What Should You Take In A Fire Evacuation? 10 Things You'll Need

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In forcing thousands to evacuate from their homes, the wildfires raging in Southern California have highlighted an important issue about natural disaster: When disaster strikes, what do you take with you? Whether forced to leave home because of a fire, a flood, a hurricane, or a tornado, there are certain things experts recommend you take in an evacuation.

On Thursday, officials upgraded evacuation orders from voluntary to mandatory for multiple neighborhoods in Carpinteria, Ventura, Santa Barbara County, and the greater Los Angeles area as high winds made for poor containment conditions and increased the risk of fires spreading. Overall, four major blazes burning in the region have forced nearly 200,000 people to evacuate from their homes, leaving residents to grapple with what to take with them and what to leave behind.

In the midst of an emergency it can often be difficult to think things through clearly and completely, which is why state and federal disaster response agencies recommend planning for a potential evacuation well in advance. So, what's vitally important and what can be left behind? While ensuring the safety of your family should be priority number one in an evacuation, there are other items it may be critical for you to take in an evacuation.  

Here are the things it's recommended you take from your home if you're ever forced to evacuate.

Pets

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For many, pets are a part of the family. So, it goes without saying that they should be at the top of the list when it comes to what you take with you to safety.

To save time when an emergency strikes, the Humane Society recommends creating a pet evacuation kit in advance. Stock it with food for your pet and any other supplies you may need for them like a leash, cage, water, or blanket.

Identification

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Although they are items we carry with us nearly everyday, it can be easy to forget the basics when rushing out the door in a mandatory evacuation. However, it's important to bring forms of identification with you when you're forced to flee your home. Pack your driver's license, passport, and any other critical identification documents you have.

Experts at Everplans, a tech tool designed to help users create secure, digital archives, also recommend keeping some form of proof of address — such as a utility bill — in your evacuation pack as you may be required to show it when looking to gain help or access to your neighborhood after the disaster has passed.

Cash And Credit

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The Department of Homeland Security, which runs Ready.gov, a national public resource to help Americans prepare for and respond to emergencies, recommends keeping cash on hand just for emergency situations as ATMs may not be accessible in an emergency and stores may be unable to take credit cards due to power or system outages.

It's also recommended to take your checkbook and at least one credit card with you in case you need to check into a hotel or make any emergency purchases.

Important Documents

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Be sure to grab any important documents like birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, wills, property deeds, or rental leases, and any other legal, financial, or insurance related paperwork on your way out the door. While you may not need all of these documents in the immediate aftermath of an emergency, you may find them difficult to replace.

Keys

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When evacuating, you should try to bring any important keys with you, such as those to your home, vehicles, office, storage units, or safe deposit boxes. These are things you wouldn't want to lose in an emergency.

Any Needed Medications or Medical Supplies

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While it may sound obvious, medicine can easily slip people's minds when in the midst of an evacuation. But taking any and all needed prescription medication for you, your family members, and even your pets is critical, according to Ready.gov.

Any prescription or over-the-counter medicine used regularly, semi-regularly, or strictly in emergency situations by anyone in your family should be taken in an evacuation. This includes EpiPens and inhalers. You should also take any needed eyeglasses or contact lens supplies.

Hygiene Supplies  

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While you won't want to weigh yourself down with every item in your bathroom, it's not a bad idea to have a few basic hygiene supplies ready to go in your evacuation kit. Pack things like wet wipes, a toothbrush, extra underwear, tampons or menstrual pads, and diapers, if needed, in your preparedness kit so they're easily accessible in an emergency situation.

Basic Supplies

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Other basic supplies the government site Ready.gov recommends you take with you in an evacuation include some food and water, comfortable shoes, a few extra changes of clothing, a jacket for each family member, flashlights, batteries, a hand crank radio, and sleeping bags or blankets.

Electronics

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While it's not recommended to risk your personal safety for a few electronic items, grabbing your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer, external hard drive, and any needed chargers if time allows could save you a headache in the future. It may also make it easier for you to contact others.

Irreplaceable "Comfort" Items or Keepsakes

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Grab comfort items and sentimental keepsakes only if time allows. Focus on things that are irreplaceable, like photos of with there are no digital copies, family heirlooms, a child's favorite toy, or valuable collectibles.

Remember, Your Safety Comes First

Although it may be tempting to try and take every last thing with you when ordered to evacuate, remember that your safety and the safety of your family come first. Don't put yourself or your family in harm's way just so you can rescue a few material items. In many situations, things can be replaced.