INSTANT SURVIVAL TIP: What to grab as you rush out the door

This tip was submitted by Julie in last year’s list contest. Thanks, Julie!

image by KimCarpenter NJ

image by KimCarpenter NJ

Some of my favorite and most precious treasures are not things I want to permanently store in a Bug Out Bag or evacuation bag, so I keep a list of things to grab if we ever need to leave in the car and don’t know if we’ll get to come back.

I know space will be at a premium, and that in that critical moment my brain will not be focused on sentimental things. However, later they’ll mean the world to me.

Here’s my own list. What would you put on yours?

  • Granddad’s pocket watch and cuff links
  • My dad’s painting (out of the frame and rolled up of course)
  • My sister in law’s drawing (same as above- keep a tube handy to drop them into)
  • Special photo albums (preselected, of course)
  • Important books (just a few)
  • Each kid’s favorite stuffed animal to sleep with
  • Each kid’s own box of memorabilia
  • My own box of things I want to always keep
  • Mom’s quilt (will double nicely as an extra blanket)
  • My recipe box
  • My pocket Bible

Making this list caused me to think about the most important people in my life and what items hold special memories.

If you make a list before an emergency evacuation, you’ll have those treasures with you, always.


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  1. says

    I know you’ve listed it before, but you will want to grab your important documents such as birth certificates, social security numbers, bank account info and the such. I really hope that should I have to leave my house that I will have time to grab all of the things that I need and want to take with me. Hopefully I won’t be the only one home gathering up things too! I have had to leave the house because of high water that would keep me from getting the kids at school. I do keep a few bags packed just for when that happens. The favorite bag of the kids is the pool bag! :) We always go to a hotel with an indoor swimming pool.

    • Charlotte says

      I keep an updated itemized list written on a 3 x 5 card above the phone next to our back door. It is divided into two groups “Immediate to 15 minutes” and “30 minutes to 1 hour”.
      At the top of the list are … 72 Hour Kits, Water, Food, Paper Supplies, 1st Aid Kit, Pillows & Sleeping Bags, Survival Mom Binder with all of our docs, recipes, and other info., and Homeschool Items & Games to keep life “normal”. The 30 to 60 minute section builds on the immediate list, by adding more of the necessities and some “fun” things.

      If we would need to leave our home, everyone can look at the list and we could pack as many of the items listed as we have time.

  2. Leslie B says

    I sat down and made my list one day of material things to save in case of a sudden evacuation. I wrote it in order of importance and I made notes on where the item is located. I took it a step further by printing the lists out and taping them to the back of 8×10 picture frames that are hanging on the walls by both the front and back doors. We had a bad storm one night a couple of years ago and at one point lightening had struck so close to us that is sounded like a bomb had gone off. The smoke alarms started going off immediately and I thought for sure that one of the other apartments in our building had been hit by lightning and was on fire. The first thing we did was pull that picture off the wall, flip it over to the list on the back and started running. It took us about 3 minutes to grab the things most important to us and I am so thankful that even though the apartment didn’t receive any damage we were prepared and not frantic.

  3. says

    Keep up the good work! It is only with the help of writers,volunteers and relief organizations that people are able to make it through and/or prepare for disaster situations. Check out our cookbook that helps prepare the individual on how to prepare meals when the lights go out.
    “Cooking with Fire: The Disaster Cookbook. How to cook when the lights go out.” If you are a fan of cooking or disasters, please pledge your support and we have some really swell pledge rewards!
    Thanks and keep the cooking fires stoked!

  4. Becky says

    In 2004 a man started a fire that became a roaring inferno taking out our home, the uncles home, it wiped out over half of the community where the fire bug lived. The one time I did not have things packed ready to go and able to throw into the vehicles along with all the cats, dogs and preparing the livestock for the departure. Please take the advice from someone who came home to find nothing left. We were given 5 minutes to pack and leave and they threatened to arrest us.
    The personal items and memories went up into smoke, our livestock and small barn survived, but the heart ache still lingers even today.
    Once you lose something you wanted to pass onto your next generation of family members, it can make you paranoid from worry it could happen again. Think of what you need to take with you. Give away all the items you wanted to share, see the joy the gift(s) will bring to those family members who truly want them. A very hard lesson learned. We now rent a storage locker space during the fire season months, we put those special items we were given there for our peace of mind. Should we travel the only items the neighbor has to take care of is the cats, dogs.
    Since that fire we have installed water storage tanks(2-5,000 gallon) available for the fire department to use, not only to protect our home but the neighbors. Last words of advice never think it can’t happen to you.

  5. Jenn R says

    Something often overlooked is the box of family Christmas ornaments. There are few things in my home that remind me of the people and places that mean the world to me. I’d hate to loose those!

    • reklawj9 says

      Good thought there are several priceless decorations we have (some the kids and grand kids made some from family and some from our times over seas) that cannot be replaced right now they are scattered in several different boxes in the garage and basement….project this weekend: get out the different holiday boxes and select the ones I can’t have a proper holiday without and put them in an orange or red bin ( these are our color codeings for ” must take” cant live without…..some times one little tin foil angel is all you need to make a holiday far away feel like home

      • Lisa in AZ says

        This is a GREAT idea…Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without the ornaments the kids made for me in school over the years..many of which have a picture of that child in them! This is going on the “to do” list for this weekend!

  6. says

    Very good post! It is so important to think of these things in advance. Five years ago our house burned down and I find myself wishing I’d have made digital copies (to back up online, or at least stored on a flashdrive at someone elses house) of my first daughter’s baby pictures. We only have a handful of these that friends and family have given us. Almost nothing from the first nine months of her life. Of course we were happy just to have each other and our baby when we walked out of that house for the last time, but later you always wish you had grabbed this or that on your way out the door. Obviously for a fire, you really do just have to get out, but for most other evacuations it would be great to have a list and maybe have those treasured items stored or displayed near the exit.

  7. Magpie57 says

    In addition to taking my handbag (credit cards, driver’s license, ATM card), important documents (birth certificates, insurance paperwork, vehicle titles, etc.) I would take an electric tea kettle, toaster and small microwave (for cooking cheap meals in Motel 6) and would pack-up our two pets cats and their travel gear in our main vehicle. If my husband and I and our two cats are safe in a motel room and we have the ability to make inexpensive meals there, we will get by. All the other stuff is just stuff and eventually can be replaced — that’s what insurance, savings accounts and credit cards are for. I have lived for as long as 60 days with a pet cat in a Motel 6 studio room so know first hand about this. It’s amazing how little you really need as long as your loved ones are safe and have enough to eat.

  8. Donna says

    I keep a grab and go list posted next to my garage door. We also found in practicing our evacuation that it takes a lot longer to gather items than I thought it would, so we have tried to store those precious items together. I put all of my most loved photo albums along with some others sentimental items into a tote labeled, “sentimental box.” I found that it didn’t matter much to me if those items were stored on a bookshelf or in the tote and this way I will be able to grab them all quickly with little searching.

    Also our grab and go list is done in order of priority, so if we start at the top and move down we will always get the most important items. Our list includes the location of each item and then the items themselves have a piece of neon pink tape on them (if it won’t hurt the item) so that the item is easy to identify.

    Now practice, you will be surprised how long it actually takes to locate and grab the items that you want.

  9. Heather says

    Last summer we were evacuated due to a forest fire. Lets say I learned my weakness…total fail. My oldest daughter was home because her husband had just been kia. She grabbed his stuff while I couldn’t think of what to grab…it was embarrassing. I’ve since gotten another fire safe to store those important items, they’re ready to grab in a moments notice. All photos are backed up, etc. Live and learn.

  10. youngprepper says

    the number one thing i am concerned with leaving is my sons ashes. i would leave everything except for that behind.

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