Organize Your Emergency Evacuation in 5 Simple Steps

“All for one and one for all!” makes a great family motto when it comes to an emergency evacuation.  When everyone has designated jobs and knows exactly what to do, your family can be packed and out of town before most other families grab their toothbrushes.  To make this happen and avoid hysteria, chaos, and needless tears, your family needs an evacuation plan.  Bugging out can be better organized and less traumatic than you might think.

When I first began thinking about the possibility of evacuating from our home, I visualized sheer panic.  Immediately, I realized the need for a written list of procedures posted in two or three locations and a family meeting or two to insure that everyone was informed and on board.  As I put our evacuation plan together, five basic steps became apparent.

1.     Make provisions for animals.

2.     Pack personal necessities, food, and water.

3.     Prepare the house.

4.     Pack important documents and a computer.

5.     Insure the vehicle is ready to go.

Follow these five simple steps to create your own evacuation plan.

1.  Make provisions for animals

I put this at the top of my list because of the words in Proverbs 12:10a, “The godly care for their animals,” and because I’m crazy about our four dogs and our lone cat, Daisy.  There were so many unnecessary tragedies that involved beloved pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and after watching that unfold, I determined that I would never leave ours behind.

Bugging out is difficult enough for the human members of the family, but the excitement, fear, and flurry of activity will be highly stressful for your animals.42073141_672d94db62_m

Once you’ve made the decision to evacuate, one of the first steps should be to determine how best to care for each animal.  Certainly, most cats and dogs will need to be either evacuated with you or transferred to a safer location.  Either way, you don’t need them underfoot as you rush around, so a first step will be to put them in crates or carriers.  Delegate this task to one or two family members.

Depending on the size of your dogs and cats, you may want to first load their crate in your vehicle and then the animal(s).  So, first on my list is to load the dog crate in the Tahoe, and put each dog inside.  We have four small dogs so they all fit, in a cozy sort of way!

Pre-position collars, leashes, and water and food bowls in the crate, along with some dog food, double-bagged in two large Zip-Locs.  (Ants love dog food!)  Add the dog, and you’re good to go!

If your cat isn’t used to being in a carrier, now is the time for Crate-the-Cat practice!  Along with her crate, pack a small package of kitty litter and her food.

If you’re the proud owner of fish, reptiles, rodents and/or farm animals, consider whether or not you’ll take them along, leave them on their own with a plentiful supply of food and water, or transport them to another location.  Have a Plan B for their care in case circumstances suddenly change.  For more tips, read this.

2.  Personal necessities, food and water

While the designated family member is rounding up the animals, delegate who will be responsible for the following.

  • Load 72 Hour Kits, if you have them.  Take some time now to put these kits together while you have time and are not under any duress.  I carry a Vehicle 72 Hour Kit in my Tahoe at all times in case of emergencies while we’re on the road.  If we only had time to grab our Kits, at least we’d have the most necessary items for survival to get us through the first three or four days.
  • Load firearms and ammunition.  Guns are one of the first things vandals look for, and I don’t want ours getting into the wrong hands.  In a worst case scenario, we may need them for defense.  If our family is bugging out, hundreds or even thousands of people will be doing the same thing, and they may not all be law-abiding citizens.2635160053_7f11072a41_m
  • Cash.  I usually keep this in twenty dollar bills or smaller. In case of a widespread electrical outage, ATMs and credit/debit card machines may not be working.  I want to be sure we can pay for hotels, gas and food.  A roll of quarters is a good idea if you may be washing clothes at a laundromat or using pay phones, which, by the way, are often up and running before land lines and cell phone towers are operational.
  • An emergency toilet: a handy-dandy five-gallon bucket with plastic liners.  This bucket can also hold a couple of small blankets, toilet paper and a bottle of bleach/water mixture.  You can even buy a toilet seat designed to fit one of these buckets.  I’ve read accounts of the Hurricane Ike evacuation in 2008, and I don’t want my family using the side of the road as a toilet.  Enough said.
  • Load additional food and water, as much as there is room for.  Your 72 Hour Kits will contain emergency provisions, but extra food will always come in handy.  Collapsible water containers are a good option since they gradually take up less space as they’re emptied.
  • Bedding items, such as sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows will add comfort and reassurance.  How much you can take with you will depend on how much room you have left in your vehicle.  I always keep a couple of lightweight blankets rolled up under the back seat, just in case.
  • Pack tools we might need.  A claw hammer or a Phillips screw driver might make all the difference in the world in a survival scenario.
  • Family heirlooms and valuables, including photos.  Now, before a crisis hits, would be a good time to transfer irreplaceable photos to CDs.  It’s much easier to grab a few CDs than armfuls of photo albums, or, if you’re like me, boxes of loose photos.

3.  Prepare the House

As you drive away from your home, no doubt you’ll have feelings of sadness and, perhaps, loss.  A written plan to protect your home will increase the chances of having a home to come home to.  Here is a checklist I’ve used.

  • Turn off gas and water.
  • Go out to your electrical panel and switch off everything except for the breakers marked for the kitchen.
  • Unplug everything in the house except the refrigerator, freezer and a kitchen lamp.  Even if our entire neighborhood is evacuated, I would just rather my home look occupied.
  • Shut down and unplug the computers.
  • Close and lock all windows.  Close blinds and curtains.
  • If your emergency requires it, board up the windows or put up your storm shutters.
  • Depending on the current weather, turn off air conditioner and/or heat or set them at minimal levels.  (Make sure to leave those breakers in the ‘on’ position on your electrical panel.)

4.  Pack important documents and a computer

  • Load our strong box.  (This contains originals of things like Social Security cards and birth certificates.)
  • Pack my Grab-and-Go Binder containing copies of vital financial and family documents and my Survival Mom Binder with printed information helpful in emergencies, such as maps and water purification instructions.
  • Use a flash drive to save important business and financial information from our desktop computer.  Pack flash drive with laptop.
  • Pack our laptop computer.  Be sure to include the charger!

Bugging out

5.  Insure the vehicle is ready to go

Hopefully, you’ve been keeping an eye on weather and news reports and have made sure your vehicle’s gas tank is full.  In addition to that simple, obvious step, here are a few more.

  • Load extra filled gas cans, if you have them.
  • Check air pressure of tires.
  • Be sure you have everything necessary for dealing with a flat tire, including a spare.
  • If your vehicle is likely to need it, pack extra engine oil and other fluids.

Delegate, Post, and Rehearse

Now that your plan is finished, discuss each step with your family and delegate each task to family members.  Even the youngest will want to be useful, and in a crisis situation, assigned tasks will help defuse feelings of panic and confusion.  It’s more difficult to become hysterical when you have something to focus on.  Not impossible, just more difficult!

There’s one final step.  Will this really work?  How much time will it take, and will there be any room for passengers in your vehicle once it’s loaded?  It’s now time for an evacuation drill.  This will help refine your plan and give everyone a real-life rehearsal.  Post your final plan around the house, and then, when they least expect it, start the drill.

“Hey kids!  There’s a mountain of red hot lava rushing toward us, and we have to be out of the house in thirty minutes.  Everybody know their jobs?  Okay!  Ready…..GO!!!”

Start the timer, and let the fun begin!  Be sure to follow up with a family meeting to discuss what went well and what needs to be improved upon.  When your plan is in place, a potential evacuation will be one crisis you won’t have to worry about.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

© Copyright 2010 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

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  1. says

    I'm trying to organize our stuff to help make it easier to grab and go, if needed. We don't have an organized plan like yours yet, but one thing I think is good to have is a shoe box size plastic box for the front seat of the car. We have maps of our state and the ones near us that we could easily need to head into, small flashlight or headlamp, chemical stick, paracord, EMT shears (they can cut safety belts if there's an accident), and other small items that we don't normally carry in the car, but could need close at hand in a bug-out situation. We also bought topographic maps of our state and those same adjoining states. The ability to see which roads do NOT involve going over big hills (or rivers) could be important. And in the meantime, the kids can learn a new skill in reading those.

    As part of staging things, our first aid supplies are now in the laundry room. Odd place? Yes, but more practical than the bathroom. Other than slip and fall, where are most of your families accidents? The bathroom? The kitchen? the yard (especially kids)? the garage? The laundry room is convenient to all three of the latter, and we don't have to track dirt through the house to get hydrogen peroxide and bandaids on the kids latest boo boos. Plus, in the event of a bug-out, it's quick and easy to get out.

  2. says

    I've seen a few local companies that sell used laptops for under $200, some for under $100. For basic information storage and retrieval, they are hard to beat. At those prices, someone could purchase two of them, and have the second on hand for spare parts.

    Data storage should be on the hard drive, a USB thumb drive and where practical, hard copy.

    • says

      One reason to have a spare laptop is to use it for electronic storage only, and then keep the laptop itself stored in the type of container that would be safe from an EMP. It may sound a little out there, but stored information would be invaluable — both personal data as well as information pertaining to survival. I need to do a little more research, but one container that sounded simple enough is a galvanized trash can, taped shut. I was thinking of updating our information each month via a flash drive and then re-sealing the can. You have a great website, by the way! I'm going to spend some time reading your info tonight.

        • elt2jv says

          I've been printing everything out. There's no telling whether you've properly protected your data electronically and power is not likely to be available in an emergency. True, paper's bulky, but I'm planning on bugging in as possible and only grabbing the necessities for bug out.

      • says

        Thanks! (I just saw your reply…. ) The site is coming along bit by bit, or is that "byte by byte"??

        It's not out there to protect your information from EMP – to a preparedness minded individual. To protect the laptop, find a metal container with a lid. Some ammo cans will do the job, and have room for a few other items. Things to remember are:

        1) The device can NOT touch the can. Wrap it in clean rags. You might even set the ragged-device in a loose plastic bag, open top. The reasons are that you don't want conduction via met-to-metal, and you don't want condensation to collect inside a plastic bag.

        2) Use a desiccant in the container, unless you are going into it frequently (which allows for drying out.) Temperature changes will cause some sweating inside the can, hence the desiccant. KEEP IT DRY.

        3) SEAL the container. Ammo cans have rubber gaskets. Use a metal gasket as an addition, in the joint, and make sure it is "crushed" when the lid closes. Aluminum foil in a roll will work, and so will the static dispersing seals on some computer equipment. I prefer the foil. Remove the paint on the can's contact surfaces to make a metal-metal union.

        4) If you want to use another container, make sure it can be sealed.

        Gaps in a sealed can act as a "slot antenna". The smaller and fewer in number the slots, the less chance of something from within the broad spectrum of wave lengths from an EMP device getting inside the container. The little gremlins come in all sizes, and the look for a hole that fits them. In the moment that the energy passes through your location, the charge builds up on the surface of metal objects. Openings allow the charge to run around the inside of the container and hit the metal items within. This is why we try to seal cans…. to allow the charge to run the outer surface and dissipate.

        The enemies of a Faraday Cage are gaps, metal contact with the contents and moisture.

        A variation on the laptop update is to burn your documents onto CDs, which will last many years. Update them, and not the hard drive. Keep two sets in different locations in your home. Only open up the laptop every 3 months to charge (oh, yes, keep the battery OUT of the laptop, and refer to your docs to see if storage is done full or empty for your particular machine….), and to test /update. Then pack it up again.

        Best Buy has "netbooks" for $250 that blow away anything we could get just a few years ago. At that rate, consider getting 2 of them for redundancy and parts.

  3. says

    I found a flashdrive that helped me put my life in order without much effort. But what is really unique is the Emergency Preparedness Page that has a check list of everything needed in case of emergency and a page with website links to Fema and other important sites. Very cool. I wish I had this last year when I had 10 minutes to evacuate my home from a wildfire. Eight of those minutes you stand stunned wondering what to take first. Now I have everything important to me, my family, my pets information with me at all times. And it's not expensive. It's called Life Link Safe.

  4. says

    This is a great article and I am printing it to remind myself of more things I have yet to do, like store the rest of our photos in CDs. I got about half way through. Thanks for keeping us on track :)

  5. southernhowler says

    One important thing to think about with external device storage is – how much banging around can the device take? Many external hard drives are relatively fragile, since they have a spinning disk inside. Plus, sometimes the cheaper ones just fail for no discernable reason. I'd highly recommend anyone going the external storage route buy at least two externals, or better yet, buy solid state drives. They're more expensive, but MUCH less likely to die if they're exposed to rough handling. Otherwise USB thumb drives are a great choice, even if you can store less per stick.

    Personally I've gone with the USB stick approach, because it allows me to sort each stick by category – eg all photos on one, all emergency info on another, inventory lists on another, etc. This allows me to save time when I need to find things in a hurry – I know exactly which USB stick to grab.

  6. MNPrepper says

    Hi, I was looking for an appropriate place to ask this question for a couple of days and this is as close to it as I can find. The short of it is, I am preparing for an EMP (and then I’ll be prepared for all else as well). I am looking at a 1973 Ford F250 Pickup truck. It’s in excellent condition and everything works. But my question is I have heard that the old cars will work if they do not have the electronic or computer chipped parts in it as they will be unaffected by an EMP. But one mechanic just told me that the carburator and starter will blow out and to keep an extra part in “a lead lined box”. I know he meant a Faraday cage and I will follow the instructions above for one but is that necessary for even the old cars? He said I would need to keep the extra parts and learn how to replace them after an EMP. Won’t this truck be unaffected by an EMP? Thanks.


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