What to Pack During a Hurricane Evacuation
There are many reasons for evacuating during a hurricane. If you live on an island or area where a storm surge is likely, in a low-lying area, in a mobile home near the coast or if your home is not properly reinforced for a hurricane, you’ll likely experience an evacuation at some point.
You should take evacuations especially seriously if local officials recommend or order residents to leave. If you don’t choose to evacuate, you should at least take steps to be prepared for the storm.
When you decide to evacuate, there’s a lot going on and a lot for you to think about. To help alleviate some of that stress, we’ve compiled a list of what safety experts recommend packing during a hurricane evacuation.
A grab-and-go kit
The Department of Homeland Security recommends having an emergency supply kit readily accessible so that you can evacuate more quickly. The kit should include some essential items that you’d need to live comfortably for an indefinite amount of time. Some of these items include:
- Cash or travelers checks
- Important family documents and mementos like copies of insurance policies, birth certificates, vehicle titles, social security cards, financial records (including current tax year receipts), a copy of your apartment lease, wills or trusts, personal photos and irreplaceable letters
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Extra batteries
- Important contact information for family and friends (in case your cell phone dies)
- Extra checks if you keep a checkbook
- Extra copies of your home, office and car keys
Keep these items in a predetermined, consolidated location (a marked, sealed rubber tub is ideal) to ensure that you don’t forget anything important when considering what to take with you during a hurricane evacuation. You will be stressed, so this will make it easier for you.
There are a few other important evacuation items you'll want to gather that probably won't be in your grab-and-go bag. They include:
- Prescription medications, daily supplements and medical equipment like CPAPs
- Valuable jewelry, wedding photos and videos, letters or other important personal mementos not in your grab-and-go bag
- Computer and power cord, or external backup drive
- Small electronics, like cameras or tablets, and their charging cords
- Charge cards you don't keep in your wallet (or copies of both sides)
- Small irreplaceable art or collectibles with value (or lock them in a high, safe place away from potential flooding and looters)
- Diapers, baby products and something with which to entertain children
- Pet food and supplies
- Your own bed pillow (if you have space)
- Any small devices you regularly use for pain relief
- Toiletries, especially any expensive items
- Any cremains you keep in your apartment (seal tightly with tape or plastic wrap before moving)
Remember: Anything left behind could be damaged by the storm. It's a good idea to take photos of your apartment interior, should you have to file a renters insurance claim on your contents. If you live near the coast and flooding could happen, move water-sensitive items off the floor and onto counters or tables, especially if they have power cords.
If you're traveling with small valuables and staying in a hotel, someone should stay with those items at all times, or you should lock them in your hotel safe so nothing is stolen.
A full guide on what to pack in an emergency supply kit can be found on Ready.gov, the official site of the Department of Homeland Security.
Your phone and a battery-powered radio
Your phone will be vital for getting storm updates, finding shelters if necessary, and communicating your status with family and loved ones. PACK YOUR CHARGERS.
If your phone dies and you don’t have access to a working electrical outlet to charge it, a battery-powered radio can help you get instructions that are broadcast via local radio stations.
Local shelters can be located using the FEMA mobile app on your phone. You can also text SHELTER and your zip code (i.e. SHELTER 12345) to 4FEMA (43362) to find open emergency shelters in your area.
While preparing your family and thinking about what to bring during a hurricane evacuation, you may overlook your pets. There are specific guidelines for handling emergency situations with animals.
Pets cannot fend for themselves against flooding and other damage that results from a hurricane. Additionally, you may not be able to enter your town for up to 10 days after evacuation.
It’s also a good idea to pack physical copies of recent photos of you and your pets so you can prove ownership should you become separated. Chip your pet if you have time before you go.
A full tank of gas
Ok, so this is not so much something you “pack”, but it is important to have. During a storm, gas stations may be closed, inoperable or – as is often the case – simply out of gas. Make sure you have a full tank of gas in your car AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. You want to avoid gas station lines, which only get longer as the storm gets closer.
It’s also wise to keep jumper cables, emergency flares, a jug of water, an extra can of oil and a map in your vehicle when you’re planning to evacuate.
Clothing and shoes
Packing clothes for a hurricane evacuation is different than packing for a vacation. There are special considerations you’ll need to keep in mind.
As a starting point, you should pack at least two changes of clothing, plus sleepwear, for each member of the family. Extra clothing items you might want to consider include rain boots, hats, sunglasses and closed-toe shoes for when you return. A good pair of work gloves might come in handy. Fabrics which can be rinsed out and dry quickly are a help if you're staying in a hotel. One set of workout clothes and shoes could help alleviate some stress. You might also benefit from having a swimsuit, at least for your kids.
Keep in mind, you cannot predict the direction or impact of a storm so it’s always good practice to stay prepared with one rubber tub of "hurricane food" if you live on the coast. Great items include jerky, dried fruit, nuts, energy bars, canned meats, canned pasta or soup.
At the minimum, you should pack enough non-perishable food and water for 72 hours for each member of the family. Also, don’t forget to pack utensils. Paper plates and paper towels come in handy if you're staying in a shelter or hotel.
Throw away any meat or dairy in your refrigerator or freezer before you leave. If your apartment goes without power for more than a few days, it will rot and your refrigerator may have to be replaced.
Self care after evacuation
"Storms are stressful and evacuation naturally brings a lot of extra worry with it," says Apartment Guide editor Libby McMillan, who evacuated several times while living on a barrier island in Florida. "Be kind to yourself when you can. Whatever typically calms you, try to do that each day after departure, whether it's yoga, drinking herbal tea, taking a warm bath or watching a comedy. And most importantly," she advises, "take a break from the news once in a while. Try to remember that ratings are dependent on drama."
Evacuating for a hurricane can seem scary. Though the impact of a major storm can be significant, being proactive and evacuating is one of the most clear-cut ways to stay safe.