Evacuating your home 101 – The evacuation plan

Wood storage box

Wooden boxes are the most durable option

(If you jumped into this series on this post, you’ll want to head back to the beginning so it makes sense.  The first post in the series can be foundhere, then follow the links for the rest of the series.)

Let’s start with a quick overview of the module or Box categories:

Don’t worry, we’ll go into much more depth in each of these.

  1. The 72- Hour Kit – (personal comfort and health; change of clothes, water, food, light)
  2. The Car Kit – (maintain the vehicle, facilitate travel: maps, tools, water, blankets)
  3. The Nuclear Kit  (shudder…preparations specific to nuclear events and radiation exposure)
  4. The Water Box – (additional 5 -10 gallons of drinking water per person)
  5. The Portable office – (continuity of family financial obligation and resources, account info)
  6. The Camping Box – ( cook, bathe, sleep, shelter, laundry all under camping conditions)
  7. The Family First-Aid Box -( maintain health despite injury or illness)
  8. Personal Wardrobe(s) – (one suitcase per person: clothing for an extended absence)
  9. The Kitchen Box – (basic cooking and eating utensils, to restock a kitchen if needed)
  10. The Cream of the Pantry – (up to 1 month supply of non-refrigerated foods for your family)
  11. The Traveler’s Workshop – (optimized collection of tools, sewing and repair supplies)
  12. The Library – ( your most valuable reference books, diaries, genealogy etc.
  13. The Treasures – (other valuables, box for each category: hobby, heirlooms etc)

The Philosophy

Once you have this plan in place, the only difference between one emergency and another, before driving to safety, is how much time you have to load.

The essential elements of and evacuation are:

  1. Surprise, not expecting it.
  2. More work to do than time available
  3. Travel (possibly difficult)
  4. Potential loss of what is left behind

So how do we overcome these elements?

  • Surprise is handled by assuming something bad could happen and preparing for it NOW, not waiting to be blindsided.
  • The work/time ratio is fixed by organizing and packing now so that when the event happens, all we have left to do is load, shut off the utilities, lock up, and leave.
  • We overcome the challenges of travel by always keeping the gas tank at least 1/2 full, by preparing boxes with travel in mind, and by leaving earlier than the masses because we are prepared to go.
  • Losses are minimized by prioritizing, and focusing on preserving the highest value items.

Because we are less surprised, we will think much more clearly and avoid the problems associated with traumatic brain mush, and can make better decisions.  Because we have less work to do, we are less tired accident prone.  Because we are ready to travel, we are much more likely to make good our escape.  Because we have preserved those things with the highest value, we suffer as little, and recover as quickly, as possible.

How much does it cost?

The cost of implementing this plan is very slight in every respect.  You must buy or make the containers, which is negligible in comparison with your estate.  You must go through and organize your possessions – which will repay you for the time spent through the efficiencies of being well-organized.  It may sound like living out of boxes, but you already live out of boxes, (drawers, cupboards, cabinets, shelves) they’re just not good boxes for traveling.  Discretely implemented, no one visiting your home will ever suspect that you could be out of it with most of your wealth intact in an hour’s time.

What kind of “Boxes” should I use?

During times of plenty, gather suitable containers and put together the boxes listed above.  They may be actual boxes of any construction, or they may be buckets, cans, duffel bags, or tote pans.  Containers may be any size or shape, but boxes smaller than a shoe box should go inside a larger container, and none should be so large or heavy when full that one person cannot safely lift carry and load them.  Remember that mom might be home alone and have to load the car herself. Because you may have to leave during, or travel through a rainstorm, cardboard is not recommended.  When wet. corrugated cardboard falls apart, then you have no box.

Rubbermaid plastic totes

Non-secured lids

In addition, to labeling, color coding would be helpful, or selecting a distinct kind of container, unlike your usual storage boxes.  Other qualities that are of value are:

  • Lockable and secure
  • Waterproof
  • Lids that won’t blow off going down the highway
  • Unbreakable (some light plastic totes are brittle and easily broken, especially in cold weather)

Rubbermaid roughneck totes are durable but the lids are not secure, which isn’t a problem in a car or van but might be in a pick up bed.

Rubbermaid action packer with lid that clamps down

A better option if it will be in a truck bed or open trailer

A folding  table among your camping supplies is its own box and needs no other. Likewise a sleeping bag rolled up in a canvas, a water cooler, or bicycle, need no further packaging.

There is nothing sacred about these thirteen box titles.  It would be reasonable for some families to combine two or three categories in one box, for instance, or have several boxes for one category, or leave out a category (but keep the first 6 for sure)  You may want to rename them. The camping equipment might be several containers and each person will  have their own wardrobe box.  Each child might have 2 boxes: a 72-hour kit box and another box for clothes, special toys, and toiletries.

New categories are fair game.  If half of your good clothes are in the laundry at any one time, you may wish to have a designated laundry bag next to the washer, the plan being that all the dirty clothes will be crammed into the bag and the bag tossed into the back seat in a an evacuation.  (Yet another reason to keep the laundry current,  which I struggle with on a daily basis with 8 bodies in the family)  Tossing the laundry in the bag would take less than a minute, if it’s on your checklist, and you have the container ready.  Call it the “Laundry Box”  A large black plastic garbage bag is better than no container and it will hold a lot of clothes and bedding.

Laundry bag placed in laundry room for quick cramming if needed for evacuation

Added category, if you are like me and always have piles of laundry ready for washing

Use what containers you have now, and replace them as you have opportunity.  I have found several sturdy duffel bags and wooden boxes at our local thrift store.  They always have lots of functional suitcases too.

These named containers are the plan. You organize them and they in turn organize you. They become the structure of our preparation.

Making sure they  fit

First… listen closely, are you listening?  Start with the containers that you have….now you may read on.  When most or all the containers have been collected, while they are still empty, try packing them in your current vehicle as you would in an evacuation.  If they all fit, that’s great.  If not, now is the time to work out that problem; either by getting a larger vehicle or by agreeing to smaller or fewer boxes.

For the things of high value that are too heavy or too big to take, always have a plan.  Doing nothing is a  plan if you have made that decision ahead of time other than by default.  or you may wish to upgrade that plan by devising ways to secure those items at home.

After the containers are organized, they are not necessarily set aside in isolation, but may be routinely used from.  It is even permissible in some instances to merely keep the empty container nearby, An empty tote in the pantry, for example can be filled in thirty seconds and taken out to the car, but not if you have to go looking for it, or haven’t decided beforehand what to put in it.

When it is necessary to evacuate, start with box #1, then #2 etc.,  and load them into the vehicle in order.  Try to arrange them so that at least the first 3 are ready to access while driving.  If you run out of time, or space in the vehicle, before loading all, stop, lock up the house, and go.  By loading the boxes in the proper order you leave with the most important things even if your packing time is cut short.

Remember that decisions consume time, so make as many of those decisions as possible before hand, while you have plenty of time (ok, maybe not plenty, but at least it’s less stressful time).  Remember also that the dreaded T.I.B.M. (trauma induced brain mush) will set in and remembering things will be tough if not impossible, when the pressure is on.

This mother video is a great example of  brain mush.  Watch the mom and how she is so scattered, and this is just a drill.  She ended up getting an A grade..hmm, I think they must be grading on a curve.

Evacuations are High-risk activities.  You , your neighbors, your machines, any animals in the environment, all government officials, and even the roads — all are operating outside their normal limits.  Chances of a vehicle breakdown are higher, and odds of getting help are lower, in an atmosphere of panic and  competition.  Conflicts, accidents, misdeeds, miscalculation, and misjudgments will characterize the experience.  There is a sense in which you will be risking your life for everything you take with you, and  putting everything you take, at risk.  weight and volume add up.

Don’t take anything that:

  • will be safer left at home
  • that isn’t worth the effort, expense, space or risk
  • that doesn’t have an excellent chance of surviving the trip
  • that will make the roads dangerous for others

If you plan to tie luggage or other items on a roof rack, or load a pickup above the side panels, get your ropes ready now and learn to tie good knots.  It makes no sense to haul your precious belongings out of the house ahead of a fire only to scatter them along the highway, torpedo-ing the cars behind you, because you didn’t have enough rope ready, or couldn’t make a knot in synthetic rope that would keep the line tight.  if you don’t know 12 knots by name, or are unclear about the difference between a bend and a hitch, you probably have some homework to do here.  If you can’t tie a reliable knot in total darkness, you don’t really know it.

Phew..now on to the detailed description of the boxes.










  1. jani lebaron says:

    Great post. We made lock down kits for our kids to keep in there backpack in case of a school lockdown. They actually had to use it and were grateful they had it.

  2. Mey says:

    Just perused your list briefly and will do a better job later.
    We have to evac all the time here and I have a similar system set up. But this is a great way to revamp the old system and reconstruct my evac plan.

    You will also like to see flyladydotnet “11 steps to preparedness” it is a great little mantra that is good for filling those boxes.

    • Andrea says:

      Just curious, Why do you have to evacuate all the time. Sounds like a place I wouldn’t want to be living in. Please tell me more. By the way, I LOVE flylady…it’s a bit overwhelming sometimes but she has some great stuff. Thanks for visiting and tell me more about your situation.

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