Illustration for article titled How to Pack a Go Bag for Emergency EvacuationsPhoto: Roger Brown Photography (Shutterstock)

Unless you live in an area prone to natural disasters, you might think it could never happen to you – but sadly it doesn’t. A few years ago, a fire lit a tiny trail at the base of the Santa Ana Mountains in Anaheim, California. It was moving quickly and through news reports we saw it meander towards our sleepy suburbs. In the evening there were mandatory evacuations about half a mile from us.

It took me and my husband two hours to get home from work because of the road block and when we got there we had to evacuate too. (Fortunately, my two children were away from the fire with my mother.) I rushed around grabbing valuables and clothing. But then I froze. I had no idea what to pack. Sentimental photos? Artwork? I looked around my house and wondered what I could afford to lose. A neighbor reminded me to pack our important papers and I remembered wearing the antique jewelry my grandmother had left me. But I was so panicked that I only had suitcases full of ill-fitting clothes, passports, and paintings. (To my credit, I didn’t forget to pack the cat.)

Illustration for article titled How to Pack a Go Bag for Emergency Evacuations

Of the many people who have been badly hit by fires in California in recent years, we have been very lucky. This particular flame grew to about 5,000 acres, but half a day after the fire started, the winds subsided and firefighters were able to keep them away from our homes.

According to FEMAEvacuations are quite common in the United States. Aside from natural disasters like fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes, people are often told to leave their homes due to transportation and industrial accidents. Our canyon fire pushed me to better prepare in the event of another disaster.

G / O Media can receive a commission

Illustration for article titled How to Pack a Go Bag for Emergency Evacuations

Here’s how to prepare an evacuation bag that you can grab quickly in case you ever need to evacuate.

Choose a bag

Each family member should have their own. Start with a drawstring nylon RV backpack or laundry bag.

Take photos of all your rooms and valuables

Save these photos to a cloud server and back them up to a flash drive.

Scan and save all important documents

You can also save them on a cloud server if you have a trusted encryption service or save them on a flash drive.

Put the flash drives of your photos and important documents in your pocket. These documents should contain:

  • Driving license
  • The deed to your home
  • Your will and / or trust
  • Proof of insurance
  • Medical records
  • Passports
  • Social security cards
  • Birth certificates
  • A list of personal contacts with their addresses and phone numbers
  • Your children’s vaccination reports
  • Your pets records for vaccinations and medical history

Add essential supplies to help you get through a few days

This includes water (one gallon per person per day), non-perishable food, a first aid kit, a flashlight, batteries, clothing, diapers, and pet supplies. has a full Emergency equipment checklist that you can download.

Create an evacuation to-do list

Be aware of the items that you might want to pack in an emergency: your travel bag, pets and a list of valuables (jewelry, paintings, photos) that you cannot live without. Also list your action items, e.g. B. turning off utilities and locking your home. When you need to evacuate break down the evacuation to-do list, tick each item, and get the hell out of it.

Illustration for article titled How to Pack a Go Bag for Emergency Evacuations

In addition to the “Go Bag”, there are other important ways to prepare for an emergency disaster:

  • Take a first aid and CPR course. Find your local american red cross Information chapter.
  • Buy a fire extinguisher and learn how to use it.
  • Buy a fire and watertight safe. I looked them up after a fire and found they weren’t like that unaffordable However you think. They can cost anywhere from $ 25 to $ 1,000.
  • Find out now how you can safely switch off all utilities – electricity, water and gas – in your home. (FEMA has Tips for switching off Utilities.) Many fires are exacerbated by post-disaster natural gas explosions. Share your knowledge with everyone in your household.
  • Make sure your pets are microchipped.

In situations like natural disasters, where everything feels like it’s out of your control, it can be helpful to have at least a few bags packed and ready to go.

This story was originally published in 2017 and was updated on February 1, 2021 to be in line with Lifehacker style guidelines.