Fun Tip: If the cash register line is going a little slow while you get all this stuff, start explaining why you're getting it.The vast majority of people are unaware of what exactly Red Cross provides and can guarantee in an evacuation shelter outside the disaster zone, and it is critical to understand what they will provide and what you must provide for yourself. Do NOT expect to receive anything except a roof over your head and toilet facilities. You will more than likely receive some necessary items, especially from nonprofits other than the Red Cross, but it might take a few days. They will work with FEMA and other nonprofits, but Red Cross does not directly provide cots, sleeping bags, food, clothes, diapers, etc. If they receive donated items, they will store them until there is enough to distribute to everyone, but remember that Red Cross will only distribute new items which takes a lot of time and money to procure.
Red Cross does a pretty good job of doing what they do, and it's free. FEMA will NOT reimburse for hotel rooms prior to being accepted for assistance, and that's only IF you qualify for assistance. Hotel rooms get very, very expensive quickly, and following a disaster, money is tight. What you get from FEMA and/or insurance will doubtfully cover all your losses and costs, and it is a long, slow road to recovery. If you are staying in a shelter and qualify for FEMA assistance, you may become eligible to stay in selected hotels, and FEMA will cover the room rent. The shelter is your best bet for conserving money and getting assistance.
This Instructable is intended to outline the necessities for living in a shelter situation (specifically Red Cross shelters) as it is the most probable outcome in the event of a major disaster. These recommendations are based on government and NGO recommendations and personal experience/knowledge, and these recommendations are also based on the assumption of a necessary, speedy evacuation from home. This Instructable does not cover in-home survival or evacuation while away from home. Additionally, this Instructable does not detail all the complexities of FEMA, home/rental insurance, all the nonprofits that help in disaster recovery, city shelters, etc.
Step 1: Transportation
If you have a vehicle, make sure it is clean on the interior, tuned, and fueled. If your vehicle breaks down on the trip or you run out of gas, you might be SOL. During and shortly before a disaster (e.g., incoming hurricane), gas prices increase, lines form at the pumps, and gas stations run out of fuel. If you can ensure you always have 100 miles worth of gas in your tank, you will have a better chance of getting out and finding a station en route. It is also advisable to have a vehicle emergency kit in your vehicle at all times. Depending on your vehicle, location, and season, this kit might include a first aid kit, inflate-a-tire, a fire extinguisher, and a flashlight.