Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Emergency planning - the evacuation bag

When I first set up our evacuation bag, the boys were quite little.  Too little to carry their own bags.  So I set up an area in the basement with things I could carry in a tote, and then some empty bags in case there was time to pack some more items.

Recently, I was reading this post/article and it really made me think.  The boys are definitely able to help carry some items in the case of an evacuation (a very very real possibility in the area we live in - it's known as Chemical Valley, and with the number of incidents lately, I am fully expecting an evacuation in my lifetime).

So, a new plan was in order.  I found what I think looks to be a pretty good list for an evacuation bag over here.  I am using this as my starting point.  Obviously, the boys won't be able to carry everything on this list, and quite honestly either will I, so I am starting with the basics and I can add to it later.  After all, a bag with a few items is better than no bag at all, right?
 Dividing up the items for each of 4 bags..
In my "internet research" I have found guidelines saying that a child should carry no more than 10% of his/her body weight in a backpack.  I have also found guidelines saying that they can carry up to 25%.  N weighs about 65 pounds.  6.5 pounds of weight is really not that much, considering his school backpack outweighs that by quite a bit.  16.5 pounds, though is way too much.  I am aiming for around 10 pounds for his.
 So far, each of the 4 bags has the following items:
-2 bottles of water.  They say enough water for 72 hours, but come on now, how much will that weigh.  We also have jugs of water with handles that we can grab on the way out the door if we need them.
-2 fruit cups, one pepperoni stick, 3 small boxes of raisins, one sesame snack, and some mints.  I plan on adding more food but I have been having a hard time finding things that are shelf stable for a year - and realistically, I won't swap out the food more than once a year.
-utensil - one each fork, knife, spoon.  These came from our camping gear.  They are in here as per N's request, in case we can stop to buy food - but have nothing to eat it with.
-one rain poncho, one 2-pack of hand warmers, on chap stick.
-one roll of toilet paper, a few small garbage bags, some moist towelettes, a waterproof container with bandaids of various sizes, and one of those elastic wrap things for when you twist your wrist/ankle (actually, that last one is just in the boys bags - the adults have a roll of gauze).
-one mini deodorant, one toothbrush wrapped in aluminum foil (my bag has also a tube of toothpaste, a bar of soap, a mini bottle of dish soap, and a hand sanitizer that may or may not stay in the bag - I have issues with hand sanitizer but this one was already in the house "gifted" to us by a friend), and two wash cloths.
-a variety of mini glow sticks and a candle in a jar with some matches - as per N's instructions.  This is a family project after all, and the idea of an evacuation bag kind of freaked him out.  Adding his input really helped.  My husband's bag also has a hand crank flash light that is also supposed to charge a cell phone battery.
-two or three pairs of socks.

I still need to add to each bag:
- a couple pairs of underwear, and a few t-shirts.
-some more food - some type of cracker like product, some dried fruit, maybe some nuts.  I am struggling with this part as I am unlikely to rotate it out very often.
-our pertinent information - photocopies of health cards, licences and such...I had some and was about to put them in when I realized they were all expired and I need to do them again.
-a small blanket of some kind.
-the boys want a plastic drinking cup added.

TIP: If you have a child that has been toilet trained for less than one year, I have read that you should include some training pants in here as well, as the stress of the situation is likely to make them regress.
TIP: Although I usually try to avoid shopping at the Dollar Store because it's all over-shipped, over-packaged, and I over-spend,  I went there for this project.  Several of the things on my list were bought in a package and divided up (bandaids, glowsticks, matches, etc)

I also plan on making up a plastic tote with overflow items like a proper first aid kit, flashlight with batteries, cat food, etc.

This is a portion of my pantry/food storage - lots of non-food items have ended up there and need to move.

For three things on Thursdays, I am continuing to fill in the holes in my stored food supply.  If you have not yet started to collect, I found a list over here that breaks down a 3 month adult supply of food into 52 weeks of preparing.  Obviously, it can be tailored as you wish, but I love reading other people's lists as a starting point.

Last week's goal update:
-I did in fact follow my plan and purchased an 8kg bag of rice.
-I have been struggling to find plastic containers for food storage, but recently read an article on Pinterest where they were storing food in 2L plastic bottles.  Now, I will be looking out for those - we don't buy them, but some of my friends do, so I will see if they will collect them for me.  I did manage to empty two plastic totes that I will be putting the dry pasta and bags of grains in.  All right for now, while I continue looking.
-I had planned on buying a couple of jars of cocoa powder. I bought one and found it rather pricey, so I also added a jar of cocoa mix and two boxes of the herbal tea N loves because they were all on sale half price.

This week's goal:
-I need to buy a bulk size container of cooking oil of some type because I have just finished mine off - I pour it into smaller bottles to use it.
-I need to tidy up my food storage area - it is in fact our pantry area (in the basement) but non-food items have found their way there and I need to move them all out to make room for this plan.
-an extra bundle of toilet paper if there is any on sale this week, or garbage bags, or batteries...this will be my flexible item.

I know a few of my readers are working on this too.  If you have a tip, idea or suggestion, kindly leave a comment.  What is in your evacuation bag?  If you were left without power after Hurricane Sandy, what is something you found helpful or wish you had already stocked up on?


  1. How about this:
    Lowes has a 65 hour run time flashlight for under $5.00 Here is how to turn it in to a 300 hour flashlight. It’s easy:
    I got mine in store. I also got one at Target.

    1. Thanks for this tip "anonymous". I will be looking for that flashlight, and maybe the Rayovac on your feed. I don't know that I will be comfortable hacking it yet, but I do need to add some flashlights to the stash. Thanks for the tip. Maybe hacking it can be my son's project.

  2. I am so glad that you posted this! I have been thinking a lot more about bug out bags, and I am kind of at a loss. My kids are 2 and 4, and I have a feeling we would be sticking them both in an ergo to carry them, and then trying to carry a bag on top of that...which means I need to start exercising more :-)

    1. I hear where you are coming from. When I first packed my kit, my youngest was not even one yet. I wondered how on earth I would carry it all, and him as well. You might want to consider putting together and evacuation kit for if you can get out by car, though, then you won't have to carry it all, and it can double as a "shelter in place" kit.

  3. Interesting and thought-provoking posts!

    an idea for storage (which I found somewhere on the internet) can you find a local deli or restaurant and ask if they can save large plastic jars (ie: pickle jars) for you? We got a bunch of pickle jars (about 1 gallon size) in plastic and glass from a local pizza/deli place. Best of all, they were free!

    good luck!

    1. Great tip. I will look into that. Thanks so much.

  4. A tip for backpack food - think nutrient and calorie dense. If you're suddenly in a situation that requires you and your children to do a lot of walking or other physical activity (or if the weather is cold and your body has to work to stay warm) you need to get the most "bang for your buck".

    A few suggestions:
    Granola Bars w/nuts and fruit
    Trail Mix
    Beef Jerky
    Chocolate - real chocolate not the fake waxy stuff

    I would recommend going to an outfitters and buying each member of the family a bag of "camping food". They are light weight and easy to carry with long expiration dates - we've got a few bags of "Mountain House" in our home. - Each bag costs about 5-6 dollars and I think it last around 5 years.

    I'd also recommend little restaurant sized packets of salt, pepper, ketchup, etc. in order to coax picky eaters.

    When you get the boys their "drinking cups" consider getting them a waterbottle with a built in filter (and give everyone a replacement filter too).

    I'm not a fan of antibacterial handwash either, but in an emergency situation, particularly one that might affect the sewer systems (back ups, overflows, floods affecting normally clean water) I tend to think better safe than sorry in the short term.

    Also an "emergency thermal blanket" in each kit would go a long way - one sheet increases the temperature rating on a normal sleeping bag by degrees!

    I also saw a recommendation somewhere to put a letter to each of your children in the bag so that they have something to read or be read to calm nerves. A picture of your whole family together would be good too.

    1. Thanks for the tips Molly. A few of them are on my to-do list but I haven't gotten to them yet(the emergency blankets, family picture). The "Camping food" package sounds like a great idea. I'm going to look into that one as I am having a really hard time finding anything with even a one year expiry date.