How prepared are you for an emergency?

Those of you that have read my blog for sometime know I like to be prepared.  Sometimes annoyingly so.  For instance, I’m not a light packer.

I continually over pack because I want to be prepared for whatever might come my way.  You need it I’ve got it.  Take a hike with me and need a bandaid, no problem, I’m your girl.  Bug spray, suntan lotion, hairspray, snack, I’ve got you covered.  I pack for weather changes, traffic delays (especially things to keep the kids occupied) and sick kids.  I’m constantly thinking ahead trying to anticipate every move.  Sometimes it can be exhausting but in my defense this OCD of mine has rescued me on more than one occasion.  However that doesn’t stop my girlfriends from mocking me about it.  You should have seen the ribbing I got for the vehicle storage video I did!   Such nice friends I have 🙂

However for as much as I think I might be prepared for life’s little quirks, I don’t think I’m near ready for what I might do if a natural disaster came my way.  This past week I was blessed to be able to volunteer my organizing skills to help pack up two trailers of donations for the victims who recently lost their homes to the wildfires in my province (thankfully no lives were lost).  Many people had little to no warning that they needed to evacuate and left with only the clothes on their backs.  The stories are devastating.

It’s really gotten me thinking about what I would grab if I only had 5 or 10 minutes to get out of my home (other than my family and pets of course).  What would I want to take and is it readily accessible to do so? Of course the first thing I thought of, as did many of the ladies that responded when I asked on Facebook, are my pictures.  Pictures are not replaceable and I’d be very sad to lose them.  I do have all my digital photos backed up on CD and stored in a fireproof safe however all my pictures from before I went digital are in photo albums on my shelf.  There is no way I’d have time to pack them all up to take with me.  It would take too long and they’d be too heavy.  I would have to leave them behind or do something about it now to ensure they are more portable.

I was thinking I might like to scan them all onto CD and store them as well but that could take ages to do.  So I’m considering using a photo scanning service to help me get organized in this area.  I will let you know how my experience with that goes.  Has anyone else used such a service and if so what was your experience?

I think as long as I had the safe, my laptop and wallet, we’d be okay since the safe also holds our important documentation like birth certificates, insurance papers (including video of household contents for insurance) and health cards.  All things needed to put the pieces of one’s life back together again.

Other things like the kid’s keepsakes and memory binders, I would be okay to leave behind but something like that might be more important to you.  It will be different for everyone.  It’s figuring these things out ahead of time and taking the necessary steps to protect what’s most valuable to you while you are still able to think clearly.

I think having one spot for vital paperwork is a step in the right direction.  During an emergency we simply may not have time to run around the house collecting it all. Collecting this information together in one place into a safety deposit box, home safe, binder or even file folder is a great place to start for peace of mind.

Paperwork to consider:

  • birth certificates
  • passports
  • marriage license
  • copy of driver’s license
  • medical information
  • description/video of household contents
  • insurance papers (life and home)
  • financial information including account numbers and mortgage details
  • cash
  • health cards
  • copy of Will
  • social security cards

How prepared are your pictures and paperwork?  What things can you do now to help you become more prepared?


FREE Printable Emergency Checklist

For assistance gathering your information check out the Prepared Binder *

An alternative that provides you a way to document your home and possessions online – DocuHome *

* these aren’t products I’ve used nor are they affiliate links.  I just thought they looked helpful.

PS:  I understand many natural disasters give you no warning at all and in that case no amount of preparedness will help.  In this post I’m mainly referring to the ones that give you a teeny tiny bit of notice.

Filed under: Lists, Pictures


28 Responses to How prepared are you for an emergency?

  1. 1
    Adriana says

    I actually have a list of things to grab in an emergency, and I keep it in a red folder in my desk. I figure in a true emergency one may not think rationally. So I wrote out my plan.
    EX. Emergency evacaution plan
    If leaving by car:
    *take dog on leash, dog food to car
    *get purse, put keys cells wallets and camera inside (yes my camera is that important)
    *get accordion file (I have all important papers, birth certs etc. in one place)

    etc… then I also have an emergency plan if we have to leave on foot- means less time and less amount of things to take with me.

  2. 3
    Susie's Homemade says

    I am prepared with my paperwork but not my old pictures:-( Thanks for the reminder!

  3. 5
    Sally says

    We came very close to losing our home in the 2009 Glenrosa fire near Kelowna…we are talking a quarter mile away then the wind changed (thank god)…we werent home at the time but they let us back in due to my mother home alone & she didnt drive…we had 10 mins to get stuff and go…I didnt have my photos backed up on disk either so we took our computer towers, the 2 huge rubbermaid bins of old photos, the cat, some quickly grabbed clothes, a few things my daughter asked us to grab as she was at work and we left…Since then I have transferred all my old photos into those photo boxes dated by decade, which take up so much less room and all my digital photos are on disk…As far as my paperwork goes, well I didnt take anything then but I certainly have changed where I keep those so they are easily accessed…Just so you are aware though, your insurance agent does always have a record of your policy so if that is something you forget and need to use, its just a phone call away…

  4. 6
    Princess Christy says

    Thanks for posting this – I never thought about a copy of my driver’s license in the fireproof box, because I always grab my purse on the way out the door. Definitely going to fix that oversight!

  5. 7
    The Happy Mother says

    This is such a great post! We spent a number of evenings in the basement this spring because of tornadoes and that really got me thinking. I bought a fire proof box to put important papers in, but I haven’t filled it yet because I wasn’t sure what to put in it. Now I know!
    I won’t bring photos as I have them all on my computer, plus I have Carbonite, so I know they are saved elsewhere.

  6. 8
    Leigh says

    When we had to evacuate our apartment at 3 am when the fire alarms went off, besides pants, the only thing I grabbed was my important papers file (pretty much everything on your list) and put it in my tote bag with my wallet etc. I still keep pretty much everything in that file.

    My cousin was evacuated from his apartment in NY on 9/11 amid the dust. He grabbed a towel, bottle of water and his laptop.

    My Mum lives in wildfire country and all season she keeps two boxes banker’s boxes packed with the most important photo albums, heirloom books etc so if they need to bug out in five minutes she can just grab them an go.

  7. 9
    Sara says

    I live in an area of Australia that is quite prone to both cyclones (hurricanes) and flooding. (usually both together!)
    If you haven’t seen anything about Cyclone Yasi, that hit Australia earlier this year, I really reccommend you look it up. The storm system was almost the size of the entire USA, and it was rated as category 5; the strongest there is.
    The cyclone’s eye passed around 350miles away from us, but we still felt the force of around a category 3 storm, so we were bunkered down indoors, with taped windows and our patio furniture in the pool.
    I have an emergency kit that’s always packed up into a big plastic tub that sits in my linen closet. I keep:
    bottled water, toilet paper, candles, matches AND lighters, batteries, battery radio, first aid kit, a blanket, several torches, pencil case with pens, scissors, markers and stapler, toothpaste and a pack of new toothbrushes, floss, babywipes, sun screen, insect repellant, sanitary pads/tampons, and finally, a USB stick with scans of all important documents.
    I also have a separate kit that I make up fresh every year for the storm season with tinned food and clothes.
    If we ever have to evacuate, these 2 tubs hold just about everything that’s not in my purse.
    My partner calls me crazy, but I would rather be safe in the knowledge that if anything happens, we’ll be ok.

  8. 10
    Karen Joyce says

    You know, I really needed this message right now. I have two sturdy duffel bags and four jumbo ziploc bags sitting in the living room mocking me for not filling them! The theory was that I would use the Boy Scout method of putting an outfit in each ziploc bag. That would mean my son and I would each have two outfits packed. (The bags keep the clothes clean, dry and free from odors.)
    Besides outfits, the bags were to contain anything we would need in true emergency that could be stored in a car. But these also need to be things we don’t use every day.I also have buckets with lids and extra backpacks for the emergency transport of first aid and medications. There is a rudimentary first aid kit in the car~ Matt needed to make one to earn something in Cub Scouts. But it is very basic. If we had to leave home, I would want cold meds, extra band-aids, ace bandages, etc.
    Unfortunately for the decor of my living room, I have delegated a corner to bug-out prepping! If I would just push myself to finish it, the mess might turn into a couple backpacks hidden neatly in a cupboard!
    All our originals of our documents are in my portable fire box. I made sure it was light enough to carry for a while. But, if I had to leave on foot, it would have to be emptied into another ziploc for the sake of my back.
    ‘m sort of in limbo… I have all the components of a good bug-out kit, but haven’t put them all together!

  9. 11
    Jenna says

    Great topic…with all of the recent natural disasters going on around the world, especially those close to home, this has been on my mind!

    Although I plan to consolidate all important information in one easy-to-grab place, I also am trying to figure out the best way to keep another copy of this information in case I’m not home and am not able to recover the information. I plan to look into some secure online back-up services, but I also may just go low-tech and see if my parents wouldn’t mind storing a copy of the important documents at their home. They live about 4 hours away, so it’s hard to imagine a natural disaster would affect both places at once.

    I think also having a small amount of cash on hand would be a good idea, especially if you don’t typically carry cash. This would include either some change or a calling card in case you need to make phone calls from a pay-phone. Speaking of phones, you might also want to write down emergency contact numbers if they’re stored in your cell phone and don’t have them memorized.

  10. 12
    Shannon says

    I kind of figure if I grab my daughter, my purse, the computer and the external drive and maybe our “kitchen book” we’d be okay…

    My parents and sister were in Kelowna for the 2003 firestorms and were evacuated two or three times…I’ve forgotten now. My mom was worried about the fires days before they were evacuated the first time and they started moving things out of the house and into my dad’s office in town. In the end, two pieces of heirloom furniture and all our sentimental stuff – photos (my dad takes slides), my mom’s wedding dress, the baby crib my dad made for me when I was young – were in the office and safe.

    The last time they were evacuated, they drove away knowing they’d never see their house again and they were okay with it. They had the important stuff. But guess what? The wind changed direction and the rain came and they’re still living in that house.

    My mom has a list inside one of the cupboards in the kitchen of what to grab if they are on 15 minute, 30 minute, 2 hour or 5 hour notice (the last time they had a knock on their door and had to leave. NOW) and we all know where to find it if we’re visiting. Because my dad took slides, they invested in some large trunks and the slides are now stored in there. The trunks are labeled with big red Es (for evacuation) just in case in the moment someone forgets. [My dad has stared the long and tedious project of scanning all of those slides…over 100 carousels of 100 plus some that are still in the sleeves)

    It’s probably time that we got a list ready too…

  11. 13
    MemeGRL says

    We also have copies of all those important papers with my in-laws and a sister-in-law in two different towns so if disaster strikes while we are not at home, or if it strikes too fast, we have an off-site location to access our paperwork.

    And would believe I never thought to add the laptop to the emergency grab list?! Thanks–always good to revisit these lists.

  12. 14
    Stephanie says

    I work with people with disabilities, and we recommend that they have copies of all prescriptions included in a Ziploc bag, as well as laminated instructions – attached to wheelchair or walker – about any special considerations (e.g. chair needs to be recharged every X hours].

  13. 15
    Sinea Pies says

    I had not always been so prepared but when my husband had 3 heart attacks, I learned to get all of his medical records organized in a binder, which I carried to each hospital and doctor’s visit. It is amazing how the proper paperwork does NOT follow the patient from doctor to doctor like you think it should. It saved us much valuable time to have it with us.

  14. 16
    se7en says

    I have always thought about this, my husband and I went on a first aid course at the local fire station when we were first married. And I keep our photos in a safe and accessible place. But I have to say, the house behind our burnt down last winter and it was so quick… From the first twinge of smoke, I ran around the house from the front door to the back… and their house was literally gone. If our house were to catch alight I know that all I could do would be to catch my kids and scramble out… It was a real shocker and seriously it is just stuff. People before things.

  15. 17
    Julie says

    HI Laura,
    I live in Oklahoma which has long been considered tornado alley. As a matter of fact, we are in a tornado watch right now as I write this. I started about 3 years ago putting together what I call our “Grab and Go Kit” I put it together around the first of April with paperwork, extra checks, charger cords for cell phones, cameras, etc. Today, because of the situation, I threw in our meds, checkbooks, password book for computer passwords, cameras, video cameras, etc. I use a scrapbook container on wheels so it makes it easier to get around with. The important papers, etc. are already down in the “fraidy hole” in the garage. We are ready to go at a moment’s notice. If you like, I can forward you my list.

  16. 18
    Odette says

    I don’t think anyone responded about using a photo scanning service. I have had almost all of my photos scanned by DigMyPics dot com. I had to do them in batches because I had so many. Also, they do all kinds of formats. It’s NOT cheap, but well worth it. Highly recommend.

  17. 19
    Becky L. says

    I have alot of photos on CD in a case that is accessible to quick carry, also laptop. I have a camera I’d grab as well. Need batteries and chargers. Both my cameras have specific batteries so it would be wise to have at least one extra.
    I think photocopying highlights of your children’s photo albums, like birth and a few other things would be good and put in plastic report covers that are archival safe. Put in binder. A thought.
    We have so much we want to keep but we can’t take it with us in emergency, we have our memories, which is important!

  18. 20
    kelsey moran says

    i think its important to organize emergency needs by how much time you have. this is a great list if you only have minutes, but what if you have hours? we have 72 hour kits under the stairs by the door with food, change of clothes, and other emergency needs. you probably have already thought of this, and maybe you already have a post about this (im still new to your blog), but just something to think about addressing this on your blog. 🙂

  19. 21
    Patti says

    Most of our identifying documents are all in one place…an easy to carry place.The rest are in my purse…also in an easy to carry place and kept in the same spot. I’ve always thought I was disorganized in this aspect, but really I’m not…one place to grab the important stuff and the rest in my daily bag. We’ve also taken to copying pictures onto a hard drive and then to CD and giving a copy to my in laws…just in case. We do that once a year. I felt like we were paranoid, but I couldn’t stand to lose those photos.

    The fires in Slave Lake make me want to make more copies, my wedding photos were before the digital age and I just never got around to scanning them. I will do that this week.

  20. 22
    Brenda says

    My husband is very ill so I too have OCD – after spending a few frightful days watching him in ICU with a vent because they couldn’t get his records I now scan all his medical records on a flash (with a CD backup) and keep the flash with me and the CD backup in our emergency E bag.

    I also keep a copy of our drivers lic, ss card, etc. on a flash. Pics are also on a flash and I have taken the time to get almost all my old pics scanned (goal for the end of the year).

    Don’t forget a checkbook too. We keep one from each account in our E bag. Our local college offered a 6 week course on disaster. Best class we ever took.

    Yes it takes times I feel certain that I could at least start to handle any disaster that comes my way.

  21. 23
    Debbi Does Dinner Healthy says

    Excellent tips. We have backpacks with some minor essentials all set up for whatever emergency might happen. Great idea on the copy of insurance and drivers license, I have the other things though in a file.

  22. 24
    Christine says

    We have all the paperwork in an envelope ready to go. We also have a “launchpad” for keys, wallets, etc. so we can grab and go. My photos were a big concern though because I would loose everything before 2001. I have a beautiful built-in that I created for my albums. I have black canvas boxes that perfectly fit the books. This means they are hardly noticeable on the shelf. The boxes fit open on their side. The family knows that if we need to go, the kids get in the car or go to the emergency spot first. When safe, adults can pick up the boxes. The ones closest to the door go first. I’ve checked. Five boxes fit in the car with all people and other necessities put in first.

  23. 25
    JB Jackson says

    You might want to consider adding Solar Lights, ones like we put outside. Ones you can obtain at Wal-mart, $1 stores. These are great for power outages, even nite lights. They are cheap, lightweight and small. I had one hidden in a vase of artifical flowers in front of window. Made an attractive nite light. Used these in the Storm shelter during Tornado. Works great.

  24. 26
    Mindy says

    One thing I did not see listed (and sorry if missed it) but CASH!

  25. 27
    Natalie says

    Use Carbonite (or another one) to back up your computer and all digital photos. It backs up all files you choose. This is the best way to get everything in one place. I also have a scanner that I use to scan my favorite kid art that I might miss in a bug out situation.

  26. 28
    Shannon Clough says

    Most of these comments are sentimential, but when crisis occurs it is essential to get down to neccesitites. Photos won’t help you in an emergency situation. Step away from sentiment and deal with reality. What is needed for survival? Great if you have photos backed-up on CD’s, but then what? Do you have an emergency prepardness kit? Most do not, Follow advice from those who have been there. A “flee bag” is essential, a back pack with essentials in case of emergency, that can be thrown on the back and flee. A storage unit for emergencies is wise, if confined to an area or your residence. Three days supplies of non-parishable food and water is recommended. Fairly simple to obtain, yes a little extra for supplies, but—-o so worth it for your family. A smaller verison of your kit for the car, check out what is essential. Plan to prepare—it’s not if it happens but—when!


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