I recently read a supposed true anecdote about a woman who told her daughter she escaped a fire in her apartment and was able to save her new swimming suit. The daughter questioned her about why, with all the valuables in her home, she chose to save a swimming suit. The woman said, “Now that I’ve finally find a one-piece suit that doesn’t make me look fat I sure don’t want to lose it!”
Good question: What would you consider your must-save possessions?
If you and I are fortunate we will never have an emergency that requires us to evacuate our homes hurriedly–perhaps in the middle of the night with no lights to assist us as we leave. However, it does happen to some people and could happen to us for any of dozens of reasons. When it does, we want to be able to make a quick getaway and be prepared for “what do we do next?”
Two categories of items for an emergency:
1. Emergency Supplies (Food, water, personal care items, health needs,etc.)
2. A Quick Getaway Kit (Identification and financial items needed to travel, relocate or conduct personal business in an emergency.)
One way to consider what emergency supplies you would need and what you would want to have in your Quick Getaway Kit is to think about the varied situations that might require them:
- Fires, floods and natural disasters that might damage or destroy anything left behind.
- Power, water supply and public safety emergencies.
- An event that makes your home uninhabitable.
- An event that prevents you from leaving your home to purchase needed items.
- Any emergency requiring you to leave immediately and for an extended time–perhaps far away from your residence, city or even your state.
- Any situation where needed services (banks, stores and offices) are unable to be open for business.
- An emergency–natural, accidental or medical–requiring immediate access to key information.
Emergency supplies: Many government websites have lists of proposed emergency supplies. The lists may look voluminous but you probably have many of the items already and will not have a difficult time maintaining them in a ready condition. These can literally be life-savers if you must evacuate your home or if you are trapped or stranded. They certainly can make life more comfortable and tolerable in those situations.
A Quick Getaway Kit: Consider using see-through storage bags, sturdy over-sized envelopes, or metal fire-resistant boxes for each person in your family. Keep the items in a secured and concealed location, but where you can quickly grab them and leave your house in an emergency. Among the things you would want to have available:
1. Identification and records that are sufficient for immediate needs: Passport, birth certificate or other identification.
2. Health and home insurance and other registration cards that might be useful.
2. A few checks.
3. Enough cash to be able to stay at a motel, get gasoline or buy food, and enough change for vending machines. You do not need an exceptionally large amount, perhaps a hundred dollars in ten dollar bills, and five dollars in change. Even if you have credit cards you may find you need cash–especially in an emergency. Some emergency planners suggest keeping one credit card solely for serious emergency situations.
4. A checklist with locations of other items to be taken if time and circumstances allow–or to allow others to be able to find them at a later time if you cannot assist.
5. Useful keys.
6. An emergency contact list with the phone number of your insurance agent, family members, coworkers and others.
7. Any other documents or items you want to be able to easily locate and take with you in an emergency.
Some emergency preparedness sites suggest keeping a duffel bag with essential items of clothing and toiletries in the same general location as your Quick Getaway Kit, in case you do not have time to get to other emergency supplies. As with all plans, your personal situation is the key to deciding what you will need.
Secure your Quick Getaway Kit. This kit will have essential personal and financial information, so keep it in a concealed, secure location. A good general rule is to keep your kit as high up as practical on the ground level of the house, in a container or location that does not signal, “Important papers kept here.” For example, consider the top shelf of a pantry or cupboard. If you want to keep the items in your file drawers, keep them in a folder or envelope marked in an unexciting way. (When I had an open office and knew that files of other supervisors had been rifled, I kept private documents in a folder marked, “Odometer Records”.)
Perhaps the biggest benefit to planning what you would need in your Quick Getaway Kit is that it makes you pause to evaluate the status of your emergency planning. It also will ensure that you have vital documents, items and information in a secured location instead of in drawers and files all over the house. This weekend, set aside time to plan and prepare for an emergency. A Quick Getaway Kit is a good way to start.