Evacuation Preparedness




I used to work with dislocated Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike victims at a local nonprofit, and my husband has worked as a shelter manager during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. We have both seen and heard how difficult it is to survive a natural disaster, and as a consequence, we are firm believers that everyone should have an evacuation kit. Talking about the zombie apocalypse or bugging out when the New World Order starts opening up concentration camps is fun, but you're more likely to wind up sleeping on a high school gymnasium floor when your neighborhood floods. This Instructable is about practical disaster preparation although people will still think you're nuts if you talk about it.

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.

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Step 1: Transportation

Depending on your resources, you will either drive yourself to a shelter or be driven by bus to a shelter. In unusual circumstances, you will be airlifted or transported by boat to safety.

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

Pack items in garbage bags, duffel bags, backpacks, and/or conventional luggage.

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

Pack a warm weather sleeping bag and pillow.

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

Store a reasonable amount of cash or what you can afford.

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

Pack food that does not require heating or cooking such as energy bars.

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

Pack 3 days worth of clothing with the intention of layering.

3 sets of underwear
3 pairs of socks
3 t-shirts
2 long-sleeved t-shirts
1 sweatshirt
1 jacket
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 necessary toiletries.

Shaving Cream
Hand Sanitizer
Lanolin Cream
Hair Clips/Bands

Pack feminine hygiene products if necessary.

Pack baby products if necessary.

Baby Powder

Step 8: Personal Records/Data

Complete and pack your Emergency Financial First Aid Kit.

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 a spare pair of glasses or contacts along with your prescription.

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.

Pack bowls.

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.
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    34 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I would also suggest that in the event of an emergency and you need to leave your area to some place unknown, find your nearest hospital. when I was in Dallas during Katrina and met several relocated people, one pregnant lady who was close to delivery date and had no idea of where the closest hospital was and had not even thought about finding one. I quickly remedied that for her. she and her husband were just so overwhelmed that it just didn't even occur to them to think about a hospital.

    lmolyneux jr

    5 years ago

    for the people that smoke instead of ciggarettes get an Eciggarette so u wont offend people that dont smoke


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Have several out-of-state contacts that everyone can call if you get separated. Also, Red Cross shelters are dependent on the area's electricity staying on, so if it is off, the shelters will lose power as well (many shelters are schools) prepare for that. Get your cash before an expected storm, most banks and ATMs close at least one day prior.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Please don't rely on candles during a windstorm...they get knocked down, they start fires and no one will be able to help you. Use, instead, flashlights and get extra batteries.


    5 years ago

    I would suggest adding couple of pocket-sized notebooks and pens. They will be useful for leaving notes, taking phone numbers, writing down any changes to the evacuation routes or shelter sites. Also get all important numbers written down on the inside cover turn off the cell and conserve the batteries. Finally get these key finders that whistle or chirp when activated by a remote and attach to all the items you need to go. Some disasters happen fast (wildfires) and when panic starts to rise you can't always remember everything. Oh also have one for all children. Pin it on them when it's safe to so. Give them a notebook too and have all their info on the inside cover. If they get separated they can receive help and reunite with you. Keep the remotes with you at all times even sleeping.

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Unless you're evacuating from Katrina and all your family and friends are in the exact same situation as yourself.

    In other words, DUH!!!! If you have the resources for something better, do it, but honestly, being in the shelter is the best place to conserve resources and get help for recovery because FEMA agents are there in the shelter with you. Some of the most difficult cases I encountered were people who holed up in a hotel.


    6 years ago on Step 9

    This is a kit for getting out prior to an emergency for the most part, and it's no time to quit during something like that considering the effects of nicotine withdrawal. If cigarettes offend you, you could mention that nicotine patches/gum would be a better alternative.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I would put candles in the core of the toilet paper roll.
    Female supplies if needed.
    Add a bar of soap.
    An air mattress for the hard floor.
    Flash drives can be on a chain around your neck.
    Give each kid a card with family/friends Names-Addresses-Emails-Phone numbers.
    A stick of dry, no refrigeration summer sausage.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I'll add a couple of decks of cards and a copy of "Hoyle" for your and neigbor's entertainment.
    A radio and a flashlight and spare batteries.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    - Water: where's your water filter?
    - Food: Cliff bars? Is that enough for 3 person days? Where's your protein?
    - Warmth: Where's your fire starting materials? How can you start a fire in mid winter?
    - Where's your first aid kit? You have the essential cigarettes but no first aid kit?

    "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."

    Did you even listen to the news about Katrina? The vast majority of people did not have indoor shelters. The stadium they were in was wide open to the sky.

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    "- Food: Cliff bars? Is that enough for 3 person days? Where's your protein? "

    You just don't need protein. Despite all the ado about eating healthy food all time, I stay with what survival specialists say: the only things that the body really needs in emergency periods are calories, water and minimum ammounts of salt. Exceptions to ill people, we can run without any protein, minerals and vitamins for more than a week. So forget proteins, they are too prone to destruction by heat and water and do a lot of damage if consumed rotten. Well, you can have some jerky beef very well packed in your emergency kit (I always do), but it is not really a need. Fatty bars or even fatty cookies have much more calories per unit weight.

    This instructable is vey nice to teach common people about what to do in helping themselves in the first days, for sure it was written by people that know this kind of situation. But If you are interested in more compreensive kits, there is dozens of instructables arround more adeqated than this one - but I perfectly understand that the intention of the authors is not teaching about compreensive kits. For sure if common Joe and family have what is described here the life of thenselves will be much better than having nothing.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    A water filter in a shelter is unnecessary except in extraordinary situations where you are basically in a survival situation.

    Cliff bars do not require heating and are certainly adequate for 3 days of nutrition.  Do your calorie calculations.

    Shelters are heated and air conditioned.

    First aid kits should be stored in vehicles at all times which I mentioned already but did not detail.  Red Cross shelters will provide basic first aid.

    There were a lot of problems with Katrina and how the evacuation was handled.  However, there were most certainly shelters outside of the hurricane impact zone, and we had evacuees in Austin.  Austin is also the evacuation destination for Galveston.  What's terrible is I knew of a family who had moved to Galveston from New Orleans following Katrina.  On roughly the 5 year anniversary of Katrina, Ike hit Galveston.  They evacuated to Austin on both occasions.

    You should also consider that if you are the type of person to prepare this sort of kit, more than likely you are the type of person to evacuate in a timely fashion, and if you ever get stuck in a Superdome situation, fire and 3 days of food ain't gonna cut it.


    7 years ago on Step 8

    Pack a backup of your hard drive. Another possibility:

    An 8 gig flash drive should hold 90% of all you will need to backup. If you have 700 gigs of photos you need to back them up online or with a friend or grown child away from your area. That said, backup portable drives are indeed getting smaller and smaller, but not yet to the low price of an 8 gig flash drive.

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    the secound to last photo on the first page has a spit harp in it cool


    8 years ago on Step 7

    Take rolls of Toilet paper and take to center tube out of ithem. Now put them in gallon storage bags. One thing I learned traveling in 22 countries is that is one thing you must not go without. Pack several rolls, they take up less room this way and can be used for noses too or for wound dressings.