How to prepare for an evacuation

How to prepare for an evacuation from natural disaster or emergency is something most people don’t even want to think about. Unless you live in area prone to things like hurricanes or tornados, you many not have even considered the possibility of needing to leave your house in a hurry and possibly for good.

I have always been a tiny bit of a prepper. I love the idea of all that but have never really followed through with serious plans until recently.

I live in an area that doesn’t really see many natural disasters so I had not been overly concerned. Recently, there were several very big fires in the neighboring counties around my home.

It still wasn’t much of a concern until, I was 30 minutes away from home at a meeting while my children were at home (my oldest children are adults) and I received an alert that evacuations had started less than 10 miles from my home.

Grab the Trash Bags

Most of the people that had been evacuated at that point, and there were several thousand, had very little time to grab what they could and leave.

I started to think about having only 10 minutes and realized that it would take almost that long to just get all 11 kids and 1 dog in the car. Then what? We would have nothing.

So, I decided to drive home, quickly, and bag up all the clothing in the house. We put everyone’s clothes and all the important papers in the car, just in case we were evacuated. I asked my husband if this was a bit too much, he said “hey, it is better to look foolish tomorrow unloading, than not have things we wish we did.” I thought that was good advice.

Fortunately we did not have to evacuate. Unfortunately many did and many more lost there homes.

This experience got me thinking about what we as a family could do differently to be better prepared for something like this. Although we handled it very well I thought, you can always improve.

As we unpacked the car the next day i started thinking and evaluating things.

What to grab?

If you create a plan and have it listed out what to bring in the stress of an emergency it will save you from having to make those decisions. If you have a plan then all you will have to do is follow the plan.

Important papers should be number one on everyone’s list. You may think you could always get copies of these papers when needed but in the case of a natural disaster buildings like vital records may be destroyed.

Add to that the fact that many other people will be needing copies of these same types of documents and you can see why it might take a very long time to get replacements.

You may needed these documents for things like homeowners claims and government assistance that will help you get back on your feet. So, these papers should definitely be number one for everyone.

You should also keep copies of these documents in a separate location as a back up. Copies are not as good as originals but in this case they are better than nothing.

You can make copies of these papers and keep them at someone else’s house or a safety deposit box. You could also scan them onto your computer and keep them on a flash drive. I would definitely recommend using encryption software if you are keeping them electronically.

Important Papers

Important papers are well, important and need to be saved in the case of evacuation. This one is something I have done for year and it made our recent preparations to leave much easier.

If you don’t have a central place for all important papers you need one. We use a wonderful heavy duty plastic box with a latching lid and handle on top.

You don’t need a very big box as this is not for sentimental things. This is just for important paper; birth certificates, marriage certificates, mortgage papers, social security cards, passports, car pink slips, etc.

Basically legal paperwork. When the disaster is over and the rebuilding begins these papers will be needed. These papers may be needed to prove identity and ownership.

Another thing I do is put all papers in ziplock baggies. You can get the large 2 gallon bags and they will fit standard and legal size papers well. This will keep them safe from water.

This may be overkill as the box I keep the papers in is most likely waterproof but, it not only gives me peace of mind but also keeps the papers organized and protected from normal handling.


Obviously any daily medication is very important and will need to be taken with you when you evacuate.

The best plan for medication is to keep all daily medication in a moveable container. A box with a handle would be idea. But, any box or container will do.

You want something that is easily accessible as you will need these meds everyday. Making it travel ready will make it easy to grab and go.


A lot of people think about grabbing things that are special to them like a wedding dress or other special items they would want to keep safe.

It is not bad at all to want to keep these things safe but when coming up with your plan you want to think worst case situation.

If you have to chose between the wedding dress you wore 20 years ago and a change of clothes then your perspective might change.

So, I would start with the basics which would be clothing.

When we were worried we might be evacuated we bagged up everyone’s clothes as I knew the possibility of getting 13 changes of clothes in an emergency would be very difficult.

With doing this I realized how much clothes we had. It was crazy. We have a 15 passenger van and filled up 2 benches. I thought we had downsized but quickly found out we had not.

I used this opportunity to go through everything before putting all the clothes away.

I would highly suggest you do the same. Just maybe not the entire family’s clothes at once like we did.

Evaluate your clothing and see what would be needed to pack everything up. Think about not just your clothes but your entire family. One bag each would be best.

If all your clothing will not fit in one bag then look to see if you have clothes that are not as important to grab.

I have dress clothes that I don’t wear very often. In an emergency those dress clothes would not be a necessity.

Look at your clothing and determine what would be necessary in an emergency. Maybe your work clothes or dress clothes are the most important for you, everyone if different.

Make sure the bag you have will fit all of your necessary clothes. Organize those necessary clothes in a specific place in your closet or use specific colored hangers.

Once you have this system in place it will be something you won’t have to think about so, don’t worry you won’t have to always think about an emergency when dealing with your clothes.

I have my closet organized by type of clothing, not just for emergencies, it makes finding clothes much easier.

So, for me I would just grab all clothing in the shirts and pants section.

Make a label for your bag with your name and keep it in your closet in an accessible place.

In the event of an emergency you will have the bag ready to go and can easily put all your needed clothing in and go.

Do this for each member of your family. Make sure all kids know where their bags are and how to pack them.

When picking your clothing bag you want to remember that you will be in a hurry when packing. If you pick a bag that will only fit all the clothing if it is rolled and fit in a specific way that will not be very helpful to you.

You want a bag that you can just quickly throw your clothes in, close and go. A bag with a shoulder strap or backpack style would work best as you may have to carry your bag for an extended period of time.

Being prepared

There are so many things you can do to be prepared for an emergency.

Starting with a change in mindset is the most important. You definitely do not want to live your life scared of what might happen all the time but being prepared for the unexpected will make things much easier if an emergency does arise.

By having a plan and being organized in your daily life you can prepare for the unexpected.

I would like to hear from you on what you have done to be prepared for an emergency? Leave me a comment below and let learn together.