Back when we talked emergency preparedness, we worked through many different steps to getting your home and family ready for the “in-house” sort of emergencies, such as power outages, snowstorms, or other problems that might cause your family to be stuck in the house without access to the outside world for a while.
It seems nearly every few months if you turn on the news you’ll hear stories about more people that have to evacuate their homes due to emergencies, including hurricanes, floods, fires, and storms.
Those folks needed Bug Out Bags.
Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to take steps to making a Bug Out Bag, otherwise known as a GOODY bag (for “Get Out Of Dodge”), a 72-hour survival kit, or simply an emergency evacuation kit.
Why bother? Some disasters (forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, chemical spills, and certainly more that my over-active imagination cannot even fathom) simply require evacuation, sometimes at a moment’s notice.
Here’s a personal account from a reader in the comments at an early preparedness post at KS:
Our biggest threat here is forest fire. We have been evacuated with an hour’s notice in the past, so now we have a binder in the front closet with phone numbers, account and policy numbers, a CD with a photographic household inventory and checklists of jobs for each family member to get ready to leave. Each item lists what to get, where to get it, and where it goes. We have family on the other side of a big lake, so that is where we meet. We also have a travel trailer which is stocked with basics and propane/battery/electric fridge and stove, and is ready to hook up within five minutes or so.
The author over at Preparedness Pro talks about how surviving a longer-term disaster would be impossible in a city – if you’re an urbanite, you just have to “get outta Dodge”. It’s an interesting thought for so many of us who do live in cities.
Even FEMA recommends that everyone have a 72-hour stock of food and water for basic survival, and I don’t see the U.S. government as generally being hyper-conservative or over-reactive.
There are fun alternate names for a 72-hour survival kit: a Bug Out Kit, Get Out of Dodge kit (GOODY bags), or the slightly crass “Oh Crap” kit. Whatever you call it, if you’re ready to take a not-so-baby-step toward emergency preparedness, our topic for the last few weeks, or if you live in an area where these kits really are essential, I’ve compiled some resources for you.
How To Prepare To Evacuate
Here’s a 20-step list, designed to be tackled one per week for 20 weeks, to help you and your family be ready to evacuate on short notice with the basic items you might need to survive in an emergency situation:
1. Gather backpacks or storage containers to keep your emergency kit in.
Plan one backpack per family member. You can also use storage tubs or 5-gallon buckets. Do you want to divide each person’s things into their own container, or have 1 container per category (food, clothes, supplies, etc.)? How would you transport items if you are alone–wagon, stroller?
2. Have three days of non-perishable food per person.
Suggestions: MREs, high energy food bars, freeze-dried pouches, canned soups, meats, veggies, fruit, juice; peanut butter, hard candy, beef jerky (recipe can be found in the newly expanded Healthy Snacks to Go eBook along with over 45 real food snack recipes – click HERE to learn more.) Make a menu and plan each meal & snacks. Label the food as “Breakfast Day 1”, “Lunch Day 2”, etc. Put expiry dates on packages & your menu.
3. Make sure you’ll have access to clean drinking water.
When I made my 72-hour survival kit list, I had originally planned on having one gallon of water per person per day – two quarts for drinking, two for food prep & cleaning. But a commenter here pointed out that you can’t possibly carry that much with you. Better to have a small Berkey filter or filtering water bottle so you could reclaim water from other sources, and also plan to need zero for cooking, because if you’ve bugged out you don’t want to have food with you that you’d need to cook! I’d pack about a half to a full gallon per person, period. Don’t forget pets! More on how to safely store water here.
4. Make a first aid kit.
Other ideas for what to include:
- first aid manual
- hand sanitizer
- vinyl gloves
- alcohol pads
- elastic (Ace) bandage
- anti-bac ointment
- pain reliever
- small scissors
- safety pins
- cold pack
5. Get a portable radio, flashlights, and batteries.
If you’d rather not carry batteries, check out solar hand crank options like this one to the right which even has attachments to charge a cell phone. Look for a radio that is NOAA capable. NOAA broadcasts local emergency weather and evacuation instructions (radio is set to your local zip code).
6. Pack a personal hygiene kit for each family member.
This kit should include items in Ziploc bags or waterproof container:
- small towel/washcloth
- liquid detergent
- toothbrush, toothpaste and other dental hygiene needs
- feminine hygiene items
- other personal hygiene items
- small wash basin (optional)
7. Consider sanitation and waste disposal.
Store the following in a 5-gallon bucket with lid (and optional toilet seat):
- toilet paper (remove cardboard tube to save space)
- plastic bags & ties, for disposal
- chlorine bleach or disinfectant
- toilet chemicals (optional)
- paper towels
- wet wipes
- small shovel (optional)
Note: Bleach is a tough one when it comes to emergencies. It begins to break down and lose potency after only 6 months, and you hate to have to use or dispose of bleach and replace it when it’s not something you would normally have in your home. Full strength vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, stored separately, should do a sufficient job.
8. Don’t forget to bring fresh clothes!
For each person store:
- Shoes (optional)
Store items in Ziploc bags to keep everything dry, and label them with name and clothing size. For children, store clothes that are 1-2 sizes larger. Rotate clothes out when the child grows into them. Be sure to note clothes sizes on your “Master List” so you know when to rotate clothes.
9. Gather eating and cooking supplies.
Include a can opener, stove w/solid fuel or heat pellets, utensils, cups, aluminum foil, Swiss army knife/utility tool with pliers & sharpening stone. Plastic plates & utensils may be used, but be sure to have at least one container for boiling water.
RELATED: How to Keep Emergency Food Stored.
10. Ensure you’ll stay warm and dry.
Pack ponchos or rain gear, emergency solar blankets, and heat packs (hand warmers) for each person in your family. The last thing you’ll want is to be caught off guard in a storm.
11. You might need fire making supplies.
I suggest waterproof matches, flint, or firestarter, which you can make by gently melting a bit of Vaseline. Put 6-10 cotton balls in melted Vaseline and saturate completely. Let cool & store in film canister or Ziploc. To use, place 1-2 cotton balls under tinder and light with a match. Dryer lint is good also, but doesn’t burn as long.
12. Be ready for anything.
Pack some rope and/or twine, duct tape (wrap around a drinking straw to reduce space), extra garbage bags, extra Ziploc bags, whistle, something reflective like an old CD for signaling, and a small sewing kit (needles, thread, tiny scissors), surgical tubing (drinking tube).
From helpful Facebook readers: “Use paracord for your rope/twine. Be sure to buy the kind with the seven strand core so that if you need the finer twine you can use you core strands. I got some from a seller on Amazon that had only a four strand core and it is fairly useless… tangles up terribly! We are trying to use it up on everyday disposable tasks.”
Paracord is used to make emergency “jewelry” too, braided into belts and watch bands, key fobs and bracelets. Super strong and very multi-use.
13. Want something to help pass the time?
You might need some entertaiment, especially for the kids. Paper and pencils, markers or crayons, playing cards, small toys, extra eyeglasses, sunglasses. What packs the biggest punch of fun for the smallest amount of space?
14. Be ready to go…
…with spare house and car keys, a local map for locating shelters, evacuation routes, etc., money. (Have enough cash to support yourself out of your home for 3 days. Keep most of it in very small bills along with some quarters.)
15. Consider important documents.
It’s advisable as part of emergency preparedness to make copies of the most important documents you have:
- birth certificates &/or passports
- immunization records & health records
- bank account & credit card information
- homeowners’ insurance information
- emergency plan
- important phone numbers
- family emergency plan contact numbers
Put everything together in a “to go” file or waterproof bag stored where it’s easy to grab “just in case,” and perhaps even include a CD of favorite family pictures if your computers aren’t backed up offsite. A fire in your home or in the woods down the street could cause a quick evacuation. Keep originals in a fireproof box or off-site in a safety deposit box.
Here is a printable one-page emergency plan and contact cards for each family member.
16. Where will you lay your head?
Consider a tent and lightweight wool blankets or sleeping bags. If you have a large family tent, keep it in a place where it will be easily accessible in an evacuation. Soooo…not up in the rafters of the garage like ours is… You’ll find some supply recommendations and sort-of-survival skills in The Family Camping Handbook.
17. Bring tools to fit any job.
Folding shovel, hand ax, small hand saw.
18. Does your family need to pack for any special considerations?
For littles: formula, bottles, water, diapers, wipes, ointment, medication, baby sling or carrier (selection of some of my fav babywearing supplies at Sweetbottoms. Choose one that doesn’t take up much space for a Bug Out Bag like this, or put it on your “pack when you’re heading out” list.)
Disabled/special needs: Assess what you need. Add to kit or place on a list of “other items to bring” and keep list with your kit.
Pets: supplies and food
*Note: Most evacuee shelters will not allow pets. Make arrangements ahead of time.
20. Make an “Other Items to Bring If Space and Time Permit” List.
Coats, hats, gloves, boots (winter), tent, pillows, purse or wallet, diaper bag, cell phones and chargers, camera, tarp, extra food and water, special needs items, etc. What else would you need to bring?
21. Choose an out-of-town contact.
Your emergency contact should live a ways away from your house so that there’s no chance they’d be affected by the same potential disaster. Put this person’s number in “to go” file and any cell phones in the house.
Set meeting places, one right outside your home and one outside your neighborhood. Compile contact info for family members including work & school. Plan escape routes from home as well as safe places in case of flood, tornado, hurricane, etc. Prepare a list of people, boarding facilities, & vets where pets can go.
You Can Buy Premade Evacuation Kits
If you don’t want to put together a kit or don’t have time, but you’re feeling the urgency to have one on hand for whatever reason, there are plenty of sources for buying a kit already made up. Here are two:
Do You Need Supplies in Your Car?
The chances of a disaster happening while you’re away from home are at least as likely as the opposite. If you can’t get to all your carefully prepared supplies, you’re no more “ready” than the next person. Having your car stocked with some basics is a good idea (but certainly not a baby step):
In your car you need blankets, flashlights, water, a first aid kit, and some no-cook, easily accessible rations like granola bars, etc. Think of these supplies as another 72 hour kit.
You also need a pair of walking shoes. Ladies, we occasionally leave the house in heels. Wouldn’t it STINK if the trumpet sounded and we had to hike 2 miles in those same heels? Simply be prepared with an alternative pair of shoes in the car so you can always be as stylish as you want.
This is also the reason why I suggest that you never let your gas tank to go below half. A spare gas container, anti-freeze, and windshield washer is a great idea to have as well.
Thanks to Preparedness Pro – read more here…
Keep Your Emergency Supplies Organized
In general, you’ll want to keep a master list of everything in your kit, plus a list on each bag of “what’s in there” including expiration dates on food and batteries and clothing sizes, so you know when to replace certain items. That list of “things to bring if we have time” is helpful as well.
More resources from around the web:
- Food Storage Made Easy basic list of what to include in a 72-hour survival kit
- Food to include for various needs, including gluten-free, no-cook options, etc. plus variations for kids and pets
- Prepardness Pro’s list of what to include in a 72-hour survival kit
- FEMA’s basic survival recommendations
- tons of 72-hour resources from San Francisco, where they have to be ready to get outta Dodge
- The CDC’s version of a 72-hour kit
- Flylady’s evacuation checklist (love her!)
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links from which I will earn a commission. See my full disclosure statement here.
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