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.
Step 2: Packing Container
Store bagged items in a large garbage can with a tight fitting lid that has been rigged for a padlock.
Note: Garbage cans with tight fitting lids keep critters and water from getting in, and if you need to evacuate by bus, bagged items can be easily removed from the can to be stored in compartments under the bus. If you can haul the garbage can with your items into a shelter, keeping a padlock on the can discourages snooping and stealing. A determined thief can break into it with a knife, but that will attract attention. For reference, my husband and I did not hear horror stories of stealing while we were helping the shelters.
Maintain a chart on the can for expiration dates and seasonal changes.
Note: You will want to change out items if they go bad, when seasonal clothing is no longer seasonal, when information becomes out-of-date, etc. You can set a schedule to check on the can every 3 months.
Store your packed container near an exit of your home such as the garage door.
Step 3: Bedding
Note: Shelters are generally maintained at room temperature and gym floors aren't exactly comfortable. Pack according to what you can afford and what you find the most comfortable.If you or any member of your household has a difficult time getting up from the ground, pack a cot.
Pack ear plugs and a sleeping mask.
Step 4: Money
Note: Singles and quarters are the most valuable for vending and laundry.
Note: Cash never goes out of style. Unexpected expenses may arise, and banks may become unresponsive leaving debit cards worthless.
Step 5: Consumables
Note: Red Cross shelters do not provide cooking facilities, and you may not have an immediate opportunity to visit a grocery store.Pack a water bottle for carrying water from a fountain or tap.
Pack baby food and/or formula if necessary.
If space allows, pack a cooler for storing ice and items that might need refrigeration once in a shelter.
Step 6: Clothing
3 sets of underwear
3 pairs of socks
2 long-sleeved t-shirts
1 pair of hiking pants
1 pair of running shorts
1 pair of leggings
Pack a poncho or raincoat.
Pack a hat such as a baseball cap.
Pack a pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes.
Step 7: Toiletries
Pack baby products if necessary.
Step 8: Personal Records/Data
Pack your passport.
Note: Passports count as 2 forms of ID and can be stored in the kit when not being immediately used.Pack all necessary medical information (e.g., prescriptions, names and phone numbers for doctor(s), and list of diagnoses).
Pack a backup of your hard drive.
Note: This will save a lot of necessary data and personal information along with photos and other memorabilia.Pack a list of your utility providers, account numbers, and phone numbers.
Store documents in a file folder.
Note: During and following a disaster, you will quickly accumulate paperwork, names, and phone numbers. Staying organized will speed the recovery process.
Step 9: Other Considerations
Pack items for entertainment.
Pack a charger for your cell phone.
If you smoke, include a pack of cigs.
Step 10: Pets
Note: Not all shelters will accept pets, but more and more are allowing them with the aid of local animal rescue groups.Keep crates, carriers, harnesses, and leashes accessible.
Pack pet food.
Label all items with your name, your pet's name, and your phone number.
Keep ID tags on your pets up-to-date.
Pack current photos of your pet.
Pack vet records with proofs of vaccination and treatments.
Pack bedding, litter, etc.
Pack baggies for cleaning up poo.