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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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