There are a lot of disasters where the only way to stay alive is to go away to a safer place. Examples of these are Tsunamis, fires, radioactive incidents, chemical spills and wars.There are others, so don't think you will never have to deal with an evacuation where you live. It could literally happen to anyone, anywhere.
Preparing for a disaster where you can stay put and take care of yourself at home, or a safe place is different than preparing for a disaster where you must evacuate. It is necessary for you to be prepared to face both a shelter-in-place (stay at home) disaster and one where you must evacuate.
This post is about an evacuation type of disaster. I am going to talk about what you need to pack and take with you when you have to evacuate.
Every family and every person is different. That means your needs and likes and dislikes are different. That means you get to and must exercise choice in regard to what you need to take with you for an evacuation emergency.
I like to start with necessary papers. The modern world requires a lot of papers from individuals and severely penalizes us for not having them handy. If you are in the middle of a disaster the last thing you need is more trouble because you do not have the right piece of paper to keep someone happy. That someone who wants a particular piece of paper from you may not give you something you really need without that paper.
Pack the stupid papers in your bag of things that you take with you when you evacuate. The right papers can get you food, water, medical treatment, etc. and make the difference between life and death for you and your loved ones.
We are going to call that bag of things that you take with you when you evacuate, your "go bag". There are lots of other names for this bag, so feel free to pick your own name if it makes you happy. Just pick out the stuff that you want in it and get it ready and have it ready for the next disaster that comes your way.
Here are suggestions for good pieces of paper to have in your go bag: Driver's License, I.D., Passport, Bank book and/or checks. Transportation Pass or ID for transportation can be pretty handy. Proof of ownership of property is often necessary to receive assistance for repairs to a residence by government or insurance companies. Emergency contact numbers of friends and relatives is a good thing to have in your go bag. A previous post ha a link to a copy of a form for you and family members to fill out and keep in your go bags.
A contact outside the area where you live is a good idea. During a disaster local phone lines are often jammed. It can be much easier to use phone lines for calling outside your local area. That means if you and other family members are separated, it may be much easier for you to find each other by calling your out of area contact and leaving messages for each other than to try to call each other direct. If you are to be able to do this, all of your household members must have the same out of area contact phone numbers. It might also help to have a calling card with credit on it in each go bag in case there is no other way to call.
If you need any papers to do your work or go to school, copies of those should be in your go bag. If you have any people that you are responsible for and who will be evacuated with you, then you might want their papers to be in your go bag. If you or any of your loved ones have papers that are necessary to receive medical care, they should be in your go bag.
Birth certificate copies might be another kind of paper you would find useful to have a copy of in your go bag. In the USA your birth certificate copy must be a certified copy for many purposes. The way to do this is to contact your state where you were born and find out what you must do to get a certified copy of your birth certificate. Most states are using a private company to deal with birth certificate matters.
You will need to think whether there are any other papers that it will make life difficult for you to be without, and put copies of them in your go bag.
I am not suggesting you turn your go bag into a portable file cabinet, but you need copies of papers necessary for you to live a normal life, in your go bag.
Personal papers like birth certificates have a pretty good dollar value, so you must protect them. You never know who will be in an emergency shelter with you. Some of those people in there with you may be in the business of stealing. It can be a real pain hauling a bag around with you everywhere you go.
I believe an extra part of your preparedness can be finding an easier way to keep close tabs on your important papers. I like a fanny pack for those, plus money and credit cards, etc. You can wear them and you don't have to hold onto them when you are distracted. Being distracted is an integral part of dealing with disasters. There will be certain to be lots of things going on that will compete for your attention. A fanny pack will make life easier for you during a disaster.
You can pack your important papers and other small essentials in your fanny pack and put it into your go bag or hook the straps together, so you can easily grab both as you head out the door for an evacuation.
I think that this post is long enough and complex enough that it would not be good to continue. I will write more about go bag contents. I have already written three posts about general ideas for go bags, so if you are putting together your go bag it may be helpful to look at them as well.