need a backpack, preferably made from water-resistant material. You probably have one already, but if not, check around at discount and thrift stores. You don't have to spend a lot of money to be prepared for an emergency. You'll also need a notebook and pen. Here's the plan:

  1. Put some basic survival items in your go bag, such as an old pair of glasses, medications for at least three days, a portable self-charging radio, granola bars, a flashlight and extra batteries, etc. Mitchell also recommends one change of clothes and some cash in small bills.
  2. Go into each room of your house and list everything you'd want to take with you in an emergency. All of these items must fit in the backpack together. Record each item in your notebook.
  3. List one or two items that you would hand-carry out (If you can fit them in the bag, that's even better, but if not, they go on a separate list.). For me, that would be the cat in her pet carrier and the safe box. Record those items in your notebook.
  4. Create a “go list” to keep inside your bag. This is a list of tasks to complete as you head out the door. Make sure you can complete the list alone, Mitchell advises. If there happen to be others with you during the evacuation, you can assign them tasks. Your list might have the following tasks: turn off gas, pack prescription medication, put dog in pet carrier, pack cell phones, lock doors.
  5. Create another list with phone numbers, passwords, and e-mail addresses. Gather any originals or copies of valuable documents, which might include credit card numbers, Social Security cards, birth certificates, passports, bank account information, discs of photos for insurance purposes, and a utility bill to provide proof of where your home is (or was) located. Need help getting started? GRS-reader Erik Dewey created a life-affairs organizer you can download free of charge.
  6. Store your go bag in a secure, easy-to-reach place.

After you've finished creating your own go bag and emergency plan, you can create a bag for each member of your family. Mitchell then recommends creating a 15-minute plan, 30-minute plan, and 60-minute plan, in case you have more time to evacuate.

It doesn't sound like much of a time investment to make a go bag, but the payoffs could be huge if you're ever in the unfortunate position to have only 5 minutes to leave your home.

What else would you include on the list of must-brings and to-dos? If you've had to evacuate your home or cope with a disaster, tell us about your experience in the comments.

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Derek@LifeAndMyFinances
8 years ago

It’s a great idea to have a plan in place before that disasterous event actually happens (hopefully, it never will).

Once my wife and I move into our new place, we’ll definitely put something together so that we know what’s important to grab and what isn’t!

Thanks so much for the important artcle! 🙂

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago

A disaster could happen now. Why not put one together now? It’s also recommended to keep a mini go bag in your car.

JT
JT
8 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

I’ve honestly never had a preparation kit in my car. I know it’s repeated as a must-have thing in your car, but do a lot of people actually do it?

Not disagreeing about it’s importance; I’m just wondering if this is actually a common thought process. Other than jumper cables, I haven’t really explored the concept of preparing for automotive troubles, etc.

Claire
Claire
8 years ago
Reply to  JT

I have an emergency kit, not necessarily a go bag, in my car. Since I commute 60 miles round-trip and am alone half the time, I found it necessary. I have a bottle of Fix-A-Flat, a box of 3 flares, a mini first aid kit, a flashlight with batteries, a hand-crank flashlight, a pair of walking shoes & socks (since I’m commuting, I am never wearing a pair of shoes I’d be comfortable walking 2 miles to the nearest exit, if necessary), a blanket, rope, and a couple of tools. Of course, I always have my cell phone and would… Read more »

Pearl
Pearl
8 years ago
Reply to  JT

Things I’ve found helpful to keep in the car: 1. Trunk: In one of those storage bags you can push the air out of to save space: a towel, wash cloth, wool sweater, long-sleeved shirt, pair of wool socks, wool cap, pair of silk long-john uppers and bottoms. Takes surprisingly little room. 2. Trunk: In another space-saver storage bag, another towel, a white sheet and a blanket. Pair of walking shoes, with socks stuffed in. Collapsible walking stick. Compact tool kit. Fire extinguisher. Case of water bottles. Roll of paracord. 3: Trunk: Back-pack with extensive first aid kit including foot… Read more »

Nancy L.
Nancy L.
8 years ago

If you are a cat owner, be prepared that in a true emergency situation, your cat may be impossible to find. Cats have a ridiculous ability to get into tight, inaccessible corners, and when they sense something stressful is going on, they will often disappear. My suggestion is to grab your cats first thing so that they don’t have time to catch on and hide. If you think there is a possibility (ie nearby wildfires, try containing them to areas where they can’t easily disappear, such as a bathroom. And if they are missing and you have to leave w/o… Read more »

Ryan @ LifeFreshOut
Ryan @ LifeFreshOut
8 years ago
Reply to  Nancy L.

This is really important. Soon after moving into my current apartment there was a fire drill. My cat was the last thing I thought of (I’m new to the whole pet ownership thing) and so when I went to get him he was hiding in the furthest part of our boxspring. I couldn’t lift the bed and get him at the same time, so after a few minutes of trying to coax him out, I just had to leave him. I felt so bad, but now I know. The next fire alarm we had, he was in the bathroom, so… Read more »

Annemarie
Annemarie
8 years ago
Reply to  Nancy L.

And the shelters may not take pets.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  Nancy L.

We have a cat carrier always ready, but the little fiend has hidden from us on occasion. Luckily this is a small space and we know his hideouts. He travels well, loves the dashboard, but if your cat isn’t used to vehicles you’ll need sa solid cage– especially if he needs to evacuate (it happens a lot when they are unfamiliar with cars).

Kate
Kate
8 years ago
Reply to  Nancy L.

When we were evacuating the before the oncoming forest fire we had to leave one of our cats behind. The smart one knew something was going on and hid, while the dumb one just sat on the couch.

On a side note, our neighbors let their horse loose to fend for itself and it survived by standing in the middle of the pond.

MK
MK
8 years ago

I would add getting a second credit or debit card (actually a second credit card may be preferred) and putting it in the bag. Have it associated with your regular account. This goes into the same category as the “cash in small bills”. When it works, use plastic, saving the paper and metal money for those situations when you cannot use plastic but still need to buy something. Make sure to get a new card well ahead of the expiration date. Also, for those with pets: at least a few days’ worth of pet food (this is ESPECIALLY important if… Read more »

STRONGside
STRONGside
8 years ago

The concept of a “go bag” is a great one. From traveling internationally, I can attest to the fact that it always pays to be prepared, especially in a situation you are not expecting.

I carry a “go bag: in my car in case of emergencies, and I also have one in our home for emergencies where we need to evacuate, or to leave in a hurry for some reason or another.

I also love the website Everyday Carry, because I like their philosophy of being prepared and having quality, useful items on hand at all times.

Everyday+Tips
Everyday+Tips
8 years ago

I was just talking to a friend that said someone she knew recently had only 10 minutes warning to evacuate (I think it was a flash flood situation.) That really scared me, I cannot imagine having to get all my important things in just 10 minutes.

I think I better start packing a bag!

Pamela
Pamela
8 years ago

As we learned from Katrina, preparing for your pets is especially important in an evacuation. Most shelters still aren’t prepared to deal with families with animals. That said, I’ll be a little contrarian here. If you live in an area where flash flooding, hurricanes, wildfires etc. are likely it’s a great idea to prepare in advance. But for years, my car trunk had jumper cables, a first aid kit, atlases, flashlights, extra blankets, etc. And I hardly ever traveled and didn’t live where disasters are common. When I opened my sister’s car trunk, I saw golf clubs, beach chairs, towels,… Read more »

MK
MK
8 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

Then you skid off a small side road in the winter, and the car gets stuck in the terrain. Those golf clubs are going to be all the craze then while you’re waiting for the tow truck.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  MK
El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

it’s also nice to carry a can of fix-a-flat, an air pump, a blanket, flares, and a pistol 😛

ok, weapon of choice according to taste and sensibilities, but something is needed to repel unwanted strangers when stuck in a place.

sjw
sjw
8 years ago

Making Light had a good Go Bag post a couple of years ago as well: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/009528.html

elena
elena
8 years ago

Good topic and making an actual list versus vaguely thinking about it is an item on my to do list NOW. Hurricane Irene left us without power and running water for 7 days which was inconvenient, but we were given several days notice and nonstop media reminders to prepare.

20's Finances
20's Finances
8 years ago

Similar to Elena, this topic seems all to relevant – not only with wildfires but hurricane season (that is now going up the coast.) It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

SF_UK
SF_UK
8 years ago

I’m a volunteer for St John Ambulance in the UK. In disasters, we can be asked to help out the ambulance service, and at rest centres etc. A while back, my local council printed some “emergency preparedness” leaflets, and we were given some so that we would know what to expect. The “go” bag was in there, and I think it’s a great idea. Mine is under my bed and is packed ready to go at almost all times. I keep one pack (about 30 days worth) of all my meds in it, and when I have to retrieve them,… Read more »

KL
KL
8 years ago

This is such a fitting topic. After the East Coast had to deal with an earthquake and Hurricane Irene in the same week it really was an example about how anything can happen and how sometimes you will need to react quickly and without warning. During the earthquake, we quickly exited our office to go outside and not thinking, I did not take anything with me. My cell phone was sitting on my desk. My purse with my car keys, house keys, wallet, cash, credit card, debit cards etc. were in my desk all inside the building. In hindsight I… Read more »

Beth Ann
Beth Ann
8 years ago

I threw together a haphazard Go Bag for Irene–toiletries I hadn’t unpacked from last month’s vacation, extra cell phone charger, a little towel, change of clothes. I always have a bag ready for my dog, and I’m prepared to shove the bed out of the way if she won’t come out. I was talking to someone pre-Irene who mentioned that he even has things like seeds in a Go Bag, in case he has to start from scratch. That idea is both intriguing and terrifying to me–I like to think I’d be a survivor, but in reality I would probably… Read more »

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
8 years ago

I’m so glad to hear you’re safe, April. We have a nasty fire up near me too (in Magnolia near Texas Renaissance Festival), and though I am not in danger nor is my home, I have been seriously giving this some thought. The people here are devastated because they couldn’t find pets, grabbed only some underwear, have no toiletries or medication, etc. It is heart-wrenching. I would also recommend keeping more than granola bars in a go-bag. Dried food, mac n’ cheese, instant oatmeal, etc. because you never know what the food situation is going to be like. I also… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

I always keep a full tank of gas but in the back of my mind there’s alway the thought that gasoline is explosive and in case of an accident things can go very bad. Can you say “Ford Pinto”?

which is not the case with diesel. full tank of diesel = safe. full tank of gas = you’re playing the odds.

S01
S01
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I wouldn’t worry to much about a fuel tank of petrol exploding, pretty sure Myth busters did a piece on this a while ago and short of having a piece of plastic explosive go off under the tank they are fairly resilient. Here’s a nice article that covers the issue and mentions the Pinto example: http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2004/12/06/1255439.htm For me I’ll always try and keep a 1/2 to full tank of petrol, in Aus in my car that gives me a range of 350-700km more than enough to get out of the way of any natural disaster and get to friends or… Read more »

Jennifer+Gwennifer
Jennifer+Gwennifer
8 years ago

I find preparing for events like this also helps when I am looking to clear out clutter and unnecessary stuff around the house.

These days I can look around and think – “If I had 5 minutes to pack, what five items in this room could I not live without?” The answers are almost always sentimental – a music box, a photograph, a cherished book.

If I wouldn’t take it with me then, why am I keeping it around now?

imelda
imelda
8 years ago

Also, thinking about this makes you realize how important it is to be organized! I live in an earthquake-riddled foreign country; do I really want my passport buried at the bottom of a messy desk drawer?

Even things like photo albums – they should be laid out neatly on a bookshelf, not jumbled together in a box (or suitcase, as in my case). Not only does it make your life prettier and saner, it can also simplify your disaster response!

Michelle
Michelle
8 years ago

My husband and I each have a go bag, and they are our camelback backpacks, which carry about 3L of water each. In the case of a true emergency, water is so very important. I’d also suggest investing in a very good leatherman tool for the go-bag.

And don’t forget pet food in the go bag 🙂

lawyerette
lawyerette
8 years ago

One thing that should be taken, if space allows – photo albums! Especially if they are pre-2000 and not easily replaceable by digital shots. And especially any photos of family members who have passed on.

cc
cc
8 years ago

i succumbed to hurricane fever (i live in brooklyn in a ZONE ONE! area) and put together a quick go bag, mainly with a couple flashlights and some canned beans. i disassembled it after the storm, but i kept together the pet go bag for my ferret- medical records, a sheet identifying how friendly and sweet he is with my, my husband and my mom’s contact info as well as his vets numbers; his very specific food that is the only thing he’ll eat, a leash with a tag and some baby food just in case he’s traumatized and won’t… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
8 years ago

I don’t think these things are as useful as everyone says. Sure, they’re not supposed to be used often, but of all the people who’s homes have burned in Texas, how many do you think were equipped this way? How many have died because of it? As far as I can tell: 0 (two firefighters seem to have died fighting the fire). I remember when the Loma Prieta earthquake happened back in ’89. We didn’t have 3 days worth of water or whatever they tell you, but guess what? We ended up fine. April says that “the payoffs could be… Read more »

SF_UK
SF_UK
8 years ago

I agree with you about the food/water – where I live the most likely “disaster” would be a house fire or flooding (and that’s not hugely likely as I took the flood plain into account when I chose where to live). In either case, I’ll probably end up in either a rest centre or a friend’s house, where there will either be food/drink, or I can buy it. I have a grab bag because there are some things I think I would need in that situation. If nothing else, my prescription medications, and my insurance details. A radio would also… Read more »

Nancy L.
Nancy L.
8 years ago

Tyler, even if you don’t keep the food & water in the bag, just taking a few minutes to store an empty bag somewhere handy with your 5 minute list, your 10 minute list and your 15 minute list could be very helpful. When we were dealing with the very real threat of Irene, we didn’t need to evacuate, but we had a lot on our minds as we tried to prepare. Just having a list that said things like “Phones on charger before bed” and “Put flashlight on dresser” helped us not overlook important tasks that we wanted to… Read more »

sarahk
sarahk
8 years ago

You’re seriously going to argue against spending a half hour and a few dollars for emergency preparedness? My uncle’s home was destroyed in the fire in Bastrop, Texas this weekend. I don’t think they were very prepared and they got out with nothing but their pets. I live in NYC and even the week before last when people had a whole day to evacuate for the Irene storm surge, I don’t doubt that those who already had a bag packed and a list made had a much easier time of it than those who got home from work at 5pm… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
8 years ago

You may not think a “go bag” is that useful given the situation of a fire evacuation. I will say that a far more likely scenario that has happened to us in Texas is ice storms that have knocked out electricity for days at a time. While our home was hunkering down quite well, there were those who had no prepared. There were people who were upset that they weren’t first in line to get their electricity back on and screamed that they had children with medical needs! That is a very real reason for preparedness. We can’t predict if… Read more »

Shari@Rain into Rainbows
[email protected] into Rainbows
8 years ago

We had to evacuate last week thanks to hurricane Irene. I’m actually in the process of writing about this now on my blog, specifically our blunders and what we’ll do differently next time. I’m usually a very prepared person, so I was quite shocked at how unprepared we actually were.

One thing I cannot stress enough would be to scan all of your pictures, documents, etc. Grabbing a thumb drive takes so much less room than grabbing photo albums. You’ll still be grabbing a lot regardless, so anything you can do ahead of time will make the evacuation process simpler.

Petra
Petra
8 years ago

I’ve just finished scanning our most important financial documents. They’re now on a harddisk, but I’m also considering to send a copy on a DVD to my parents. They live on the other side of the country, so if we flood (the Netherlands here), they should be fine. So there would be no need to grab it when leaving the house in case of flood or fire; it would be safe at my parents’ house.

We’re still thinking about a safe, though.

Jason
Jason
8 years ago

Forget the thumb drives and DVD’s. It won’t help if you are away from your house and it’s destroyed or you can’t access it while it’s filling up with water.

Sign up with an online service like Mozy or Carbonite and have your digital stuff backed up, offsite, automatically, every day. Then later you can log in and retrieve your data (or DVD’s can be sent, too)

IIRC you can start out with 2GB for free, and additional storage is very reasonable (something like 50+ GB for $5/month)

Amy Love @ Real Food Whole Health
Amy Love @ Real Food Whole Health
8 years ago

Recently, we dealt with Irene, and while we didn’t have to evacuate, we did have to make emergency preparations, go-bags, and buy supplies to have on hand in the house (where we would be during the storm, possibly without power for over a week). My husband and I are nutritional therapists and my family has VERY specific dietary needs- we are all gluten-free and mostly grain-free and only eat real, traditional foods like pastured meats, raw dairy, organic produce, etc. Obviously, some concessions can be made during an emergency, but food allergies are a medical issue and can not be… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago

Think how sick you would have gotten (from foods your body wasn’t used to) in a shelter on top of not being comfortable at home if you hadn’t prepared!

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago

I bought the old Samsonite hard cover suitcases from a garage sale for less than $5.00. I keep the larger one in the garage filled with survival gear next to 3 cases of water and a sleeping bag. I keep the next smaller size in my bedroom with the money, documents etc. They will also double as seats, are water proof and are easily identified (bright color) if you are not at home and must tell a teenager what to grab. I purchase items at garage sales for the survival kit: camping equipment, rain panchos, squeeze flashlights, manual can opener.… Read more »

Kandace
Kandace
8 years ago

I have a back pack in my trunk ready to go. However, I need to change out the water and granola bars because it’s been there about three years. Can also add more cash. I also packed a toothbrush and toothpaste for my own personal comfort–and perhaps that of others. But I still need to organize my papers and house! I have a friend whose house burned down when she was 12 years old. She spent three days in her bathing suit until clothing and other necessities could be obtained. Because of that, she has trained her kids what to… Read more »

Lynda
Lynda
8 years ago

Wouldn’t a wind up charger in your go bag for a phone make more sense? Maybe a wind up radio as well as local radio stations are a source of info during bad weather in the UK? Obviously your mileage may vary depending on country.

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago
Reply to  Lynda

I have a wind up radio!

SF_UK
SF_UK
8 years ago
Reply to  Lynda

I have a wind-up radio and a wind-up torch. If I find a wind-up charger for the phone at a sensible price I might think about it, but it is def further down the list. I grew up with very frequent power cuts (>1/month for short ones, and occasional long ones of >24 hrs), and a torch is essential for safety. A radio is useful for information and sanity. I do have a cheap landline phone that doesn’t need batteries / mains power, which is useful for power cuts, when lots of cordless landline phones will just refuse to work… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago

April, the link to the PDF doesn’t work.

Alyssa
Alyssa
8 years ago

Thanks for the timely post, April. I live in Austin as well and this is all very scary and heart-wrenching. I have a very good friend in Bastrop who isn’t sure if his house is still there or not. My bf and I had The Conversation the other night about what we would take regarding sentimental items and necessities. It’s a good idea to have a bag ready. For the guy who traded prepared trunk for fun trunk, you don’t have to have a lot of stuff in there. I’ve got a great kit that is 18″X12″X4″ that has jumper… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

” in case you have more time to evacuate.”

haaa haa haaa haaa

why oh why do words have such unfortunate meanings

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5d82ndui_s (see until the last second)

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2008/01/the_wire_copyediting_scandal_d.html

how about

“in case you have more time to FLEE”? just saying.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  April Dykman

Oh it’s not that, it’s the potential for grotesque comedy that is rife in this article and comments. E.g. “I have to evacuate last week” (no kidding!).

Simon was wrong, by the way. But Jimmy McNulty wasn’t ;P

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Sorry, that was “had to” (evacuate). Edit function, where art thou?

But now that I think a little further about it, it’s the abundance of synonyms that allow the use of words plus alternatives. Flee/ escape / reach safety/ leave the building (like Elvis) / etc.

I’m guessing the problem is that the more ancient evacuation is too much on the surface of that word to be ignored when discussing emergencies, and I’m a Rabelaisian at heart.

Fine, fine, I’ll laugh alone.

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago

This is one of the things I think “it’s a great idea, I should probably do it” and then don’t do it. Because: The most likely catastrophe scenario for where I live (west Los Angeles) is an 8+ earthquake. If that happens, the highways will be either wrecked, or so jammed as to be useless. Assuming I survive the initial disaster, it is extremely unlikely I would be able to get out of town. Also assuming that my apartment building is not destroyed, my best bet is probably to hunker down and stay put. So a better strategy for me… Read more »

SEinSF
SEinSF
8 years ago

Depending on the amount of time you have, consider adding a ‘refrigerator check’ to your list. If the power goes out while you are evacuated and you’re gone for more than a few days, your fridge could be ruined. This was a major issue in NOLA after Katrina. The streets were littered with old refrigerators that had to be thrown away because of the stink. Taking a few minutes to throw away anything that might rot could save you from having to replace the appliance.

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago

Thank you very much for this important post.

Kate
Kate
8 years ago

It has honestly never occurred to me *not* to carry a first aid kit in the car. No major disaster required for that to prove its worth- we’ve helped out stranded motorists, picked out splinters, been able to apply a splint to my cousin…

Matt
Matt
8 years ago

The Art of Manliness had a really good article like this. They refer to it as the “bug-out bag” – worth checking out =)

http://artofmanliness.com/2011/03/07/how-to-make-a-bug-out-bag-your-72-hour-emergency-evacuation-survival-kit/

Windy Taylor
Windy Taylor
8 years ago

Excellent advice. My house was struck by lightning at the end of June and was severely damaged in the resulting fire. It wasn’t until I saw the firefighters handing my filing cabinet out the window that I realized how totally helpless I would have been if the fire had destroyed 100% of the house.

Just+Jan
Just+Jan
8 years ago

I live in earthquake country and we have a large bin in an accessible place packed with many of the recommended supplies. But I know I won’t feel so smug when my 17-year-old son tries to put on the shoes I packed away for him when he was in third grade. Pretty sure we don’t need the crayons and coloring books any more, either. And good luck to me fitting into my old jeans! Remember to update your supplies!

Moneyperk
Moneyperk
8 years ago

I have been fortunate enough to not come across an evacuate situation. Disastrous situations often happen out of no where though, and definitely can happen to anybody! I loved this piece of writing because I think we all can relate, whether someone has been in that situation or not.

It’s obviously human nature to think crass under pressure situations. And being prepared is the best defense for it!

Kathryn
Kathryn
8 years ago

how safe is it to keep a list of accounts and passwords laying around?

Jane
Jane
8 years ago

Buy a Sans Disc.
Take a picture of every room in your house
Put the memory card in your go bag.
Nothing like trying to remember what you own!
WE have one in our tornado shelter AND our go bag!

Tanya
Tanya
8 years ago

Thanks for the great suggestions. I keep a travel bag partly packed with toiletries etc. at all times, but I need to add to it so it’s ready to grab and go.

David
David
8 years ago

Great ‘go bag’ list. I would add water and/or a water filter. A multi-tool like a Leatherman. Toiletries. A map of your state/city, for alternative escape routes.

Laura @MotherWouldKnow
Laura @MotherWouldKnow
8 years ago

I live in DC and just lived through the frightening earthquake. The lesson I learned was that I am going to teach my 85 yr old mom to text. Cell phones didn’t work and texting did. Through texts I found out where my husband and daughter were and that they were safe. Seniors like my mom tend not to use their cell phones much (if they have them) – and have to be patiently taught to text, which isn’t intuitive for those who grew up in an age with party lines and no cell phones or computers. I am going… Read more »

Claire
Claire
8 years ago

YES!!! We just taught my 66 year-old mother-in-law how to text, and she lives in another state, so that works well. Now, both of my parents don’t know how to text, let alone leave their cell phones on all the time… *sigh*

Shelley
Shelley
8 years ago

Last Christmas my in-laws gave us a disaster kit-it’s a bucket filled with all kinds of survival items (like water tablets, flares, etc.), and just this month we set up a go bag with a change of clothes, important papers & numbers, pet needs, etc. I also added two decks of cards and two funny books. After following blogs about the tsunami in Japan this year, I realized that you really need some escapism to keep your sanity when you’re in a shelter. We keep them (and pet carrier) in our utility room, which is also our safest room for… Read more »

Melissa @ Mango
Melissa @ Mango
8 years ago

April, we’re in central Texas too and just today we looked out the office windows to see smoke filling the sky. We’re not even in Bastrop! It’s terrifying! Ironically, at Mango Money we did a post last week on preparing for disasters, inspired by Hurricane Irene. If only we’d known that something else would already be upon us this week! What is going on out there?! Anyway, if you’d like to check out our post, here is the link. (http://www.mangomoney.com/blog/how-to/preparing-for-disaster) We talk about many of the same things you do, but also have some different ideas. People should read everything… Read more »

brooklyn+money
brooklyn+money
8 years ago

For photos, it’s not as critical as it once was. Same even with personal papers. I store almost everything electronically and use Carbonite as a backup system.

ceebee
ceebee
8 years ago

I was in Christchurch NZ during the Feb quake. A radio was vital, the only way I knew what was happening and whether and how to get out. My friend’s husband ran back into the house to grab things and came out with…mittens (it was midsummer). He’s a pretty calm, rational guy so that tells you something. I have a bag packed and ready to go at home, stored outside so if the house collapses I can reach it. Likewise, I have water and canned food stored, and change it every 6 months. I also have a bag with supplies… Read more »

Kyra
Kyra
8 years ago

I evacuated on September 11th, 2001 and as much as I like to think I am an intelligent and rational human most of the time, those qualities were no where to be found when I needed them most. I ended up walking for 7 hours, still dressed in pajamas, with shoes but no socks (blister-city!), carrying a small backpack with Doritos, a photo album and a stuffed animal. No money, no documents, no food/water/medication, nothing. I got lucky – I made it out with my life and even though my apartment was damaged and all my possessions had to be… Read more »

Felice
Felice
8 years ago

Sadly, I was just thinking about all the disasters occurring right now and I thought I wouldn’t even be prepared if I had 5 minutes. Definitely reading this post put some things in perspective. Printing article and putting together a bag. Thanks for posting.

Heather
Heather
8 years ago

You missed a very important thing: Pictures of all family members (human and otherwise) in case people get separated during evacuation. Sometimes if helicopters are involved, children get taken first and must be re-united with parents later. My partner and I run a Zombie Apocalypse Survival Group (where “Zombies” is an umbrella term for any natural or man-made disaster, as well as the state of the survivors who aren’t prepared, whom act irrationally, and must also be considered in the protection of oneself). One of our first classes was about building a “bug-out” bag, and putting things in it so… Read more »

T
T
8 years ago

One idea: share your irreplaceable digital photos with others now. When my husband and I got married, we got a digital copy of all our wedding photos and sent DVD copies to all our close family. We did this to share our joy (and make distantly located family members feel more close), but it has the added benefit that, even if our home burned to the ground and nothing was salvageable, we would still be able to get a copy of our wedding photos from some kind family member. I find that comforting. (Note that this is more usefully done… Read more »

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