Evacuation preparation: What you need when it’s time to leave

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Edgar Soria Garcia

Store important survival supplies and low-tech entertainment in a stout backpack you can grab at a moment’s notice.

Priscilla Navas

Fire season is upon us, so it is important to be prepared for what lies ahead. 

A lot of students feel anxious, triggered from past fires and the threat of new ones. Having a plan may help alleviate some of that stress. One easy step is to prepare a go bag, customized to fit your and your cohabitants’ needs, to save time when evacuating.

Cal Fire recommends having these items ready to go:

  • Prescriptions or special medications
  • Extra eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Copies of important documents (birth certificates and passports)
  • An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
  • At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person
  • Food and water for pets
  • Leashes and pet ID cards
  • First aid kit
  • Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Sanitation supplies like wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Hygiene products like soap, shampoo and toothpaste
  • Face masks or coverings
  • Change of clothing

Five minutes to leave

In an emergency, you may only have five minutes to grab your pets and important items and clear out. If time allows, grab what is next on your list, including prescriptions or special medications, extra eyeglasses or contact lenses, and copies of important documents. A hard drive with digital copies is an effective way to keep all those documents together.

30 minutes 

If you have 30 minutes to evacuate you should continue making your way down the list. An extra set of car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person, food and water for pets, first aid kit, battery-powered or hand-cranked radio and extra batteries, first aid kit, flashlight, sanitation supplies, face masks or coverings, and a change of clothing.

One hour 

If you have one hour to evacuate you can add to the items you already packed. Grab multiple changes of clothes because you may not know how long you’ll be away. Pack more food and water. Pillows and a light blanket could also be useful depending on where you are going.

Two hours 

If you have two hours to evacuate, you may feel you have ample time, but with the stress, it could be easy to lose track of time and forget the essentials. Remember to have the essentials gathered and ready beforehand, and then you can focus on collecting other items such as: 

  • Irreplaceable items such as family photos and heirlooms
  • Expensive and valuable items such as art pieces or antiques and jewelry
  • Textbooks and school notes (could be essential in the recovery process)
  • Any other items you deem valuable or that would be difficult to recover in the worst case scenario

A lot of these items could be packed in advance to give you more time to focus on getting out in a safe and efficient manner. Important considerations when getting ready are weight and space. Everything should be able to be lifted into your car and should be able to fit in your car, along with any people and animals evacuating.

The more time you have available means more time to help others. You may have elderly or disabled neighbors who need help to pack and leave. Once you are situated in your own plan, you can assist those who need help.

Having ready all the items on your list and in your car is a good way to ensure they won’t be forgotten. According to Cal Fire, it is also important to keep your gas tank at least half full. Wearing hard-soled shoes, long-sleeve shirts and long pants such as jeans are also recommended to keep yourself protected from soot and ash.