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10 things to pack in your vehicle for emergency evacuations

600 384 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Hurricanes in the Gulf and along the Atlantic coast of Florida proved that most people forced to evacuate were woefully unprepared.

Here are some items to take if you ever have to evacuate your home.

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by Leon Pantenburg

When Lisa Marie Gordon of Welaka, Florida, her husband, four children and three dogs evacuated before Hurricane Irma hit, they were better prepared than most. But the unprepared people made the whole evacuation situation awful. Read her story here.

Lisa’s story pointed out that anyone can get in a survival situation very quickly. Plan ahead to get through it.

Here are 10 things you should have to survive an evacuation from a disaster area, and recommendations on what to get and where to find them.

Survival mindset: “It will never happen here,” and “If something bad does happen here, there will be nothing I can do about it” are commons mindsets that get people killed. The first obstacle to overcome are these attitudes. Long before the disaster strikes be thinking about what you might need to do. Some of these books might help.

A GPS makes a nice addition, but NEVER take a GPS and depend on it for navigation without a map and compass.

A GPS makes a nice addition, but NEVER take a GPS and depend on it for navigation without a map and compass.

Maps and compass: As the Gordons discovered, their GPS was worthless in a section of Alabama, and they found themselves lost, with no idea of where to go. Here are several maps that should be included in your car kit.

County maps may show lesser known routes around disaster areas, and fire road maps will show every road. These could prove invaluable for avoiding traffic jams or gridlocked areas.

Cash: When the power grid goes down, as it did during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, that means ATMs won’t work. With no power, you can’t use a debit, credit or cash card to buy gas. During a power outage, everything goes on a strictly cash basis. Have a cash reserve on hand, and a way to carry it safely and unobtrusively.

Games and toys for kids: The novelty of evacuating will soon wear thin for kids and most adults, and their electronic device will eventually run out of juice. Some simple board games that everyone can play in the car or at camp will be invaluable. A couple decks of cards can be the basis of virtually unlimited entertainment. Books are nice to have along, too.

The Black Diamond Icon is a heavy duty headlamp, designed for extreme sports.

The Black Diamond Icon is a heavy duty headlamp, designed for extreme sports.

Flashlights and batteries: No brainer here. There won’t be functioning street lights, and you will have to provide any light you need for everything. Get everyone a couple of the keychain LED lights to use in the car, or for going to the bathroom in the dark. Make sure they have on-off switches, and won’t inadvertently turn themselves on in your pocket. These tiny lights are invaluable, and I use them a lot in hunting camps.

Otherwise, find several reliable lights and have a lot of batteries. For most activities, you won’t need a 300 Lumen torch, but you do need a couple for checking out road conditions, viewing things in the distance etc.  I always carry a headlamp, so if a tire has to be changed in the dark I have both hands free. (Here is how to choose a headlamp.)

Shelter: While you can shelter in your vehicle, this is not ideal, especially after you’ve spent all day driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Take a small tent, sleeping bags and tarps to create a camp as needed.

emergency water containers, storage water, store water for emergencies

Get sturdy water containers to fill and take along.

Gas cans: Gas is life during an evacuation, and chances are it will be scarce. Get some gas containers you can personally handle, and if possible, fill them up before you hit the road.

Food and water: Another no-brainer. Assume there will be nothing available. Have some food along that doesn’t require refrigeration, and several water containers that are sturdy and can be refilled. I use the Platypus collapsibles a lot – they are rugged and can be rolled up when not in use, saving a lot of space.

Electronic charging devices: Cell phones and other communication electronics may or may not work. If you can’t re-charge them, they are guaranteed not to work!

Give some thought to getting a charging station, a solar charger or a battery that can be re-charged. You may be able to communicate through texting, and you never know when the phone might work again.

Medical records: These need to be on paper, and sealed in a waterproof container. Keeping all your records on a CD, ZIP drive or thumb drive is a fine idea, but, again, there must be power for them to be read. First responders may be leery of inserting a strange drive into their computers for fear of a malware virus.

Finally, with all your preparedness gear gathered and stowed, how will you assure you can keep it? The Gordons noticed people fighting over gas, and were afraid to let their children get out of the vehicle.  In such a situation,  it wouldn’t take long before anarchy becomes the rule. Police will be overwhelmed, and 911 – if you could call it – probably will be flooded. Response time could be days.

Should you buy a gun for self defense?

It depends. A firearm in the hands of an untrained person is dangerous to all parties concerned. And do you have the mindset and conviction, if push came to shove, to use it? Here are some considerations before buying anything.

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2 comments
  • petem

    Good advise. Most people who are not prepared for an emergency don’t have a list to start with. Many of them do have these items on hand or can aquire them along the away. One piece of advice I would add is to store your gas outside the passanger compartment… Fumes can make you sick.

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