It’s the middle of the night.
The authorities just notified you that you have 20 minutes to evacuate your home before a raging wildfire cuts off the exit from your neighborhood, leaving you trapped.
The fire is advancing at the rate of a football field every second, so the actions you take in the next few moments will determine whether you and your family can get to safety or not.
While this may sound like a scene from a blockbuster disaster movie, it’s the very scenario faced by many California families recently. And it’s a possibility we should all be ready to face.
Be ready to go
I’ve always believed the responsibility for protecting my family lies squarely with me. I may not be able to count on, or in the worst of circumstances even hope for, outside help. If I can’t shelter in place and protect my family, evacuation is my Plan B. And as the recent wildfires should remind us all, when you have mere minutes to evacuate, you won’t have time to think about what you should bring with you to survive the days—or weeks—to come.
To be optimally prepared, have a “go-bag” on-hand packed with the essential items needed to survive for AT LEAST three days following a disaster. While numerous online retailers sell fully equipped go-bags for such emergencies, and both FEMA and the American Red Cross provide checklists to help you pack your own, I’m providing a basic summary of the most-recommended supplies here.
1) ID and other essential documents: Bring copies of your passport, driver’s license, and/or state ID card and store them in a sealed Ziplock bag. Other documents to consider packing include the deed to your home, vehicle titles/registration, printed maps, and a recent family photo with faces clearly visible for easy identification.
2) Cash: Carry at least $250 in relatively small bills and keep it with your ID in a waterproof bag.
3) Shelter: A lightweight tent, along with mylar emergency blankets can help keep you warm and dry no matter where you must spend the night.
4) Water and filter: One gallon of water per person per day is a good estimate of needs. Bring as much bottled water as possible, but also include a water purification straw and/or purification tablets, along with a steel container to boil water in.
5) A multi-tool: These modern-day cousins to the Swiss Army knife come with a wide array of essential tools, from a knife and screwdriver to tweezers and a can opener.
6) First-aid kit and prescription medications: Whether you buy one ready-made or pack your own, the likelihood of injury skyrockets in the wake disasters, so not having a first-aid kit can make a bad situation worse. And don’t forget to include prescription medications and other life-sustaining medical supplies if needed.
7) Light: Flashlights with extra batteries are great, but headlamps are even better because they’re ultra-compact and leave your hands free.
8) Fire: Fire can keep you warm, purify water, and cook food. I keep a plasma lighter, waterproof matches, a small portable stove, fuel and tinder in my personal go-bag.
9) Solar-powered emergency radio and cellphone charger: Without power, you’ll need a way to stay in touch with the outside world. Today you can find devices that include a combination radio, cell-phone charger, and flashlight all in one, with the extra option of hand-cranked power to keep things charged even in the dark.
10) Sanitary items: Pack toilet paper, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, soap, as well as tampons and/or pads if needed.
11) Clothes: You only need enough clothes to keep you warm and comfortable for a few days, so don’t try to bring your entire wardrobe. Stick to essentials like underwear, socks, extra shoes, a jacket, a poncho, a hat, and gloves.
12) Food: Focus on high-protein, high-caloric foods that will give you the energy you need to live and get from point A to point B. The most recommended options include, energy bars, MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat), freeze-dried survival food, and meal-replacement shakes.
Stay totally safe and secure
While go-bags are a critical part of helping your family survive the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster or other emergency, they’re just a start. For instance, this list doesn’t address any of your precious sentimental items, such as photos, old love letters, and treasured cards from the past. Nor does it mention estate planning documents or insurance policies.
Copies of your insurance policies and estate planning documents should be uploaded to the cloud and stored online. You should also store sentimentals, like family histories and photos online, so you don’t have to worry about packing any of that in the event of a natural disaster. Indeed, safely storing your sentimentals online is so important, we are constantly innovating ways to help our clients do more of this.
Of course, to keep your family totally safe and secure, you’ll need to make sure you have the right insurance coverage and necessary legal documents in place to cover possible emergency contingencies. Contact us if you have questions about what you need or how we can support you.
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