Are You Ready to Evacuate?

Last Sunday a brush fire started several miles from my home. Though our house was never in danger, people just 10-15 miles away were evacuating for safety.

This is the second fire in a short amount of time that caused evacuations in our area. I’ll admit that I don’t really think about natural disasters that often. Living in Oregon, I don’t have to deal with tornadoes or hurricanes. We get the occasional small earthquake, but it’s never anything that causes major damage. And since we don’t live by a creek or river, we don’t have to worry about flooding.


But fires…our area does have it’s share of fires. And this recent fire made me realize that if I needed to evacuate my house quickly, I wouldn’t be ready.

I’m ready for other emergencies, such as a medical emergency or a bad snowstorm that leaves us stranded at home for days. My next goal is to get us ready for an emergency evacuation.

What to Put in an Evacuation Pack

Put three days worth of emergency supplies in Rubbermaid type boxes, so you can grab them quickly and load them into your car in case of an emergency. Your boxes should include:

  • Water (1 gallon per person per day)
  • Non perishable food
  • Can opener
  • Sharp knife
  • Paper bowls, plates, & utensils
  • Toiletries
  • Medications
  • First Aid Kit
  • Flashlight
  • Battery Powered Radio
  • Change of clothing
  • Blanket
  • Plastic Bags
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Hand sanitizer

Your kit can include more than this, depending on your needs, but this is the minimum you should have on hand and ready to go.

Have a Plan in Case of Evacuation

Having an emergency supply kit isn’t enough. You should also have a plan, in case you are evacuated.

The first step is to never let your gas tank run down to empty. Always keep at least a quarter of a tank of gas in your car, in case of an emergency. This is not important only in terms of an evacuation, but it’s also helpful if you have to make a midnight run to the emergency room with one of the kids.

It also helps to have some idea of where you would go. If you have relatives nearby, you could plan to stay with them in case of an emergency. If you don’t have friends or relatives nearby, often the Red Cross will set up evacuation centers, so if you listen to the news on your battery powered radio, you should be able to find a place to go.

Finally, designate a contact person who lives out of the area. If your area is evacuated, chances are your relatives will be unable to reach you by phone. If you can reach a person out of the area, that person will be able to update your extended family. And if you get separated from your family, having a single contact person can help you be reunited, if everyone in your family knows who to call.

A Final Note

Sometimes you have to evacuate quickly in an emergency. If that’s the case, grab your emergency kit and go.

However, sometimes you may get a little warning. If you hear rumors of evacuation, begin packing up your car immediately. If you start early, you’ll be able to grab sentimental items, such as photographs. And if firefighters or law enforcement suggest you evacuate, please listen to them.

Photo: view of smoke from the nearby fire, taken from our backyard.


By , on Sep 15, 2010
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


Popular Articles


  1. Kate:

    Several years ago we were forced to evacuate our home due to a forest fire. We weren’t in the least bit prepared. While my husband left with the kids, I rushed to grab passports, birth certificates, insurance docs etc. All the while the police were shouting at me to get gone. I left the house with my purse in one hand and our puppy in the other. Thank goodness the wind shifted and our home was spared.
    We learned a lesson that day and now bug out bags are always packed and ready to go. All of our important documents are kept in a folder at the front of the file cabinet so that they can be retrieved in an instant but failing that, copies are stored on a flash drive kept in one bag.
    Always be prepared!

  2. Very excellent post and excerise as it makes a person think and plan for what is important. A couple things come to mind. Are valuables stored in a fire and water proof container? Can they be taken or left behind? Same with family photos. Can they be put on discs and the originals stored?

    I actually had to “evacuate” my home with 1 hours notice a few months ago. I did pretty good at picking the most important things. One was a 33 year old plant I received on the day my first son was born. Amazing the clarity that comes when needed knowing that what you don’t take may be lost.

  3. Rebecca Sparks:

    As CJ McD pointed out, you will need batteries for the radio & flashlight for your list.

    There was a very nice article that recommended that you gather all your important paperwork together, take photos of your expensive equipment, than scan them all onto a flash drive–and that you update this once a year. Much easier to grab in an emergency. (of course, normally keep this locked up).

    If there is a dire emergency, don’t forget to get stuff together for your kids, like toys and games that will keep them occupied–and maybe a book for yourself ;D

  4. Jenn R:

    Thank you for this very timely and info packed article! I live in the area of the Deer Ridge/RoxyAnn fire last Sept. That was very scarey!

  5. Good list. I would also add to think about what to do with pets. Dogs, not so hard – you call ’em, they’ll come (mostly). Cats? You’ll probably need a pet carrier so that when they freak out, they don’t run off and can’t be found. If you’ve got a cat like one of mine was, also be aware where she might be off to in the house – even on a good day (for her), she was often hard to find.

    We live in Boulder, and at one point during the recent fires, our house was in an area that was put on alert for possible mandatory evacuation. It does get you thinking. I realized that other than my laptop (mainly due to all the pictures), there really wasn’t any “thing” I particularly cared about. Everything is replaceable. I wouldn’t have thought this way until a few years ago when my husband and I started to live more frugally, including planning to move from our house into our RV full time. Not much stuff you can keep with you in 340 sq ft!

  6. CJ McD:

    Good point Candy- Your important papers (insurance, financial, deeds, birth certs., passports, back ups of computer discs, photos of home and it’s contents., etc.) or at least copies of them are vital to include.

    Add spare batteries and some extra cash too.
    Swiss army knife or pocket knife. Spoons.
    First aid kit.
    Personal hygene items.
    Toilet paper, bucket with a lid, plastic liner (you never know). Pack supplies in the bucket to save room.
    If you have a pet, add pet food to the list.
    Diapers and formula for babies.
    Blanket/sleeping bags.
    Water proof matches.

    empty gas can, quart of auto oil, jumper cables, antifreeze
    moist towelettes
    small shovel, axe, wrench, hammer, screw driver

    Pack some of your supplies and non-perishable items in a cooler. It is a sturdy, lidded container with carry handles and can be used when you get to a destination.

    At times of high risk (threat of fire spreading, hurricanes, etc.) keep auto gas tank at least half full at all times and have a spare gas can ready to go.

  7. Candy:

    We live in an area that is susceptible to both tornadoes and hurricanes. One thing I’d like to add: use a waterproof, fireproof safe for important papers and irreplaceable items. We back up our photos and keep the media in the safe also.

    It’s not important to lock the safe – what you want is that protection from fire and water.

    Very timely post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer and Legal Mumbo Jumbo

I'm just an average mom, trying to live a frugal life and get out of debt. I write about things that have (and haven't) worked to improve my family's financial situation. What works for me may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.

In accordance with FTC guidelines, I state that I have a financial relationship with companies mentioned in this website. This may include receiving access to free products and services for product and service reviews and giveaways.

Any references to third party products, rates, or websites are subject to change without notice. I do my best to maintain current information, but due to the rapidly changing environment, some information may have changed since it was published. Please do the appropriate research before participating in any third party offers.

For additional information, please review our legal disclaimers and privacy policy.