FEMA and Ready.gov have done a great job with the Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed campaign–although I do wish they changed kit to plural, as in “Get Kits”. The need for multiple kits–and setting that expectation upfront–is simple. In addition to a substantial kit at home, most folks need small kits for their office and car that consist of a change of clothes, extra medication, some money, a little food/water, flashlight, and other essentials for a quick shelter-in-place or a short-term evacuation.

Below are examples of other kits you might need as well.

Kit of Last Resort
If you live in an area that experiences wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tsunami, volcanoes, or other hazard that comes with some forewarning and requires an evacuation from your home, you may need to develop an evacuation kit that is a little different than the run-of-the-mill emergency kit. This kit, which I lovingly call a “kit of last resort”, includes items that you might need/want if you have reason to believe your home won’t be there when you come back. The idea behind this kit is that you’re not just planning to take items for survival, but vital records, a few items of nostalgia (such as pictures, heirlooms, etc), and items that you don’t want to lose permanently (such as jewelry, laptop/harddrives/electronic media, etc). Clearly, the mode of transportation you have will influence what you can take (since a Hummer has a different cargo capacity than a unicycle). In this kit, you might be able to pack a lot more clothing and take items that you might not normally consider for a smaller kit. When I think of applications for this kind of kit/collection, I remember when I was growing up in California and wildfires would approach a community, there was always a live shot of folks hastily packing their cars in response to a mandatory evacuation order. The absolute last minute is not the best time to determine what you absolutely need to take with you.

Tornado Shelter Kit
For those that live in areas that experience tornadic activity and must relocate to a community shelter during tornado warnings, it may be best to have a separate kit specifically for sheltering from a tornado.

Potential items to include:

  • Small amounts of food/water
  • Medication and small first aid kit
  • Work clothing/personal protective equipment (like sturdy boots, gloves, eye protection) in case your home is damaged when you return to it.
  • Vital records (in case your home is damaged/destroyed. Vital records should include insurance documentation, financial information, identification)
  • Cell phone charger (if possible, a hand-crank or solar charger as well)
  • LED flashlight and glow sticks
  • Tools/multi-tool to turn off utilities
  • Camera (to document damage)
  • Small personal address book with phone numbers/addresses you can call (both to let loved ones know that you’re ok, but also if you need to arrange shelter/lodging)
  • If you have jewelry/cash that you don’t want to lose, then the safest spot may be with you in a locked pouch.

What’s in your kit and what other hazard-specific kits might be helpful? Feel free to leave comments with other items you recommend including in your emergency/evacuation kit!