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What to Include on Your Emergency Evacuation Packing List

emergency evacuation packing list

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Unforeseen circumstances can happen anytime, anywhere. While it can catch us off guard, it doesn’t mean that we have to be completely unprepared for any situation that may arise.

Because bushfires, hurricanes, and floods happen.

While this packing list may not be about travel in the fun way that we generally promote on Her Packing List, it’s one that is definitely overdue. Planning ahead helps. It helps you to have a hassle-free trip, and it helps you when you’re in an emergency situation.

That’s why we’ve come up with this article to help you create an Emergency Evacuation Packing List.

Why You Should Have an Emergency Evacuation Packing List

bushfires cause emergency evacuations
Bushfires are a common reason for an emergency evacuation.

There’s nothing worse than being woken up in the middle of the night because of a raging bushfire near where you live and having to evacuate. You’ll most likely be panicking and all over the place, not thinking clearly as to what you need to grab with little time to spare.

An emergency evacuation packing list will keep you from running around like a headless chicken. You won’t struggle with making a quick mental list, and you won’t unknowingly leave those really important documents and valuables behind in the panic.

You’ll already know which items should be packed and taken with you when you evacuate.

In an emergency, time is of the essence; you need to be quick and get your valuables – within minutes – or you might find yourself in a dire situation that you can’t escape from.

Please Note: If your situation is truly extreme, like a building fire, forget the list completely and find safety! YOU are your most valuable commodity, and the rest are just things. If you have a few minutes to spare in your particular emergency, this list can help you choose what’s actually important.

What to Include on Your Packing List

This can vary from person to person and the possible situations that may arise in their locale.

  • Are you living in a flood-prone area?
  • Does your backyard look out into a forest that has had wildfires in the past?
  • If you do need to evacuate, where will you go and what will you need when you get there?

Gwen Steel, a member of the HPLWorld Community shared the packing list she made after receiving an evacuation notice for wildfires that came as close as 5 miles from her home.

*Please note: This list assumes that Gwen had a place to go when evacuated. Otherwise, you might want to include sections for food, cooking, and shelter items.

gwens go bag packing list
Gwen Steel’s Go Bag Packing List

Build your packing list based on you and your family’s necessities. Here are some basic items to get you started:

  • Deeds, titles, and registrations. Proof of ownership for real estate properties, vehicles, etc.
  • Insurance documents. House insurance, medical/health insurance, car insurance, 401k, etc.
  • Electronics. Laptops, chargers, extra batteries, and other electronics.  
  • Clothing. One to two sets of shirts and pants, outerwear, and underwear.
  • Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, towel.
  • Personal items. Wallet, car keys, identification cards, passport.
  • Medicine. Prescription and over-the-counter medication, Epi-pen, first aid kit, etc.
  • Food and water. Preferably in easy-to-open containers and non-perishable.
  • Children’s necessities. Food, clothes, toys.
  • Pet’s necessities. Food, water, and food bowls, litter box.

Where to keep your emergency evacuation packing list

Keep your list in a visible area that you always see so that when an emergency happens, you know exactly where to look for it. We suggest keeping a copy in multiple locations, and especially near the front door.

You can also save a digital copy to the cloud, on your phone, or use a packing list app.

Going One Step Further: Assemble a Grab Bag

assemble a grab bag for emergencies
Assemble a Grab Bag for Emergency Evacuation

If you live in an area where there are frequent calamities (like in a prominent hurricane zone), or if you have a family member with health conditions that lead to surprise hospital visits, it might make better sense to pack a grab bag.

A grab bag is your evacuation bag that has the necessities in case something happens. No need to pack: you already have everything you need in this bag.

A basic grab bag can include any of the following:

  • Water (enough for at least 3 days)
  • Food (ready to eat, non-perishable)
  • Manual can opener (if packing canned foods)
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription medicine
  • Whistle
  • Tissue paper
  • Moist towelettes
  • Garbage bags or plastic bags
  • Extra batteries and battery packs
  • Cash
  • A change of clothes
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Photocopy of important documents and identification

You can put them all in a backpack, duffel, or small luggage and store the bag in a place that you can easily get on the way out the door or fire escape.

But won’t my grab bag belongings go off?

We suggest setting an alarm or scheduling a calendar event where you address and refresh your grab bag belongings every 6 or 12 months. At this time, you can replace the items with fresh items and use what was in the bag before it goes off.

Keeping your valuables safe

Original copies of important documents like deeds of properties, wills, insurance policies, and passports, should always be kept in a container that is fireproof, waterproof, and insect-proof. 

The most simple way to keep them dry is to put them inside plastic, waterproof envelopes, but if you want something more secure, fireproof document bags are available (like this one on Amazon).

Keep your valuables safe in a lock box
Keep your valuables safe in a lock box.

If you have more valuables to store, a safe might be a better option (like this cabinet safe on Amazon). You can also look into storing them in your bank’s safe deposit box, but bear in mind you won’t be able to access these items as easily.

Preparedness is key

We often find it hard to imagine the worst case scenario actually happening to us, but that’s the problem. Emergency situations are a surprise in most cases, and it isn’t until we get into the reality of one that we wish we had put this list together sooner.

So take a few minutes to create the emergency evacuation packing list that you and your family need now. It doesn’t take long, and you’ll thank yourself later should you ever need it.

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Written by Nina

Nina Fuentes splits her time between Manila and Bulusan, Sorsogon in the Philippines. She is one of the pioneering female travel bloggers in the country and her blog, Just Wandering, has been recognized as the Best Travel Blog at the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and at the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards. She has recently started Just Wandering Tours, offering customized tours of Bulusan and the province of Sorsogon.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Helen Purdy says

    Fantastic article, I have sent a copy to my cousin who was affected by the fires in Austrailia. I live in the UK. I have a system and list in case there is a house fire. I also have a grab bag for the hospital as my son has a health condition. The first time we were blue lighted to hospital at midnight, all we had was a soft toy bear and no money between us, fortunatly the nurses took pity and provided coffee and a snack. When we got home I packed a bag with wash bags, clean t shirts, underwear and snacks for us all. I keep it in the hall cupboard and go through it monthly. I also keep a copy of my sons medical records, so they can be accessed quickly. The last Paramedic we spoke to said he thought it was a great idea for frequent visitors like us! Keep up the good work and hopefully we will all be travelling soon 😀

  2. jan says

    Oregon had many fires the summer of 2020, so my husband and I have packed emergency bags. These bags are tagged with Bright Orange Ribbon in our basement storage area with a reminder note to pick up items from our safe: important documents. Not only do with have clothing in a bag, but the other bag has flashlights and batteries, paper towels, TP, first aid kits, blankets,a collection of photos and cash, etc. I know we could scan photos and put onto a jump drive or dropbox, but we packed a few photos anyway. Cash is important if electricity is out and credit cards cannot be used. We are hopeful that since we planned ahead and we have the room to store the emergency bags that we will NOT have to use them. Covid gave us time to reflect and create this important emergency resource for our family.

    • Brooke says

      Great work, Jan! Yes, I hope that you never have to actually use them, but it’s nice to be prepared 🙂 Good point about cash as well!

  3. stephanie says

    I love this! It’s something my travel-resistant husband has encouraged for years. I appreciate that you encourage us to take stock of what the likely emergencies are (versus my prepared-for-anything-and-everything hubby!). One challenge I always have: how do you rotate things through the go bag so they are fresh? I always run into scenarios like:
    – I’m out of something so I go to the go bag and don’t replace it.
    – I don’t dare touch the go bad so when I need it, the item is out of date, wrong-sized, dried up, or otherwise unusable
    – Remembering to put the new item(s) in the go bag and take the old ones out to use becomes such a hassle that I abandon the concept

    • Brooke says

      Hi Stephanie! All valid issues, and I think I’ll have to put a note in the article for it. I would suggest setting an alarm/schedule an event in your calendar for every 6 or 12 months to freshen up your go bag. You could make it a part of your spring cleaning routine, or maybe it’s something you address each year before hurricane/bushfire season picks up. At that time, buy new toothpaste/medicine/supplies, for example, and put it in the bag and pull out what was in the bag to use up before it goes off.

      As for pulling stuff out of the bag because you’ve run out…. that’s not as easy. If you can consider what’s in the bag as “off limits”, that would be best. Otherwise, only pull something out if you are putting its replacement at the top of your shopping list!

  4. Chantale says

    I started a bug-out bag just a few months ago and find it easier to keep a file with expiration dates for food, medication and toiletries. That way, I don’t have to go through the whole bag everytime to find out what needs to be replaced.

  5. Juliet says

    I agree with packing pet essentials, paperwork and medications in your go bag, but my family and I evacuated Kyiv this past winter and when we landed in the US I wished I hadn’t packed anything that could be replaced. The idea that your things are “just stuff” is true but invalidates how important those things truly are. Pictures of grandparents, the lovey your child has slept with for years or a family heirloom are priceless to have in your go bag if you’ve lost or might lose everything you own. I’d encourage anyone who has to leave home fast to grab small things they love that can never be replaced. Extra underwear/socks can be purchased at Walmart, but the knobby scarf your grandma knit, that preschool ornament that’s been on every Christmas tree you’ve had, or the handmade dish you found while studying abroad cannot.

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