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What You Need in Your Evacuation Shelter Bags

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Today, I want to talk about what you need in your evacuation shelter bags. We have all seen the news on the TV about hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and flooding. You may have to evacuate at some time to a shelter during a disaster or emergency if that is your only option. MUST HAVE: Label Machine or Permanent Magic Markers

Here’s the deal, many of us already have 72-96-hour bug-out bags, a go bag for each family member, or emergency preparedness kits in the event of an emergency. But what if the situation requires every family member to be responsible for grabbing their own backpack or duffel bag with the things they need and heading to a shelter? Our 72-96-hour kits may have some stuff we won’t want to take to the shelters.

Let’s discuss some things to consider as you address how best to be properly prepared if an evacuation is dictated by local authorities. You probably won’t have room for all the suggested items, so evaluate your family’s particular needs and make the most of the space you have.

What You Need in Your Evacuation Shelter Bags

What You Need in Your Evacuation Shelter Bags

1. Sturdy Bag

Please have a sturdy bag with a name tag, address, parent’s names for youth bags, and cell numbers attached to the bags. In case one gets ripped off, have an additional tag inside with photos, one for the bag and one for the “Board Posted for Missing Family Members” at the emergency post center in case family members become separated.

It pays to buy right the first time around, don’t buy cheap bags that can tear or the zippers are prone not to work right. They need to be the right size and age-appropriate so necessary items can fit inside when you pack. Backpacks are so common in school settings these days, but for older kids and adults, you may want to consider a quality duffel bag.

2. Something To Stay Warm

Blanket (Mylar blankets or Turkish Towels(they dry quickly and roll up really small). A pillow (the kind you travel with) will fit easily in a backpack. Depending on the weather and what has prompted the evacuation, you’ll for sure want a complete change of clothing, including sturdy shoes. If space is an issue, at least have extra underwear for personal sanitation and hygiene issues.

They make some sleeping bag varieties now that are warm and can roll up pretty tight. If it looks like you’ll be in the shelter for an extended period, this is one valuable item to have. Having an air mattress or mat would also be great, but they take up additional room. Consider some thick plastic sheeting to lay between the sleeping bag and the floor for some insulation.

3. Toiletries – Personal Hygiene Items

Add the following items, a toothbrush, and toothpaste (label everything). Everyone wants to be able to comb or brush their hair so add a comb or brush, here again, all labeled. Small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, or a bar of soap. Since you may be sheltered with a large diverse group of people, you should also consider getting some masks to prevent the spread of germs and viruses. In a heavy wind situation, a dust mask can also help protect you from the elements.

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Don’t forget some shaving cream, shavers, tweezers, and nail clippers. Hand sanitizer is a bonus to keep our hands clean at all times. Our skin may become dry so body lotion, baby wipes or moist towelettes (quick bath), and some chapstick.

Having your own tissues is very important. Nothing’s worse than seeing someone have to wipe their nose with their shirt. But it happens. Small Tissues

You also need to keep in mind that the ladies of the house will need feminine supplies, infants will need diapers, and it doesn’t hurt to have some garbage bags and “pet cleanup” bags for your pets.

4. Cell Phone Chargers and iPads with Chargers

Please label everything you bring to a shelter, it’s critical so there is no question as to who items belong to. You can download movies beforehand or log into your Netflix or Hulu account if the shelter has wifi and some electrical outlets. Movies will ease the tension or anxiety among children and adults, and your favorite books can do the same.

Keep close tabs on this equipment since they may “disappear” before you know it.

5. Meal Kit

It may be wise to invest in an inexpensive meal kit set, similar to the the type for camping. This way if the shelter runs out of paper goods, and they may, you’ll have your own containers to feed your family with the food provided. Camping Mess Kit Just knowing each person has reusable silverware, a fork, knife, and spoon, with a plate and bowl is critical.

You could also bring a small supply of plastic utensils, paper cups, and plates, also with paper napkins.

6. Minimal Cleaning Supplies

Keep in mind the shelters may or may not have paper plates and cups. If you can bring your own, or better yet bring plastic plates and cups, you can wash them in the bathroom if you have packed some dish soap. If you have paper towels that’s a bonus. Having a bottle of dish soap in a zippered bag in case it leaks would be awesome.

7. NOAA Radio

Now I want to be able to know what is going on in the world and having a hand crank radio like a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio fits the bill. You need to picture hundreds of people in a shelter, they may or may not be able to let everyone know what is going on weatherwise.

There are only so many electrical outlets available in a school auditorium, or a church. But if the power is out they will be useless anyway. Hopefully, they’ll have generators for lighting up the large oversized rooms until the gas or propane runs out.

8. Flashlights and Lanterns (extra batteries)

I hate the dark, there I said it. I have a lantern sitting by my bed that was gifted by a friend. I have flashlights as well. Please stock up on batteries for the devices you have. My favorites are Lanterns with Batteries, Solar Lanterns, Flashlights with Batteries, and Solar Flashlights, Children’s Flashlights with Batteries.

9. Clean Underwear and Socks

It’s critical we have at least a few sets of clean underwear. We will feel better mentally knowing at least we have clean underwear and socks if we wear them. As mentioned above, if you have room for a set of clothes, add them.

10. OTC Medications

Before the pandemic, I wrote a post about OTC medications to stock. Just having some pain relief medication or allergy medication (Benadryl) would be very helpful and badly needed. Trust me on that one. 35 OTC Medications You Should Store

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You should consider having some medications besides pain relievers. If you or a family often get an upset stomach, then have some Tums or other relief available. For those who wear contact lenses, be sure to pack some lens solution and eye drops.

11. Prescriptions

You may want to add a tag with RED letters on your evacuation shelter bags, with the word PRESCRIPTIONS, to make sure you grab them as you leave to evacuate. It would be wise to put together a medication list so you have it handy if you get sick and need to inform the medical personnel what you currently are taking.

12. Snacks

Snacks would have to be rotated every 3-4 months because they will go stale. I highly recommend putting the snacks or anything liquid (dish soap) in a FoodSaver Bag. If the bag with the snacks is on the top, you can pull them out when you really want a treat. Then choose some new ones to seal in your FoodSaver bags for the next 3-4 months.

13. Scissors, Pocket Knife, and Other Tools

In order to cut something we will need some scissors or a pocket knife. When you’re ready for snacks you’ll have something to cut the FoodSaver bags. They also come in handy for so many other chores. A small tool kit could be a great addition too. You never know when you might need a wrench, some pliers, or a certain size screwdriver.

Also, think about some safety items like a whistle, pen or pencil, and some paper to take notes. Having maps of the local area could come in handy too.

14. Mini-First Aid Kit

Someone will for sure need a bandaid or whatever, so having your own small first aid kit is what makes sense. Small Compact First Aid Kit Duct tape can also be useful if you need to make a sling or other temporary device.

15. Cash

We have talked about this before, but it’s a good reminder to have some small bills, like ones, fives, tens, and twenty dollar bills. Please remember you may be in a situation where no change may be given back on your purchase, so having the smaller bills really helps. Again, be sure to protect the cash, when it’s gone, it’s gone!

16. Non-perishable Food

You won’t have room for much food but pack enough for a day or two, just in case. Shelters try their best, but the food there may not be to your liking or fit within any special dietary needs. They may not have gluten-free items if that’s a concern for members of your family.

If you have infants, having infant formula is critical. You’ll also want a supply of extra water, if possible

17. Emergency Binder

My Emergency Binder is free and available for all to use. I like to print the pages on cardstock, so it’s sturdier. PRINTABLE: Emergency Binder

The binder outlines a number of important family documents you could need when away from your home base. These could include passports, insurance information, limited medical records, bank account records, and contact information. You also may need copies of house deeds, social security cards, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, or other means of identification.

Final Word

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on what you need in your evacuation shelter bags today. Some of us may never have to evacuate, depending on where we live and the most common types of disasters. Some families have storm shelters. I grew up in California as a young child and I remember seeing bomb shelters, I’m not sure they were called that, but we knew people had them. Please stay stocked, stay safe, and store water.

I’ve also suggested to my readers that they should think about setting up automatic payments with their bank for recurring payments like bills for utilities, their house payment, etc. If you’re in the shelter when bills come due you’ll know things are covered.

May God Bless this World, Linda

Copyright Images: Backpacks Lined Up Depositphotos_10379407_S by Newlight, Backpacks Three Colors Depositphotos_14559877_S by Design56

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26 Comments

  1. Great post Linda! So informative! I hope none of us ever have to go to a shelter, but this information will be helpful if we do. Thank you so much for this.

    1. Hi Deborah, thank you, my friend. I have a friend in Florida that hunkered down in her home during Hurricane Idalia, she had no choice. She would not take her family and leave her dog home. Last year with Hurricane Ian, they stayed at a hotel and it cost them a small fortune. Some people may have no choice. It’s all all about the situation and the cash a family has. Linda

  2. I’ve just about got my updated bags ready. Still need to replace a few outdated items. There’s a rolling backpack with basic essentials, including water purification and fire starting supplies, a small duffle with extras like a little folding tablet stove and cup/pot for heating water for tea, hot chocolate and soup-in-a-cup packets as well as an immersion heater to heat a cup of water if there’s electricity. That bag fits over the rolling pack handle. There’s a third small duffle with a few extras for winter if needed. I have a computer bag under the desk pre-packed with important papers ready to scoop the laptop into and a list of what’s in each bag’s sections and expiry dates for anything that has them. I’m working on a larger cart that can hold a tent cot and more food and water.

  3. While I realize that some folks may have no other choice, I would have to be dragged kicking and screaming before I would enter any government run evacuation shelter.

    1. Hi Harry, Oh I would be as well! LOL! But, I know a lot of people do not have the resources, it’s sad but true. I pray I never have to leave my home (once it’s built!) LOL! Going on 2 years almost. I hope I live long enough for it to be finished. LOL! Linda

  4. I had to evacuate with Hurricane Idalia in Florida last week. My situation was that 3 people in my immediate family work for the city and ALL were considered Essential Personnel. They had to be there the next morning after the hurricane hit overnight. There was appropriate concern that they would not be able to get from home out here in the country to work, with trees and power lines down on roads. We have been blocked in by those same things in a previous hurricane. They all decided to go sleep in city hall so they could be at work in the morning. My daughter wouldnt go and leave me alone 15 miles from the hurricane landfall site, so I HAD to go with them in order not to add to her worries. I had to sleep on the floor in city hall, but I had EVERYTHING, including an air mattress, and they did, too. I had small solar lights but we never lost power because the hurricane veered at the last minute. I have a fully stocked bug out bag already in the car, but I also took all the fish antibiotics I had bought over the last 5 years, all of the seeds I had stockpiled, my important papers binder, and my guns and some ammo. Those things would have been the hardest to replace of my prepping supplies. Left them in the car in the parking garage along with the big red First Aid bag that stays in the car. I wouldn’t leave them at home in case the hurricane blew the house away or looters came before I could get back. Having those things labeled and accessible made it so easy to pack a duffle bag of several changes of clothes and shoes, a blanket and pillow and GO. I’m 71 and full of aches and pains, so having everything ready made it much easier on me. I said I would never evacuate, but things change, and when you are elderly, you don’t want to burden or worry your children to death.

    1. Hi Angela, oh thank you for sharing your story, this will help all of us understand what the Essential Personnel are faced in emergencies. I was so happy to hear your daughter wouldn’t leave you alone 15 miles from where she was headed. May God bless her for watching out for her mama!! It’s so awesome to hear you at 71 years of age, is totally prepared for what comes your way after a disaster! Sending hugs from Utah! Thank you, thank you for sharing your story. Linda

    2. Angela, I found your post inspiring. Like Harry, I have declared I would have to be dragged kicking and screaming from our home, but your experience gave me pause. I will be 71 next week, and my husband is 76. Just getting out the door requires major effort. Even my doctors PA makes housecalls now, because getting out is difficult.
      We did receive from our county a five gallon bucket with some emergency supplies including a 4-in-1 flashlight that has a led flashlight, mobile phone charger am/fm radio and panic alarm. A first Aid kit, gloves, duct tape and survival blanket.
      We came thru the Christmas Blizzard in Western New York, because we were prepared and used common sense. Please everyone plan and stay safe.

      1. HI Chris, that was a blessing to receive a bucket with the items you mentioned! I’m very impressed, those would be good holiday gifts for our family members as well. I love this, thank you sharing, Linda

      2. That bucket idea is great. Since you live up north, add some Hot Hands packets to it. They are available on Amazon. You can get them in 6 packs or 40 packs. Put a couple of those under your blanket next to your body and you can be toasty warm. Even in Florida, we use them at November and December football games. I hope you don’t have to ever bug out, but in the end, it’s more important to go with the plans your children have for you so you don’t add to their worries.

  5. Another thing you might want to add to your list is a small solar charger for your phone (larger if you have other electronics to charge.) Even if the electricity is not impacted, there are only so many outlets in any building and a solar charger will work in a lighted room. Your phone or tablet might be essential to keeping you from going stir crazy.

    Our first and best evacuation plan includes taking our camper to live it. However if something prevents that, we might have to go to a shelter. My husband had meds that must be refrigerated. Hopefully that situation will never happen.

  6. Sports bags of all sizes are sturdy, they have both carry handles and shoulder straps. Some even have backpack straps. Different sports require different amounts of gear so you can buy a size to suit each person’s needs and ability to carry. You can use various zipper bags for small belonging and kits. If the facility has bathrooms (and showers?) a wash cloth (with a baggie) and a towel are a big help. Those super absorbent sports towels fold into next to nothing. My point is sports bags are spacious and most have multiple exterior and interior pockets for organizing smaller items and kits organized. Backpacks are getting more and more streamlined, thinner with 2 vertical inner pockets so 1 can hold a computer pad and the other a couple books and a snack. They no longer have enough room in them for evacuation bags. You can use them for a small child to carry his pad and a couple small toys but not much else, except a teddy bear they can wrap their arms around. Kids get dirty, they tear their clothes, they need more clothes than adults, so somebody needs to pack a good size go bag that someone else will need to carry. Babies need more than a changing bag. They need a large to go bag, with tons of correctly fitting diapers as much formula as they have on hand, or the breast pump/ice chest, and as many fresh bottles or bottle liners as possible. Plus as many clothes, baby blankets, hats, socks, etc as possible. Every family member needs more than just underwear, whether evacuating for a hurricane, tornado, wildfire, floods, mudslides, landslides, nuclear accidents or many other emergencies, they are losing everything they leave behind. I see recommendations to take at least a weeks supply of clothing. Bug out bags can be ready to go at all times, but most give enough advanced warning that there is time to prepare extra bags to go, load the escape vehicle and be ready to leave immediately, not wait for evacuation orders. It hurts me when I hear of people trying to escape too late and not making it because they left it until the evacuation order is given and the traffic clogs the way out or the disaster catches up with them. BTW bug out equipment should include heavy work gloves, boot socks, and boots so when they go back to work with what’s left, they have safety equipment. Hard hats wouldn’t hurt either.

    1. HI MaryAnn, thank you for your excellent ideas to fill each family members bags. I agree people will need a lot more stuff, but my list was a basis to add to. I agree with you 100%, if evacuated some people will lose everything. We see it almost daily on the news. Please stay safe and ready to evacuate. Linda

  7. You mentioned to have something to keep warm and I wanted to post a link to a stuffable blanket, I gave everyone one of these to keep in the cars last Christmas, I got matching king sized ones for hubby and me. I guess if we have to evacuate we would need something under us, so maybe I’ll add another stuffable blanket to lay on.

    Instead of a pillow, add a pillow case and fill it with your clothing. Back in my youth, I did a lot of backpacking and we used a t-shirt as a pillow case and filled it with clothing as a pillow.

    Someone mentioned a towel and I bought microfiber towels in zippered cases for camping, they work great and dry fast. Ours are similar to these I may have to get another set for the evacuation pack. I have everything except clothing in a rolling duffle bag and then food for the 72 hours in a soft sided cooler and have camp plates and etc in it. I need to add a small bottle of dish detergent in a vacuum sealed bag to that.

    I have found these zippered bags to keep things organized in my duffle bag. It keeps things organized and easy to find. You can pack a day’s worth of clothing in the larger size. While you can wear the same clothing day after day, I like having fresh undies. I might pack a small bottle filled with laundry detergent in my duffle bag also.

    Can you tell that I’ve been thinking about this for a while?

    1. Hi Topaz, thank you for the links but I had to remove them because if they stop selling them I have to go through every post and comment to find the “broken link”. I love the idea, I will have to have people look them up themselves on Amazon. Right now, I have over 50 links from Amazon I’m trying to find to replace or delete. Great comment, thank you! Linda

  8. Linda,
    My husbands 78 yr old father died in August 2020, during the shutdown. We offered to pay, for him to get a will and a trust but he refused. We went through months of Probate in Nevada. Banks now suggest to add a name [as beneficiary only] so they would not have access to your accounts but can access, with a death certificate. We could even ‘freeze’ his accounts from auto debit items he had ordered. The mortuary FAX did not go through to social security, so they kept paying him. We finally went to court by phone, and froze his checking account, but left the savings so S.S. could take back their 3 months worth they had accidentally paid. [* if you close the account, they will charge YOU a penalty.] We have a trust for us, and 1 beneficiary, and all our bills are in a 2nd checking account, so our bene. can transfer money into the 2nd checking account so all the bills are paid ontime. [We gave them a notebook with all our log ins and passwords too. [They have more money than us and are very trustworthy, as you must be careful, giving out access. We are happy, they do not need to worry about us.

    1. Hi Daun, oh my gosh, I’m so glad you shared this information with me. I have a will and a trust with a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). I used to do mortgages in Nevada and they are Community State. (equal distribution of assets acquired during a marriage) It’s not the only state. Probate is not a fun thing to have to go through. Plus talking to the SS Department is not easy to get an answer or at least a correct answer. Yes, the month the person dies has to be paid back plus any extra that keeps going into their account. I need to write a post about this, keeping in mind I am not an attorney but people really need to get their affairs in order. Thank you for sharing your story, it will help so many people. Linda

  9. Sure like your comments!
    Though few do it, you can “overpay” your utility bills. The company shows that extra money as “credit.”
    If you overpay by $175 and your typical bill is $30, there will be $155 in credit at the end of the month. That’s enough to pay for another 5 months.
    Pay your $30 monthly bill every month, and keep that 5-month “cushion” in case you ever need it. This prevents late payment problems.

    1. HI Kerry, thank you for your kind words, I love my comments from my readers! We learn from each other! I like your “overpay” your utility bill idea. I can still see in my mind where a neighbor had her electric meter removed because she was late on her electric bill! I walked over to the house and asked the Utility worker, what was going on, he said, go ask your neighbor. Long story short she had plenty of money but was older and got confused with her bills. I helped her setup automatic payments so this would never happen again. Life is good! Linda

  10. If an air mattress or foam mat take up too much space, you can pack a couple of large, heavy-duty contractor trash bags. Stuff them with leaves/grass for a mattress then empty them out when it’s time to move on.

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