To Go Kit

Living in Florida carries certain risks of natural disasters, many of which may require evacuation. All emergency management agencies recommend having a to-go kit for evacuations. The below websites provide guidance for making such kits.

Here are some additional suggestions based on my personal experience as a first responder and working with recovery efforts in several disasters.

Because of COVID 19, I recommend packing masks, hand sanitizer, handkerchiefs, etc. in addition to what is normally packed in to go kits.

First, make checklist based on your specific needs. There is devil in the details. Don’t list “medications for 30 days.” Instead, list each and every medication for everyone in your family, including over the counter medications. List items you need for your daily life, such as skin lotion, contact lens solutions, menstrual pads or tampons, etc.

Second, don’t forget the pet. Make a to-go kit for your pets. Include medications. The aforementioned sites can help you with preparing kits for your pets.

Third, during major natural disasters, the electricity often goes out. This means ATMs won’t work and most stores cannot make change for large bills. Therefore, having 20 one-dollar bills is better than having 1 twenty-dollar bill. Having about a hundred dollars in small bills (fives and ones) is good as well as at least ten dollars in quarters and coins. I recommend dividing the money into several parts and hiding them in the to-go kit, such as in a pair of socks, the toilet kit, a pocket in a pair of pants, etc.

Fourth, bring travel cups, preferably plastic. Bringing disposable flatware is also a good idea.

Fifth, large bath towels are multi-functional. They can be used for bathing, as a second blanket, and as a second pillow.

Sixth, travel size toiletries are good, but they last only two or three days at most. Recommend packing enough for at least a week. Remember, soap can be used to wash your hair and for shaving if necessary.

Seventh, it is easier to bring documents on an encrypted flash drive than actually bringing the physical documents. Another option is scan and email them to you as an encrypted file, although some computers will not be able to open encrypted files. Files should include medical records, insurance policies, contact information on all family members living outside of your home, banking and credit card information, etc.

Eighth, if possible, grab some snacks. Things like cookies, cereal, dried fruit, etc. You may spend a lot of time in transit, and having something to eat will help.

Ninth, bring toilet paper. Many people will use the same toilet facilities. You do not want to run out of toilet paper.

Tenth, and last, bring water. Bring at least a gallon of water per person per day for at least three days if possible (space may be limited, but try).

Emergency shelters do provide beds, food, water, and necessary toiletries; but you will be competing for these resources along with many others. While shelters do provide security, be aware that nothing is locked and anybody can easily pick up something if it is left unattended. Also, patience and courtesy are necessary.

Shelters do not provide entertainment. If you are in a shelter, there is very little to do; so bringing books, magazines, cards, writing materials, etc. is good. I pack magazines such as Readers’ Digest and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Also keep all receipts for all expenses. Some of them may be tax deductions and some may be reimbursed through government disaster recovery programs.