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truck driving on road filled with smoke from wildfire

What to Pack in an Emergency Evacuation Bag

Evacuation is hard. Leaving your home and property during a wildfire is unsettling and frankly, terrifying. But when evacuation orders are made, it is crucial to follow them. There have been countless stories of homeowners staying behind to try to protect their properties from encroaching flames but end up having to be rescued. While it can be devastating to leave your home behind, it is the smart thing to do so that emergency personnel can respond to more immediate threats and injuries and use valuable resources where necessary.

Evacuating can be a little bit easier if you are prepared with a plan and an emergency bag.

If you live in the wildland-urban interface, or if you know a fire is burning nearby, it is smart to have an emergency evacuation plan in place. Make sure you talk with family and friends to first establish a meeting place or safe house. While coronavirus is making things even harder when it comes to evacuation shelters, there are still ways you can be safe. Also plan on being away for days and even weeks at a time.

Here are some things to put in an emergency supply kit, a go-bag, that you can keep by the door or in a vehicle:

  • Gallons of bottled water (at least three gallons per person)
  • Water purification tools (tablets, LifeStraw, filter, etc.)
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Matches
  • Face masks
  • Hand sanitizer/disinfectant wipes
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle
  • Pliers
  • Change of clothes
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Eyeglasses
  • Non-perishable foods (cans of beans, granola bars, peanut butter etc.)
  • Manual can opener
  • Tent
  • Tarps
  • Duct tape
  • Towels
  • Sleeping bags/emergency blankets
  • Fire-starting kit
  • Copies of important documents in case you don’t have time to grab hard copies (social security card, credit cards passport, driver’s license, birth certificates, insurance policies, emergency contact information, list of phone numbers, medical information, etc.)
  • Prescription medications
  • Cash
  • Roll of toilet paper
  • Extra phone charger
  • Printed maps in case cell phone coverage is out
  • Pet supplies/pet food

2020’s fire season is taking place during a pandemic which, of course, complicates things. If you don’t have a safe place to evacuate to, like the home of friends or family members, you may have to go to an evacuation shelter set up in your community. While social distancing can be harder than ever during times of panic and disaster, it is still important to keep the spread of COVID-19 down.

Cal Fire’s Ready for Wildfire website is a great resource to plan for fire, get notified when there are evacuation orders in your area, and act accordingly.

Be safe, and know that being prepared to evacuate with a well-stocked emergency kit helps everyone during a deadly wildfire.