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Essential Evacuation Information

By Denis Korn

Franklin quote

July 2019 – With the potential of devastating emergencies occurring this season, I once again post this updated article of essential evacuation information.

In addition to this very comprehensive article, please read the one below “Is your entire family prepared for emergencies at all times?”

Important November 2018 update.

This post, Evacuate – Essential Guidelines Updated, is one of the most important posts I have written.

I am posting it again considering the devastating fires that have occurred here in Northern California last year and this year.  This year’s fire, which occurred just a couple of weeks ago, was very close, about an hour and a half away, in Paradise, CA (the most devastating fire in California history).  This year’s and last year’s fires impacted our community directly.  These fires were a significant wake-up call and an essential lesson in being prepared for the unexpected, and the need for immediate action.  The fires destroyed thousands of homes (almost 14,000 just in Paradise) and structures and significantly impacted thousands of lives.

The fires here in our area and nearby counties started in the middle of the night or very early in the morning due to very hot, dry, and windy conditions.  The fires grew extremely fast, were intense, and they occurred in residential neighborhoods.  In many instances, the evacuation was immediate.  In other situations, only very little time was given.

What I learned from last year’s and this year’s fires and the recent Orville Dam evacuation that affected our area:

  • Emergencies and catastrophes can occur at any time and often when they are least expected and when one is the least prepared.
  • It is essential to evacuate early when at all possible, especially when you are responsible for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
  • When you must evacuate immediately, there is no time for planning, assessing, discussion, or wandering around the house or office gathering vital papers, equipment, electronics, medications, and heirlooms.  Most people are so traumatized and shocked that the decisions made are often ineffective and inappropriate.
  • Most people do not believe disasters will happen to them and don’t realize that they may lose everything.
  • When people must evacuate, many don’t take not only fundamental provisions, but they also don’t take essentials like medications/prescriptions, medical needs, important papers, computers, cell phones, communication information about family – friends – business, children’s needs, pet needs, money/credit cards, special needs.
  • If it is appropriate, depending on your evacuation route especially in the back country, carry a chain saw to remove trees or limbs that may block the road.
  • Communication – Communication – Communication
  • Help your neighbors!
  • Many evacuees rely entirely on the local, state or federal government for protection, food, shelter, and medical assistance.
  • Most people have not created an appropriate plan of action, and don’t know where to find adequate provisions and guidance.
  • Keep checking with local authorities and community information sources to be kept informed of the latest conditions.  Surprises are not your friend!
  • Community support is essential, and there are many devoted and caring locals, churches, and organizations who are willing to help.
  • Keeping informed of the latest developments during a disaster is crucial for safety and planning.
  • Can one comprehend what life will be like if when you return everything is destroyed?
  • Unfortunately, there are those who will not take responsibility for the protection of themselves, family, neighbors, and pets.  What does it take to motivate, educate, and encourage someone to be accountable?

The timeliness of this information cannot be overstated! The uncertainty of the times requires appropriate preparation and answering the questions contained in this article.  It is a valuable companion to another important post Essential Checklist for Emergency Preparedness & Outdoor Adventure Planning – Including Vehicle Preparedness – Latest Update.

I feel it is very important also to include in this article, one of my Foundational Articles titled Is your entire family prepared for emergencies at all times?  It appears at the end of this post. 

You are highly encouraged to share this post and its vital information with family, friends, business associates, church and temple congregations, and other members of any organizations to which you belong.  May this post help you in your serious preparedness planning.  Celebrate Peace of Mind!

Here are the crucial questions to answer when assembling your emergency response plans and emergency kit/grab-and-go/bug-out bag – which is essential if you must leave your home or business quickly.

  • If an evacuation has been declared, a severe weather event is imminent, or a significant disaster has occurred, how will I know?
  • What is the length of time for which I am preparing? Why this length?  How many people will be relying on my grab-and-go bag?
  • If I must evacuate, do I know what to do if given an immediate order, one minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour or more?
  • If I must evacuate, will I be in a cozy government evacuation center with food, water, blankets, and a bed, a hotel/motel room, a friend’s/relative’s house, or will I be on my own in the elements, a crude shelter?
  • Am I clear on the circumstances and scenarios that may arise that will require me to evacuate versus the circumstances that would compel me to stay put and hunker down?
  • Do I have an escape plan? Evacuation routes?  Family and business communication?  How to assemble essential documents, electronics, and important papers?  Turn off gas and electric – wrench or pliers to turn off gas?
  • Have I talked with my neighbors about how we can communicate, share information, and support one another in an emergency?
  • If specific government, church, community, and friend’s sheltering options are not available, where do I go? How far? How do I get there?
  • What conditions can I expect to encounter – best scenario – worst scenario?
  • How long do I anticipate that I may have to rely upon my grab-and-go provisions?
  • What are the weather conditions I am likely to encounter? What is the season?
  • Will I be alone, or are others depending on me? Family – children – elderly – pets?
  • Am I dependent on others? Who? Why? Do I expect the government to take care of me?
  • What kind of support is likely to be available?
  • Do I have a list of local governmental agencies, relief organizations, emergency offices to contact if necessary?
  • What food and water should I always have on hand?  Where do I store it?
  • What are essential life-sustaining needs necessary for my family and me?  Are they immediately accessible?  If they are electricity-dependent, do I have a back-up power source?
  • What if there is nothing left when I return?
  • Are my essentials, ID, heirlooms, personal treasures, irreplaceable photographs, documents, and financial assets secure if I leave with only my grab-and-go bag?  Which of these items should be immediately available if I evacuate?
  • Do I have a very accessible list for myself and family members to consult of essential items to take that may not be in a grab-and-go bag near the front door?
  • Are essential documents, computer with essential information and years work, papers, photos, ID, communication contacts, cash, and other valuable items not in the grab-and-go bag all in the same place so they can be assembled immediately?
  • Do I have a reliable communication plan to contact family, friends, and business associates at a moment’s notice?
  • If an evacuation is called or if the home is destroyed when family members are in different locations, what is my plan to meet at a preset safe location or contact another family member or friend as a coordinator?
  • What is the potential severity of the emergency I might experience?
  • Will I have transportation, or will I be on foot?
  • If the electricity is out, how will this impact my evacuation?  Lighting at night?  Opening the garage door to get the car out?
  • Do I have enough money on hand to pay for possible shelter, food, or supplies if I am suddenly evacuated and away from home or business?
  • Do I keep at least a half tank of gas in my vehicle (more if an emergency is imminent)?
  • Have I practiced/visualized an evacuation with myself and if appropriate, all family members?
  • Have I inspected my emergency supplies to ensure they are adequate, up-to-date, and in good condition?
  • Can I stay calm and focused in an emergency, and who is counting on me to be there for them?
  • Am I truly prepared for the unexpected, a procrastinator, or am I in denial (Normalcy Bias)?

To have a genuinely adequate emergency kit/grab-and-go/bug-out bag, the above questions must be answered. Your preparedness bag contents will vary depending on numerous factors such as time, the number of persons, locations involved, mobility, support available, season, comfort level desired, anticipated scenarios, and the degree of peace of mind you want.  If specific provisions are not appropriate to your assessment of needs, I still highly encourage you to have available all the essential documents, wallets with money and credit cards, papers, ID, policies, contact information, and life-sustaining medications and special needs.

Here is a list of the basic essentials for every kit. If appropriate consider having multiple kits for home, business, vehicle, RV, cabins, etc.  Each category will have multiple options depending on how you answer the above crucial questions. Cheap, inadequate, and poorly made provisions don’t belong in a quality kit. Prepare your kit as if you and your family’s life and comfort depended on it – because it does!

  1. Water – bottled/filters/purifiers/tablets/containers
  2. Food – ready-to-eat/bars/trail mix/freeze dried/shelf-stable/non-perishable/easy-to-prepare/food preparation equipment/manual can opener (usually on multi-tools)
  3. Medical – quality medical kit with instructions/prescriptions/glasses/essential medications/sunscreen/insect repellent/dental medic/foot care/safety pins/dust mask/gas mask
  4. Special Needs – food/medical/children/infants/diaper bag/elderly/disabled/pets
  5. Tools – multi-tool/knife/scissors/wire/cable ties/duct tape/rope/paracord/gloves/small axe/repair tools/super glue/aluminum foil/ /manual can opener (often on multi-tool)/bungee cords/foldable or wire saw/pocket chain saw
  6. Communication – radio/hand crank – solar – battery/two-way radios/CB radio/ham radio/cell phone/cell phone charger
  7. Fire – fire starter/lighter/matches/tinder/flint starter/magnifying glass
  8. Signaling & Orienting – whistle/signal mirror/compass/maps – local & regional/GPS device
  9. Lighting – Hand crank – solar – battery/headlamp/flashlight/lantern/candles/light sticks
  10. Power & Energy – batteries – regular and rechargeable/power-pack for batteries & cell phone recharged by solar and/or hand crank that charges devices directly
  11. Shelter – tarp/tent – tube or larger/plastic sheeting/insect protection
  12. Emergency Blankets/sleeping bags – emergency or larger or bivy sack
  13. Personal Hygiene – sanitary supplies/disinfectant – bleach/feminine supplies – ‘shewee’ for women/emergency towels,baby wipes
  14. Plastic Bags/ties
  15. Personal Security – weapon & ammo if appropriate/knife/pepper spray/bear repellent/mace or other options
  16. Appropriate Clothing and Footwear – protection from the elements and insects/apparel for warmth/heat packs – hand and body warmers/rain poncho/bandana
  17. Identification and Essential Documents, copies, originals, on a thumb/flash drive – Bible/compact survival handbook/personal ID/computer passwords/insurance/copy of resume/birth certificate/military DD214/social security cards/real estate information/contracts/passports/marriage certificate/wills/power of attorney for health care and living will/medical documents and information/other key documents/entertainment/for Nevada County, CA – 2019 Ready, Set, Go! Handbook
  18. Spare Keys – car/home/other
  19. Phone Numbers and Addresses – friends, relatives, and emergency organizations/agencies
  20. Family Action Plan – Instructions on meeting and communicating with family and friends during or after an emergency
  21. Multiple evacuation routes marked on a map and memorized – primary, secondary and more
  22. Cash/credit cards/checks
  23. Pen/markers/paper
  24. Configured Compact Emergency Kit with Essential Items
  25. Carrying Device – carry bag/backpack/suitcase/sturdy container/Food & Supply Brick™/duffel Bag (very durable and if you anticipate carrying your bag any distance shoulder straps should be available with your carry bag or duffel)

If time permits, take irreplaceable items such as heirlooms, heirloom jewelry, photographs, military/marriage/birth/deed records, computers, tablets, and personal contact information and documents not included in your grab-and-go device.

This is an obvious necessity for everyone. Know what water sources are available to you during an emergency, or in the outdoors. Plan accordingly and don’t hold back preparing for this essential category.  Have both filters and drinkable water.

Determine whether or not you want to purify water for viruses.  Not all water filters are designed for this purpose – look for water purifiers that specifically state that they will kill viruses.

Numerous options are available. This category must be accessed carefully, and the quality and quantity of foods chosen should be appropriate to the anticipated length of time of the emergency or outing, and severity of circumstances you anticipate might occur.  For shorter-term scenarios foods in most situations should be nutritious and ready-to-eat; however, you might want to consider some foods requiring only the addition of cold or hot water.  If you do need hot water, you must plan for the appropriate means and equipment to heat your water.  Choose options that have a longer shelf life and are suitably packaged for kits or backpacks.

When your health and survival during a medical emergency is at stake, you don’t want to rely on cheap or inadequate medical supplies. This is an important category to thoughtfully evaluate. Don’t forget medications or products needed for those with special medical conditions.  If your pre-assembled kit doesn’t include one, make sure you get a good book on medical emergencies.  Better to have too much of an essential medication, rather than too little.

Protection from the elements and insects is essential, especially in a harsh climate.

Numerous unforeseen situations or just routine conditions occur during an emergency or during an outdoor adventure. Be prepared and secure with the proper quality tool.

It is essential to keep informed during an emergency with friends, family, and appropriate governmental agencies and emergency organizations. When in an outdoor environment, unsettled weather considerations necessitate weather alert radios. Avoid a sense of isolation during serious emergencies.  If you get lost or are separated from your group signaling can be crucial.  Since electronic items are included in this category, you may want to consider a small solar power device.

This is an essential category to address when anticipating any situation where you may be in darkness. Not only for a sense of security and comfort, but to be able to see clearly and act accordingly if emergencies occur in the dark.

Personal protection
For some, this may not be an essential primary category.  Everyone must decide the extent to which they will or will not provide protection for themselves and their families from physical harm by others or wild animals.

This article provides a fundamental list of suggested items we believe are essential for emergency preparedness and outdoor recreation; especially if space, weight, and mobility are important.  For an expanded list of suggestions read our article: Essential Checklist for Emergency Preparedness & Outdoor Adventure Planning Including Vehicle Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness Items for Automobiles – Trucks – Vans – RV’s

These items are especially necessary for long trips, family outings, new younger drivers, inclement weather, evacuation, remote area travel, and at night.


  • Spare tire
  • Jack with a tire iron and supporting tools
  • Device to break the window and cut seat belts from the inside in an emergency
  • Tire inflation device – portable power and/or aerosol can inflator/other tire repair materials
  • JB Weld®/super adhesive
  • Jumper cables
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Portable power unit for jump-starting and backup power
  • Tow cables/rope
  • Chains/cables/bungee cords for tightening
  • Crowbar
  • Reflectors/flares
  • Hidden spare key
  • Extra oil
  • Extra gas/funnel if appropriate
  • Siphon hose
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Extra fan belts/bulbs/hoses/additives/sealers/hard to get parts/repair kit
  • Window scraper
  • Important phone numbers/documents/insurance information
  • GPS device if appropriate
  • Empty gas can
  • Material to gain traction if stuck in snow or ice – cat litter/sand/wood shavings/old rug

Additional critical items from the Essential Checklist to carry in your vehicle:

  • Tarps
  • Blankets/emergency sleeping bag
  • First Aid kit
  • Baby supplies
  • Food and water/water purification/containers if appropriate
  • Maps
  • Pen/magic marker/paper
  • Personal documents and photo ID/registration/insurance
  • Gloves
  • Duct tape
  • Rope/wire
  • Repair tools
  • Plastic bags large and small
  • Cell phone/smart phone/charger
  • Emergency radio/hand-crank radio
  • Emergency lighting
  • Rope/wire/bungees
  • Small solar/12-volt power packs for small electronics
  • Cash/credit card
  • Extra clothing in harsh and wet weather/hat
  • Hand/body warmers
  • Rain gear/rubber boots/poncho
  • Knife/multi-tool
  • Whistle
  • Toilet paper
  • Towels
  • Shovel
  • Small fire extinguisher
  • Matches/fire starter
  • Extra batteries
  • Personal protection devices or items as appropriate/pepper spray                                                                                                                                      
  • Refer to the Essential Checklist for other items relevant to your vehicles specific needs.


Is your entire family prepared for emergencies at all times?

Recent events have brought us catastrophic circumstances that have had devastating and lasting effects on thousands of people around the world.  I pray that you take this advice seriously.   Recent conversations have also motivated me to consider this important article as a Foundational Article.

I am reminded of a presentation I made some years back to a large gathering of preparedness professionals.  This convention consisted of folks who came from all over the country, and of course this meant that they would be gone from their families for a few days.  Bear in mind that at my presentation, there were a couple of hundred people whose responsibilities included preparedness planning and education for very large companies, organizations, and governmental agencies.

At the beginning of my talk, I asked the group how many felt completely confident that in their absence, their families were prepared to deal with unforeseen emergencies or disasters – especially significant ones.  Only a few raised their hands!  Since most of these participants were the head of their households, what does it tell you about fulfilling one’s responsibility to protect and keep the family secure in difficult times?

Fortunately, over the years, the professional emergency management community has become more dedicated to personally embodying what they are responsible for in government and business.  What about the average household?

It appears that most heads of households have some notion that their presence is security enough for the family during an emergency.  This is a dangerous assumption.  The sensible attitude is to ensure that all family members – adults – the elderly – teenagers – and young children, know:

  • What to do
  • How to respond
  • Where to go – or not go
  • Who to contact
  • Where the information and supplies are located
  • How to use and operated essential equipment
  • How to turn off the gas into the house
  • How to access drinking water
  • How to prepare any food reserves
  • How to communicate with family and emergency personnel
  • How to keep warm in freezing conditions
  • How to have the proper attitude
  • How to pray

Instructions should be in writing, and the entire family should participate in drills and practices.  Family members – immediate and extended – should know their part during an emergency under all scenarios and given any combination of family members physically present – or absent.

  • Do your children, spouse and other family members know what to do and how to act if a serious emergency occurs and they are not at home?
  • How will you communicate with them or those in their keeping?
  • What if they are at school – what plans does the school have to communicate with parents or guardians?
  • What will the school provide for students?
  • What if they are at work – what plans does the business or organization have to communicate with other family members?
  • What will the business provide for their employees?
  • Does the business or organization have their contingency plans?
  • Do you have contingency plans for communication and provisioning for your spouse – adult children – younger children when they are away from home at camp, business trip, etc.?
  • What if an emergency occurs while a family member is in their vehicle and in transit?
  • Is your family secure, knowledgeable, and responsible?

Between Learn To Prepare and numerous internet websites, there is an abundance of valuable information for the whole family.  Study this information as if your life and your families’ life depended on it – in a significant emergency, it does!

So, I ask all of you reading this post:  In your absence, is your family adequately educated and prepared to properly respond and survive during a serious emergency?  I encourage you to have all family members read the Foundational Articles on the right column of this blog.



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