This year’s hurricane season has been busy, and shows no signs of slowing down. While most people keep an eye on severe weather when they know it’s coming, sometimes it happens quickly and forces an immediate evacuation. The same is true for other natural disasters—fires, earthquakes (not just in California), and tornadoes don’t happen on a schedule.
Man made disasters—fires, accidents, and other incidents—occur quickly. You may be given an evacuation order without advance warning, and have just hours—or even minutes—to get out of your home or office. Do you know what to take?
Since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and a large swath of the central Gulf Coast in 2005, evacuees have been posting online about what they wish they had taken, and what should be included when you’re packing for an evacuation.
For many years, emergency services have issued warnings about packing clothes, food, medicines, and the like. But most never mentioned taking documents like house deeds, social security cards and other important things that you’ll need when you return home. Some are essential for proving your identity and home ownership when the National Guard is deployed, and a driver’s license may not be enough.
Creating a “go bag” with important things in it will save time when evacuating. There are a number of things you can add to it to make evacuations easier.
Take copies of important documents in waterproof packaging:
• Driver’s licenses and identification for all household members (including passports)
• Social Security cards
• Medical records
• Marriage licenses and related documents
• House deed or apartment lease
• Homeowner’s, renters, automobile, health and any other insurance information
• Photographs that can identify all household members
• List of personal contacts
• Necessary banking documents (debit cards, blank checks, ID cards, etc.)
• Any other necessary legal documents
Each individual should pack changes of clothes for one to seven days, appropriate for the season. Include any toiletries, sanitary items, medications, a first aid kit, spare pairs of glasses for those who wear them, as well as any required prescriptions.
Children will also need to start packing clothes, a few toys and anything else that they may need (i.e., medicines, etc.) If the children are too young to do this themselves, begin packing their things as well.
If you have pets, make sure they are outfitted with ID collars, and are microchipped in case you’re separated. A “go bag” for your pets should include leashes, collars, bowls, and three days of food and water for each animal.
These are very useful for sealing up any number of things in suitcases, duffel bags and any other bag you need to use.
You can seal any number of things in each bag to keep them dry. A box or two in your kitchen may not be enough to stash everything you need. The freezer bags are thicker, stronger and can withstand more handling than the regular ones. Quart-size zippered freezer bags can keep most documents dry without being folded, as well as some electronic equipment like tablets and larger smartphones, as well as chargers.
Larger zipper-top plastic bags are available for storage that allow you to vacuum air out. While you may not need to do that in an evacuation, the bags can be useful for taking clothing and other necessities that need to stay dry but won’t fit in a quart size. They’re available online and in big-box stores, usually with the other storage supplies.
Note: if you leave original documentation at home, seal those in plastic bags as well, in case any storage area becomes waterlogged.
Have you done a home inventory? A good way to prepare long before you need to evacuate is to take an inventory of your home. When you return, you’ll be able to easily identify what was lost for your insurance claim. There are multiple apps available for both iOS and Android that you can not only take pictures but store the information on your phone and in the cloud, as well as create a printout to keep with your essential documents.
Some of these apps are free, some allow free trials, with paid versions. Forbes has a list of some of the best home inventory apps, and TechHive offers six that are free, some with paid upgrades. One app that’s on both lists:
• Sortly—the free version allows you to save up to 200 items. A $7.99 upgrade allows you to record unlimited items, save them to Evernote, and create QR-coded labels to stick on packing boxes for a move to find what’s in them later. You can also back up and sync your data across multiple devices. There is also a version for business. Both versions offer free trials.
Do a home (or business) inventory before you need it, and update it as you upgrade and disposition property.
Early preparation can make an evacuation easier. Start with your home inventory now. If bad weather threatens and it looks like you may be ordered to leave, start readiness preparations immediately. Pack documents, suitcases, gather supplies you don’t already have, and be ready when the order is issued.
We hope you never need to evacuate your home. But if you do, these things can help you be ready anytime.
Tropical weather can change quickly, leaving you without adequate time to prepare. Don’t let your facility’s generator run out of fuel. Call us at 1-866-445-5508, send us an email us at [email protected], or use our online contact form to reserve your emergency fuel supply. Centrally located with strategic fuel reserves throughout the US, Specialty Fuel Services can deliver emergency fuel and equipment anywhere. Add us to your disaster recovery and business continuity plan to guarantee fresh fuel at your location anytime. We’re just a phone call away.