Did You Know September is National Preparedness Month?
Since September 11, 2001, the US Government has encouraged all citizens to make survival preparations in an effort to strengthen the United States’ preparedness capabilities. This encompasses all hazards — whether terrorist attack or natural disaster. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready America campaign, you can also find information on Ready.Gov, where they have a weekly schedule for September Preparedness Month.
The Focus for This Second Week of September is Wildfires.
Many of us in Southern California have experienced firsthand the fear, chaos and disruption of wildfires. If you weren’t the one who had to evacuate, you know someone who did, and perhaps lost everything. And remember, even if the wildfire doesn’t personally threaten your home, it doesn’t mean it won’t make it unbearable to wait out the smoke and air pollution in your area. You may be forced to leave anyway. And even if you don’t live where wildfires are a danger, knowing how to evacuate your home could save your life in a flood threat or hurricane.
How to Prepare for Evacuation—No Matter What the Reason:
There are many different facets to consider. When to evacuate, What to take, Where to go and How to get there. Ready.Gov has a great checklist here that gives you some good ideas and instructions for when and how to evacuate. I suggest you read them and discuss with your family, and come up with a game plan.
I’m going to focus here today about What to take. This of course will vary depending on your family’s particular needs and where you plan to go when and if you need to evacuate.
Don’t Evacuate in Panic Mode
Being prepared before hand can give you an opportunity to efficiently load up your vehicles with important items and be ready to leave if an evacuation order comes through. But sometimes you don’t get that opportunity. Awakened in the middle of the night with a wildfire bearing down on you gives you only moments to react. The most difficult thing to do is think clearly during a panic situation. You don’t have time to formulate a plan or gather up needed items when someone says you have to leave—right that instant. One of the easiest ways to do an emergency evacuation is to have a bag already packed and ready to grab and run.
So What Should be in Your Evacuation Bag?
Again, your needs will be somewhat different from mine. In our family, we all carry an Emergency Pack in our vehicles. In these backpacks are items that would get us get back home in an disaster scenario, or help us if we were stranded, or come upon an accident. Even though these bags are packed with short-term emergencies in mind, they also contain items that could last long term, and don’t need to be duplicated in our Evacuation Bags, such as sturdy walking shoes. But some items, such as food and water are duplicated in both bags.
Whether you would be heading to a relative’s house or a hotel to wait out the wildfire, some personal items would make you feel calmer during this unsettling time. For small children, a special toy or stuffed animal and some of their favorite snack foods can bring them comfort in a scary time. That’s why I suggest that each member of the family have their own Evacuation Bag packed with them in mind. Children could carry their own pack, if they are old enough. If you plan to go to a temporary shelter, think about what items would give your family some feeling of home and normalcy. Will you be warm enough? Have enough to eat?
What if you are being evacuated because your home is in danger from a wildfire? Might everything be destroyed when you return? That’s why it’s so important to have a plan in place and hopefully be ready to leave. But in case you don’t get a forewarning, saving the life of your family members will be more important than saving family heirlooms. But knowing you have important documents in hand can make the transition afterwards easier.
Here are Basic Items to Consider Having in Your Evac Bags:
- Flash Drive containing scans of all your important documents on it.
- External Hard Drive with back-up of important files and photos – you may not have time to grab your laptop
- Charged Power Packs – to charge your phone in case of power outage
- Hard copy list of important phone numbers and financial information
- Cash – sometimes power outages go along with wildfires
- Toiletries, such as toothbrush, paste, comb and deodorant
- Change of clothes, warm outer wear for cool temperatures and rain gear
- Week’s worth of prescription drugs
- First Aid Kit
- Emergency water pouches and ways to filter water, such as a Lifestraw
- High protein energy bars and snacks
- Playing cards and books to pass the time. Games for small children.
If your family has an elderly member and/or pets, you must keep their needs in mind as well. Temporary shelters may not allow you to bring in your pet. Make plans ahead for those contingencies.
Note: to have a week’s worth of prescription drugs on hand at all times, simply call in for the new prescription on the first day allowed (it’s posted on the bottle). Do this each time you renew and you’ll soon have enough to allow for an extra week of prescription usage in an emergency.
This is only the most basic list, but I hope it helps you get started on making your own Evac Bag for your family.