All Posts by Olivia Bedford

Tornado Survival: No Shelter, No Basement, No Problem

It you live in an area that is vulnerable to tornadoes, you have undoubtedly heard the advice to head for your shelter or basement as a severe storm approaches. Hopefully, you’ve made tornado survival plans.

For an entire week prior to the April 2011 storms and tornados that devastated parts of my town and Northern Alabama in general, the local weather forecasters gave us warnings. They saw the emerging weather pattern as it traveled across the country and how dangerous it would likely be. If your weather forecaster starts talking like this, you need to start planning ahead. Many storms won’t give that much warning, but staying weather aware will give you enough lead time (usually hours at least) to enact your pre-determined tornado plan.

So what do you do if you don’t have a shelter or a basement?

1. Go to a friend’s house

Consider leaving your home and staying with a friend who has a shelter or basement. Of course, you must ask first! Don’t just assume there will be space for you or that they will even be home. If you’re invited to stay with your friend, you don’t want to be a burden, so bring enough food and water to last your family a minimum of three days. Be sure to take your emergency kit and important papers with you in case your home is damaged or you are not able to return to your neighborhood for a period of time. 

2. Go to a community storm shelter

When you create your emergency binder, include a list of community storm shelters in your area. Know where they are and the quickest route to get to each one. List the rules of the shelter – most don’t allow pets, some don’t allow large bags or bins, and many request that you bring your own bottles of water and snacks. Know that shelters often fill up quickly so don’t wait until the last minute to arrive. Community shelters are often cramped, sweaty, and full of frightened and/or bored children, but the safety and peace of mind they provide will be worth it.

3. Go to a public building

Some public spaces like churches, libraries, malls, large stores, and government buildings have storm shelters or “safe areas” built in for their employees and customers. Going to these locations and waiting out a storm is an option.

Speak to a manager ahead of time and ask them what their policy is for allowing members of the public to use their location. Some of these buildings have signs on the exterior indicating that they are an official tornado/storm shelter. Include this information in your emergency binder. If you choose this option, be sure to leave your home well ahead of the storm. Keep in mind that tornadoes can happen in the middle of the night and public buildings are unlikely to be open and available.

4. Make the best of what you’ve got

Sometimes you may not have enough of a warning to be able to leave your home. Or you may choose to ride out a storm in your own home instead of at a public place with strangers. For whatever reason you decide to stay put, you need to make a plan to stay as safe as possible.

When looking for your home’s safest place when you don’t have a shelter or basement, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Be on the ground floor.
  • Go to as close to the center of the structure as you can so you have as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
  • Do not be in a location that has an exterior wall.
  • No exterior doors and no windows.
  • Be in as small of a space as possible.
  • All of these rules apply to apartment dwellers as well. If you don’t live on the first floor, you need to find out from your apartment manager what the tornado warning protocols are for your apartment complex.
  • Common places in many homes that fit these criteria are bathrooms, closets, and under stair storage areas.

5. Prepare to enter your safe place

  • Make sure everyone is wearing shoes.
  • If you own motorcycle, bicycle or football helmets, get them and put them on to protect your head from flying debris.
  • Stage the location with emergency supplies like bottled water, protein bars, a first aid kit, flashlights, battery or crank powered weather radio, a blanket to cover your body, and a hatchet to help remove debris if needed. If possible, keep these items stored in your safe place all the time.
  • If you do not store your emergency kit and/or bug out bags in your safe place, bring them in.
  • If your pets are small, put them in a crate with a towel or blanket covering them. Ideally each pet will have a collar on as well. Dogs and cats should be chipped in case they lose their collars in the chaos of a tornado. Have leashes nearby. If you have larger pets, consider having both collars and leashes on them while you are waiting out the storm.
  • Have on each person as available – photo ID, cell phone, and a whistle.

When your area is put under a tornado watch, start preparing your safe place. If you are upgraded to a tornado warning, pay very close attention to the advice of the weather forecaster. He or she will tell you when you need to be hunkered down in your safe place. If in doubt, go into your safe place and wait. If you hear the words “Tornado Emergency” for your area, that means a tornado is actively on the ground. You should be bracing for the tornado in your safe place, NOT outside taking a tornado selfie!

The reality of tornadoes, especially the stronger EF-4 and EF-5 varieties, is that anything above ground that is not a specific tornado shelter is unlikely to survive a direct hit. That said, the statistical chance of getting a direct hit by an EF-4 or -5 is very low. You are more likely to encounter a survivable, less destructive tornado, and the difference between walking away from it and suffering an injury or death can be as simple as choosing the safest place in your home to weather the storm.

Author’s note: One specific caveat. Mobile homes do NOT have a “safe area.” NEVER “make the best of it” if you have a tornado warning in your area and you live in a mobile home. ALWAYS leave to stay with a friend or go to a community shelter. 

Get Home On Your Own

 One of the most haunting emails I’ve received this year is from Mallory:
I recently started reading your blog (love it!). I have a couple more business trips planned for the rest of the year, and some are quite a distance from home. I wondered if you could give any advice at all on what I should prep for, gear-wise or even mentally?
The thought of an EMP happening when I am NOT at home, maybe not with my spouse and children, it scares me.  I just want to be as prepared as I can be, because who knows when something like this could happen — 2 minutes from now or 2 years from now?
Once you’re aware of a power grid failure due to an EMP, cyberterrorism, or a solar event, you can’t help but share Mallory’s worries, but actually, a disaster of any type that finds you miles from home is going to present a major challenge — how to get home on your own.
A natural disaster or extreme weather could block roads with snow, flood waters, and debris. Civil unrest could present you with the challenge of either waiting it out until the streets are clear and law and order are restored or trying to get around the chaos to a safer location.
In short, you’ll need planned routes, a well-equipped bag of essential supplies, shoes and clothes that are suitable for the season and climate, street smarts, and a good idea of when to stay and when to go. If possible, a form of communication, a cell phone or small ham radio, will be a life-saver.

Route planning

A super-easy first step in planning to get home on your own is simply planning multiple routes. If you do this throughout the normal course of the day or week, you’ll begin to automatically notice alternate routes to avoid unsafe parts of town, the possibility of following canals or other waterways. Bridges, alleyways, and other routes you hadn’t noticed before will suddenly click as either safe or areas to avoid.

Look out for potential targets for terrorists and civil unrest, such as airports, government buildings, courthouses, and universities. Industrial areas are often the sites of chemical spills, fires, and even explosions. If flooding has been an issue in your area, keep in mind where the lowest points are and plan to avoid those.

Since you have no idea what type of emergency will require you to get home on your own, possibly without your vehicle, it’s wise to consider different scenarios and plan accordingly.

In general, try to come up with four routes from each of your most common destinations. Those places might include:

  • Workplace
  • The homes of friends and family
  • Grocery store
  • The kids’ school(s)
  • Church

Actually drive, bike, or walk various routes to calculate the distances to your home and see, first hand, what you will likely encounter and if you’re able, physically, to make the trek.

Intermediate refuge locations

Getting to your own home quickly and safely may take a while. You might end up spending the night outdoors or in some other uncomfortable location. For this reason, you might want to keep a tarp, paracord, or some other expedient shelter-building supplies in your vehicle or bug out bag.

However, there is another option: multiple refuge locations.

Begin identifying places where you would be welcome and safe for an overnight stay or longer. On a map, mark these locations and, as you plan your routes home, try to include them, just in case.


  • The homes of family and close friends
  • Commercial buildings you own, have permission to access, or are owned by friends/family
  • Churches
  • Extended family, even those you may not know well
  • Contacts through any organizations you belong to
  • Timeshares — If you have any banked weeks, these could come in handy.
  • Hotels
  • Campgrounds
  • Community buildings

If you aren’t able to get home by the time the first night falls, you’ll be grateful for any safe and welcoming refuge and of course, the concept of multiple safe refuges isn’t just for you. Your kids should also know where they could go for safety until you can either pick them up or they are able to continue on their own, depending on their ages.

Keep a list handy of all these possible “safe houses”, along with phone numbers. Discuss your plans with any individuals involved and offer your home as a refuge should they be the ones in need.

Worst case scenario homecoming

What if a worst case scenario finds you, not 10 or 20 miles from home, but many hundreds?

In the book, Lights Out by Ted Koppell, he details the get-home plan of Craig Kephart in the case of a power grid failure. Craig is an avid bicyclist and a prepper. He lives in an upscale area of St. Louis, and his business requires frequent business trips around the country. From the book:

Craig worries that he may be trapped out of town and that all conventional forms of travel could be shut down. He always carries enough cash so that, no matter which city he’s in, he would be able to buy a bicycle, biking shoes, and whatever other equipment he would need to take him back to St. Louis.
Craig assumes that he could ride 150 to 200 miles a day. He’s thought about this a lot. “Last place I want to be is in a major metropolitan area during a time of national crisis.”

Craig’s plan might be a very effective one for him, in the case of a cyberterrorist attack or another event that takes out the power grid. 

He has realized that getting home from hundreds of miles away when the world has erupted into chaos won’t be easy and he’s come up with a plan and is training for that possibility. If this should happen, there will be countless scenarios which he may not have anticipated, but at least he has a plan for getting home.

Your plan should include:

  1. Transportation. Planning on hoofing it home? Better start getting into super-shape now! Other options might be bicycles, motorcycles, or even a scooter or roller skates! Anything with wheels will speed up your journey.
  2. Water. Where you’re stranded, the terrain between you and home will determine if you will be able to find a plentiful supply of water on a regular basis. If you’re not sure you can, stay where you are or plan to travel in short segments. In a city, you will probably be able to find water from outdoor spigots, and if you learn how to locate a hose bib on the outside of commercial buildings, a sillcock key can help you access the water in the pipes.
  3. Food. Can you set traps? Hunt and fish using alternative methods? Can you identify edible and medicinal wild plants? Do you know which parts are edible and which are poisonous? Do you know how to start a small fire for cooking and purifying water, and, if so, what will you use for a cooking pot? These are just a few of the issues to consider.
  4. Shelter.  Putting up a lean-to is one thing, but surviving the elements within that shelter is quite another.
  5. Security. You may be surrounded by people more desperate than you. More fit, more strong than you. Can you survive on your wits alone? What self-defense skills do you have?
  6. Weather and terrain. Those will both change as you travel. Are you ready for all possibilities? Do you know of alternate routes that might be easier or would allow you to avoid populated areas?

Some of these considerations apply to much shorter distances. In fact, it could be easier getting home over 200 miles of straightaway, rarely traveled roads than through the urban center of a city like Houston.

5 Possible ways to survive when many miles separate you and your loved ones

In my view, being stranded from home following a worst case scenario would leave you with few options. Here are a few viable options in case the worst really does happen and you are dozens, if not hundreds, of miles from home.

  1. Head home regardless, carrying with you the basics for survival, or whatever you can acquire. Survival novels are full of tales of determined men, making their way home to their families over hundreds of miles. This option might work if you are in good physical shape, have no health issues, and are blessed with an enormous amount of luck. It wouldn’t hurt if the terrain between you and your family has multiple supplies of water. Forget it if you have more than just a few miles of desert to traverse.
  2. Stay put and lay low. If you have the skills and knowledge, set up a wilderness camp and use your ingenuity and Boy Scout skills to live off the land. You’ll end up dying a pretty quick death, most likely, but this is an option.
  3. Stay put and try to become an indispensable part of another household or group. If you have a bank of life-saving skills, such as knowing how to grow and preserve food, medical training, or can help guard your new group of fellow survivors. When the infrastructure begins to be rebuilt, you can then begin heading home.
  4. Stay put and start a new life. This option isn’t necessarily pessimistic. Given the circumstances, you may have no other choice.
  5. Do a little bit of both. Combine stints on the road, always heading homeward, with time spent staying with a community or with a family. They might be grateful for the additional help with physical labor and whatever practical skills you possess may help get them through a difficult time until you’re able to travel again.

Getting home when you’re NOT on your own

If you’re like me, you almost always have a kid, or maybe a grandkid, with you. If you’re stranded from home and you’re all alone, that’s one thing, but looking out for someone else, especially if they cannot walk or move quickly, presents a whole new set of challenges.

  • Will you likely have an infant with you? In that case, always have with you a stroller and a baby sling or some other carrier.
  • Young children will slow you down greatly in more ways than one. You’ll have to cope with their slower pace and emotions. A stroller or a wagon would save time and provide a small sleeping area for a toddler.
  • A loved one confined to a wheelchair cannot be left behind, so you’ll need to plan your routes and supplies accordingly. Shorter walking segments and sticking to sidewalks and paved roads will limit wear and tear on wheelchair tires as well as on your back, if you’re doing the pushing!
  • Motorized scooter users should always have at least one charged backup battery. If the battery dies and there is no way to charge it, getting home may become all but impossible.
  • Children ages 10 and up will be a big help with carrying bug out bags, looking for potential shelter and water sources, and helping with younger, or older, family members. This will likely be a high adventure for them, but keep an eye on their energy levels, since they may tire out more quickly than they realize. Keep them entertained with stories and “I Spy” type games.
  • Teens and adult members of the group can provide assistance in all areas, including security.

Every piece of the plan you put into place now for getting home following a disaster of some sort, will make that journey a little easier.



11 Lessons the Joplin Tornadoes Taught Our Family

We “woke up” to the need to get prepared two years ago after an F-5 tornado obliterated our hometown, Joplin, MO. What we learned in the wake of that disaster has been unbelievable, miraculous, heart-wrenching, but ultimately, extremely useful. While we were extremely lucky to miss the storm by about half a mile, we were all deeply affected on an emotional level. I know it’s true whenever the sky turns gray, as it has this week.  Here are some valuable lessons we took away from May 22, 2011.

  • Angels are among us.  If you haven’t heard the stories, check out an overview here.  It’s the only way to explain why we lost 161 instead of thousands that day.  And it may be the most important lesson.
  • People really do take care of each other. I know it isn’t something advocated in many prepping circles, and I still haven’t decided how our family would handle an unforeseeable event, but I couldn’t shake this story: My coworker’s elderly mother couldn’t make it down the stairs, so she sat in her living room praying. Her neighbor heard the “freight train” sound, dashed across the street, and scooped her out of her wheelchair. He hit the third basement step when the roof went.  They both (miraculously!) survived. And that’s just one of a thousand stories that gets me choked up.
  • Buy the insurance. Another coworker was talked in to renter’ insurance literally ten days before the tornado. She was recently divorced and had moved into a small apartment about a week before our employer’s insurance associates came to buy us lunch. They had a contract signed within 48 hours.  Ten days later, she lost her apartment, contents, and car. Best $70 she ever spent.
  • We were too dependent upon electricity. We were without power for nearly two weeks, which meant no stove or microwave. No water from the electric pump, so no bathing, washing clothes or dishes, and no flushing toilets. We stayed with my parents on the other side of town, who still had all their creature comforts. We now have a backup plan in place.
  • Children take their cues from us. They are also remarkably resilient. Our then 6 and 4 year-old children had been through tornado drills before. We huddled in the basement closet making shadow puppets and playing games on the laptop. We made a concerted effort to use calm voices and soft faces even though we knew it was going to be ugly. A relative had called from 60 miles away to urge us into the basement, saying she just saw the shell of the hospital on TV. The storm ran west to east for 6 miles, and we were on the east end. The power was already out, but the sun was still shining and we hadn’t been paying attention to the forecast. That single phone call was our only real warning—and it was as serious as it gets. Within minutes the sky was black and tree limbs were flying past the basement window. The kids never panicked; it was like a sleepover in the daytime.
  • Separation causes anxiety. The day after the tornado, my husband and I returned to check on our property and gather some more clothes for the family. Torrential rain flooded many streets, including the one to my parents’ house, and we were unable to return. We spent the night in our dark house worrying about our children (who were, by the way, being shamelessly spoiled and didn’t miss us at all, despite the ominous-looking sky and further tornado warnings). If the carnage had happened during the day when we were all in separate places, the anxiety would’ve been multiplied exponentially. Which leads to our next big lesson:
  • We MUST have alternate means of communication. Phone lines were nonexistent in the immediate aftermath, and even cell phone calls wouldn’t go through. Some text messages did, and that’s how we checked on our friends and relatives, but in an EMP or other widespread attack, communication lines could be completely wiped out. A CB or ham radio is a good initial back-up plan, as are walkie-talkies in a Faraday cage. We were lucky to have Zimmer radio group—which operates several stations in our area—serve as a live broadcast connection. They didn’t turn a profit for two weeks because they refused to run music or commercials. Instead, they repeated pleas for those missing a loved one to call in and ask for help locating people. Sometimes, a neighbor listening would call and verify that the person mentioned had been located and would leave a phone number with the station. Talk about compassion and corporate responsibility!
  • You may not be home when it hits the fan. So many people were in their cars headed home from graduation, or out to dinner, or visiting friends in the hospital. Even if their homes survived, getting to their supplies could mean hiking through rubble in their Sunday heels. So now I carry a 72-hour kit and hiking shoes in my car, plus supplies for the kids. It can make finding trunk space for the groceries a bit more tricky, but I’m cool with that. I can’t control whether a tornado throws my car into a building, obliterating my backup plan, but I’m still gonna have one. Speaking of which…
  • Always have a backup plan. It’s as important to communities as it is to individuals. Yes, St. John’s hospital was destroyed, but Freeman still had backup generators (and an overflowing waiting room).  Home Depot was gone, but Lowe’s still operated throughout the ongoing rebuilding process. Wal-Mart and the grocery store were gone, but Sam’s let people shop without memberships for several weeks. And so it is with our own preps: two other ways to cook and stay warm; two ways to collect and purify water, etc.
  • Opportunists can be deterred by weapons. Neighbors took shifts on their blocks sitting up with rifles in their laps at night to deter looters. No altercations were reported. Coincidence? I doubt it. And my police friends admitted—after the fact—that they were grateful people had taken charge of caring for their own, because many of them were also dealing with loss and couldn’t effectively patrol an area that wide. Good thing our state government continues to guarantee that right.
  • Private industry is more efficient than government. I can’t even describe the immediate and overwhelming response of our churches and their associated ministries. Even the Red Cross wanted to know how College Heights Christian Church got their food and clothing services set up so quickly and so well-organized. I only mention that one because it’s across the street from the college, which was the largest immediate shelter and medical station, and survivors were heavily dependent upon it for a while. Even the atmosphere was more of a block party or backyard cookout than a disaster relief station. It certainly beat the FEMA camp photos I saw after Katrina and Sandy.

We aren’t perfectly prepared for every scenario, but witnessing the devastation in Joplin has forced us to remove our heads from the sand, reach out to our neighbors, and prepare for a time when help might not be as quick to arrive.  And this little community—the “buckle” on the Bible Belt—is still praising Him in the storm.

* Organizing the Bug Out Bag

An important consideration when assembling your bug out bag is how it should be organized. There are two elements at work here–your choice of containers and packing order.

The only thing worse than just tossing everything into a sack without forethought is not packing the bag at all. It makes little sense to go to all the trouble and expense of putting together a bug out bag if you can’t find what you need when you need it.

Organize with interior containers

One of my preferred methods for packing items is to use small containers to keep like things together and organized. Often, this involves simply using ziploc plastic bags. One bag contains my Altoids Tin Alcohol Stove and fuel, another has food items. I don’t go to the trouble of labeling these bags because, well, they’re clear so it isn’t a mystery as to what’s inside. Using these bags also keeps the contents from getting wet.

Packing cubes have become very popular among world travelers and can be a handy addition to your bug out bag. They are simply a set of matching, zippered containers of varying sizes used to pack like items. This set has received excellent reviews and with mesh top panels you’ll be able to see if the “cube” contains toiletries, a spare set of clothes, or items for sanitation purposes.

Though they can be pricey, I also like using hard plastic cases, such as those made by Pelican. These types of cases are available in a wide range of sizes and colors and work very well at keeping your gear both dry and protected from being crushed. I use one such case for my primary fire starting kit.

Another product I dearly love and heartily endorse is the Grid-It Organizer. It consists of a hard, flat board of sorts covered with a mesh of elastic bands of varying lengths. This is a truly awesome solution for organizing little odds and ends in your bag, keeping them secure and within easy reach. Many backpacks today are equipped with a flat pocket for use with tablets or small laptops. Those pockets are great places for a Grid-It Organizer.

A wet sack comes in handy for storing wet clothes, a damp towel, or anything messy. It would make a good container for a set of toiletries and a wash cloth.

Whatever tools you decide to use for organizing your gear, the overall idea here is to keep things from just floating around in your pack and to keep like items together. You want to know where everything is so you can find it easily, even under stress.

Packing Order

This, of course, leads us to packing order. Give some serious thought as to which items in your pack you’ll likely use most often and items that you’ll need first when stopping for the night. These are the things you’re going to want readily available, either in side pockets or at the top of your pack.

For me, I want these items within reach at any given moment:

  • Flashlight
  • Cash
  • Handgun
  • Multi-tool

You shouldn’t have to dump out your entire pack just to get to your first aid kit. Your fire starting gear, too, should be easy to access.

From there, I pack, starting at the bottom of my bag, items I am less likely to use and that are heaviest. Interior pouches and pockets are used to store small items, such as matches.

Now, that said, it is best to keep the heaviest items close to your spine and/or towards the top of the pack. Keep those items centered as best you can, so as to not adversely affect your center of gravity. If you keep the heavy stuff too low in the pack, it will feel like the pack sags. Too high and you’ll feel off balance. Ideally, if packed correctly, the bug out bag will feel balanced and stable.

The person who will be carrying the pack is the one who needs to make decisions as to where everything will go. It may make perfect sense to you that a pocket knife go in the left-side outer pocket, but if your teenager will be carrying the bag, he or she may have another preference. Ultimately, the contents and their locations should be memorized through actual use or an occasional session of unpacking and repacking the bag.

Add an itemized list

Eventually, one person or another will need something in their bug out bag. It may be an extra flashlight during a power outage or the first aid kit when all the other bandaids in the house are used up! Whatever the cause, an itemized list of every bag’s contents will help insure that it continues to hold the most necessary items for emergencies.


Packing Your Pet’s Evacuation Kit


Do you own one (or more) of the 69 million pet dogs and 74 million pet cats in America? Or the 8 million pet birds, 4 million horses, or 2 million pet turtles? For some people, these are merely animals, but for 60% of Americans they are beloved furry (or feathery, or scaly) family members. For some families that decide not to have children or to postpone having children, the pet is the child.

Some preppers only keep animals if they can protect the family, protect the food, or be food themselves. I think animals serve a broader function as companions. A disaster is by definition a stressful event, and an animal companion can relieve stress and provide comfort, especially for children.

Plan ahead for the logistics of evacuating with your pet. Does your dog get carsick? Do you have a secure carrier for your cat? Do you have a trailer for your horse or can you borrow a neighbor’s? How will you clean up the droppings from your pet goat? Does your pet iguana attack people it doesn’t know?

In general, shelters for people do not accept animals except for service dogs. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act was enacted after Hurricane Katrina and mandates that communities include animals in their disaster planning, but that doesn’t guarantee that there will be housing for your pet. Local animal organizations may set up animal shelters adjacent to human shelters (called “co-sheltering”) but you will be responsible for feeding, watering and walking your pet.

Each pet who will be evacuating with your family should have its own 72-hour kit. In it you should include:

  • Food: Dry kibble in labeled zip-top bags, or cans (check the expiration date and don’t forget a can opener). A few companies even make pet energy bars; these aren’t nutritionally balanced for long-term feeding but for the short-term they provide calories and nutrients. For a horse, you’ll need to transport hay and grain or know a source to buy them at your destination.
  • Water: Just as you plan one gallon per person per day, you should also plan one gallon per pet per day for dogs and cats. If you have a large animal like a horse, they will need a much larger amount. Industrial garbage cans can be used to hold water for large animals.
  • Important papers:
    • Description of the animal (name, species, breed, color, sex, age, distinguishing features).
    • Proof of vaccinations. Shelters will typically require vaccinations, and immunizations will keep your pet safe from contagious diseases. Talk to your veterinarian about recommended vaccinations for your pet; these may include distemper, parvo and rabies for dogs, distemper and rabies for cats, and West Nile and rabies for horses.
    • Proof of a Coggin’s test for horses (a test for equine infectious anemia, a contagious blood disease).
    • Registration and licensing papers.
    • List of shelters, boarding facilities, equestrian centers, stables, and pet-friendly hotels within a 50-mile radius.
    • Current photos of the pet. Ideally, include photos taken from both sides (see photo), the front and the back, with the animal standing in good lighting. Also include photos that show you and your pet together, to help establish ownership.
    • Bedding, towels, blankets.
    • Bowls for food and water (light-weight, collapsible bowls are available in pet and camping stores).
    • Cage, carrier or kennel for each pet. Collapsible kennels might be easier to store, or you can use the carrier to hold the pet’s 72-hour kit until you need it.
    • Litter box and kitty litter for cats. Look for a small plastic litter box that can fit in the cat’s carrier/kennel.
    • Trash bags, paper towels.
    • Can opener.
    • Muzzle. Even gentle pets can become aggressive if they are stressed or in pain. Soft cloth muzzles are available at pet stores.
    • Brushes for longer-haired pets.
    • Leash, extra collar, harness, etc.
    • For large animals: hoof care tools, fly spray, halters, lead ropes, pans, buckets, twitch, leg wraps.
    • First aid kit:
      • Bandage material and nonstick wound dressings.
      • Scissors.
      • Claw clipper.
      • Styptic powder to stop bleeding (e.g., from a torn claw).
      • Diphenhydramine for allergic reactions (liquid or tablets).
      • Eye wash (sterile saline, not contact lens solution).
      • Cortisone cream.
      • Triple antibiotic cream.
      • Syringe with tsp and ml markings.
      • Hydrogen peroxide (3%) to induce vomiting in case of poisoning.
      • Any current prescription medications (such as for pain, inflammation, seizures, heart, etc.).
      • Probiotic. Many dogs get diarrhea from stressful events and a probiotic (the “good” intestinal bacteria) can prevent this. You can use a probiotic meant for humans, such as Lactobacillus (1 billion cells per day for dogs).
      • Pepto Bismol for diarrhea.
      • Meclizine for motion sickness.
      • Flea/tick preventative medication.

It’s also important to make sure your pet has positive identification at all times. This will help ensure your pet is returned to you if you get separated, and will be proof of ownership if the animal is stolen. Identification might include:

  • Tags on the collar for dogs and cats.
  • Tags on the halter for horses or other large animals.
  • Microchip: A microchip is a tiny RFID chip that transmits a number when scanned with a radio frequency scanner. The number links in a database to your contact information. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted with a syringe and needle (under the skin on the back of the shoulders in cats and dogs, in the breast muscle in birds, and in the neck muscle in horses). Any species of animal can be microchipped.
  • Ear tags for cattle, which also utilize RFID technology.
  • Permanent marker on the shell or scales of a turtle or other reptile.
  • Spray paint on the hooves of large animals.
  • Leg band on birds.
  • Tattoos.
  • Brands for large animals.

Finally, you should take your pets with you any time you have to evacuate. Even a small-scale, supposedly short-term evacuation, such as a gas leak in your neighborhood, could turn into a larger scale or longer term incident. You may not be allowed by authorities to return to your home to collect your pets if the evacuation is prolonged.

*Be sure to print out the Pet Emergency Kit Checklist in Printables.

6 Maps You Need For an Urban Evacuation

Let’s assume an urban disaster scenario, and you must leave quickly. How will you find your way? What maps do you need?

We’re talking about the printed, paper in hand type. Don’t plan to rely on a GPS. They are as reliable as their batteries, and constant use could mean the unit is soon powerless. Also, any electronic device can break or just quit working.

So before you worry about maps, get a good compass. I prefer one with a clear baseplate that is designed to work on maps. Invest in a good one with declination settings, and then learn how to use it. The smaller compasses that come with some survival kits are only useful as backups and for giving a general direction.

Here are the maps you need:

City map: Your evacuation will start with this map, so get one with the finest detail possible. This map can help you figure out alternative street evacuation routes if bridges and/or overpasses are closed. Also, gridlock on major highways and freeways is a given, so you might need to plot a course around them.

Topographical map: A topo map is a three-dimensional view of an area. Looking at it, you can get an idea of the terrain.

According to the Geospatial and Analysis Cooperative of Idaho State University: “The concept of a topographic map is, on the surface, fairly simple. Contour lines placed on the map represent lines of equal elevation above (or below) a reference datum.

“To visualize what a contour line represents, picture a mountain (or any other topographic feature) and imagine slicing through it with a perfectly flat, horizontal piece of glass. The intersection of the mountain with the glass is a line of constant elevation on the surface of the mountain and could be put on a map as a contour line for the elevation of the slice above a reference datum.”

I have the National Geographic mapping software for Oregon, so I create a custom topo map for every outing. I print them out on standard-sized letter or legal-sized paper. These sizes fold nicely in half and fit in a quart Ziploc plastic bag. This bag, in turn, rides in the thigh pocket of my BDU pants. The map is easy to pull out and check, which means it will be.

During an urban evacuation, you might need to go cross-country through a park or open space to avoid crowds or other potential dangers. The city map gives street details, but it may not show water obstacles or other physical barriers. With your topo and compass, you should be able to plot a course effectively.

State Highway map: This gives the big picture of your situation. It shows major highways and roads, and gives general directions. It could be useful for figuring out where to go once you get away from the urban scene.

Forest Service map: I carry this in my car in central Oregon. Commonly referred to as a fire road map, this is a large overview of the national forests and public lands. Most importantly, it shows fire and logging roads. The map doesn’t show if the roads are improved or not, so don’t depend on this map to tell you if you can drive on it. In some instances, the roads may have overgrown into trails. You may be able to hike or ATV them in the summer, or, in the winter, snowshoe or operate a snowmobile.

These maps help you figure alternative routes in wilderness areas. Assuming you make it to a wilderness area, a good compass, this map, and the appropriate topos will be worth their weight in gold.

These four maps should help you get out of town.

Here are some others that could also prove to be useful

History maps: I buy any historical map I come across. Some of them, such as the Oregon Trail or Lewis and Clark maps, show routes used by historical figures. While the trails may be obscure right now, that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. Overland pioneer routes were established because wagons or pack trains could travel on them. Those trails might be a good thing to know at some point.

River charts: My fishing obsession and map nerd-ism combine again with these charts. Every navigable river in the United States has detailed charts showing river terrain, danger areas, and topography of the stream. These charts allow a traveler to plan a river evacuation or trip. I carried a set of Mississippi River charts on my end-to-end journey in 1980. It was easy to plan overnight stops, or decide where to pull out.

On smaller streams, the maps can show take-out points, landings, and water dangers.

Hunting maps: Put out by your state fish and wildlife departments, these are useful to anyone who goes into the wilderness areas. I carry one to see the boundaries of my hunting unit, road closures, and the terrain, to some extent.

None of these maps are of any value if you don’t know how to read and use them. A good training activity including some exercise could be to take your compass and maps, create a possible evacuation scenario and practice navigating somewhere using alternate routes, streets and cross country travel.

So check out these maps, practice with your compass, and give some thought to how you might get out of town if you had to.

2 Types of Emergency Evacuations: Urgent & Planned

Before you begin packing that emergency kit, you need to first consider why you might need to evacuate. If you have specific scenarios in mind, and then one of them suddenly becomes a reality, there’s a good chance that your brain won’t lapse into normalcy bias, causing you to waste precious minutes or hours.

Reasons to evacuate generally fall into 2 camps: urgent evacuations and planned evacuations. You should be ready for these 2 types of emergency evacuations but the type of planning and preparation you do will be a little different for each.

Planning for the urgent evacuation

An urgent evacuation is one in which you have zero time to think; you can only react. If you’ve considered this scenario, have planned for it, and have a routine that you’ve rehearsed, your brain will most likely revert to those memories and your actions will become automatic.

The smell of smoke and realization that your home is on fire is not the time to inform the kids how to get out of the house, run around scooping up family heirlooms, cash, and vital documents, and then yell at everyone to meet you in the front yard! Fire spreads too quickly to allow for any of that.

When I was taking a CERT class a couple of years ago, the Fire Marshall told us that if we see a fire and know we can’t put it out in 5 seconds or less, it’s time to get out. That, my friend, requires an urgent evacuation!

Planning for this particular urgent evacuation, a house fire, is simple because you won’t have time to do much of anything! Take time now to stash valuables in a fireproof safe, train the kids and other family members to get out of the house ASAP, and have a pre-planned meeting place. Make sure that each room has an exit point that can be accessed by everyone, even if that means keeping a step stool or a sturdy chair in the room. My daughter’s bedroom has one window whose bottom ledge is a good 4 1/2 feet from the floor. In her case, she’ll need to stand on something to get out.

What other urgent evacuations might you need to plan for? Tornado warning? Natural gas leak? Wildfires or a chemical spill? All of these events will require you to get out of the house as quickly as you can. A few others are:

  • Avalanche
  • Earthquake
  • Explosion nearby
  • Landslide
  • Floods
  • Nuclear event
  • Riots
  • Terrorist attack
  • Tornadoes
  • Tsunami

Here are a few tips to help you plan and prepare for urgent evacuations:

1. Have a packed supply bag for your pets, complete with food, bedding, and food/water bowls. If your pet will be transported in a crate, place all supplies in the crate. Everything will be in one place when you need it.

2. Create a “Last Minute Bag” with things like prescription medications, cash, small valuables. You’ll find a checklist for this in Printables.

3. Store emergency kits in an easy to access location, such as by the backdoor. They can also be stored in the trunk of your car, along with a case or water.

4. Be in the habit of having your vehicle ready with at least half tank of gas and emergency supplies.

5. Have some sort of signal for the family members, so they know it’s “Get serious!’ time. Kids, in particular, have a way of tuning out their parents, so establish a code that sends the message of, “Urgent! This is not a drill!”

6. Practice this evacuation drill and keep track of how much time it takes to get everyone out of the house. Emphasize that getting people out is far more important than any belonging, or even a pet.

7. Have written lists of what must be grabbed. Prioritize so that no one is searching for something that isn’t strictly necessary.

8. Talk with the kids about their pets, since there’s a real possibility they may have to be left behind. No one hates that thought more than me, but that’s the reality. Many kids, when asked, will automatically say, “I’ll get my dog…or the bunny…or my turtle.” Make plans so the animals can be quickly evacuated, but if the situation is too dire, make sure your kids know their job is to get out first.

With urgent evacuations, the longer you wait, the more likely you are to endanger yourself and your loved ones. It also increase the chance that you’ll run into major traffic issues as panicked people also try to get away from harm.

The planned evacuation

Not every emergency is one that requires great haste. In many cases, you have several hours or day in which to make your plans and put final pieces in place. A planned evacuation requires a different mindset — one that emphasizes checking and double-checking and keeping a constant eye on developing news.

The planned evacuation is one of prepare and wait-and-see.

For example, a hurricane is a scary natural disaster that can bring with it an enormous amount of damage, but thanks to modern meteorology, we can track these storms. We know, with a fair degree or accuracy, when and where they will make landfall.

These scenarios allow us to time think, review our plans, and get to safety, beating the crowds as well as the expected disaster. Examples of these are:

  • Earthquake — If your home isn’t too damaged, you may want to plan to evacuate, just in case.
  • Epidemic or pandemic
  • Rising floodwaters
  • “Storm of the Century” — Blizzard or otherwise, you may want to get out to avoid the worst.
  • Volcanic eruption — Usually these give some warning before erupting.
  • Wildfires in the area

Along with the tips for urgent evacuations, here are a few to help you plan for a more leisurely escape:

1. Make a date on your calendar to review and refresh all emergency kits every 6 months.

2. Have at least 2 different ways to get information, in case of a power outage or if telephone/cell phone lines aren’t working. A shortwave radio and ham radio are both good choices.

3. If you have a smartphone, install phone apps that provide alerts for inclement weather, tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Red Cross makes several, and they are all excellent.

4. If you have larger animals, contact at least 2 locations that could provide temporary shelter as part of your emergency evacuation plans.

5. Give careful consideration how your home can best be protected while you’re gone. You have time to board up windows, drain pipes, etc.

6. Get phone numbers from neighbors, so you can keep in touch and update each other with news. This will be especially important if you do evacuate and want to know how your home and neighborhood are faring.

7. During the school year, contact your child’s teacher and ask for a list of their assignments for the coming week or two.

8. Make sure your vehicle is filled with gas and is ready to go. Pack it with any supplies or gear that you won’t be needing, just in case you decide to leave.

Prep for one, prep for both

The good news about both these types of emergency evacuation plans is that preparation for one is preparation for both. The major difference between the two, other than the actual event, is your mindset. You must be the one to make the call to get out now or wait to see how things unfold. Ultimately, it will be your call. It’s better to err on the side of a quick evacuation if there’s a chance the event could escalate. By then, you might be trapped and unable to get out.

Know which events are most likely in your area and begin planning and preparing.


* Make an Evacuation Checklist

You wake with a start in the middle of the night. Someone is banging on your front door. A gas main has broken one block over. You have 10 minutes to get out of your house. What do you do? If you have a up-to-date checklist for evacuations you can be ready to go in minutes, if not moments.

How you respond to a scary scenario depends on a wide variety of things, but comes down to one key factor: How prepared are you to leave your house?

During a wildfire event several years ago out west, our friends had to evacuate their home. They initially believed their home would be safe but an unexpected shift in the wind required them to leave very quickly. They were not at all prepared but loaded up their minivan, drove out of harm’s way, and to a community shelter. Fortunately, their home was spared and they were able to return two days later. When they unpacked their car, they realized that what they took out last was what was packed first.

What was it that they, in their panic, decided to put into the car first to save it from wildfire?

Their bowling balls.

You know what never made it into their car?

Their important paperwork that was in a filing cabinet, which wasn’t fireproof.

They simply weren’t prepared to evacuate and when suddenly told to get out, they weren’t in a proper mental state to make the best decisions.

With some events, like a hurricane, you may have hours or days to plan how to leave your home and to get packed up. Other incidents like a broken gas main, nuclear power plant incident, or a chemical spill require you to leave quickly and usually come with no advanced warning. Being told suddenly you must leave your home is no time to be making important decisions regarding what to put in your car.

Make an evacuation checklist

Below is our list (made more basic and a little less personal for this article) that we’ll use upon deciding to evacuate our home. Since we have teenagers, all items on the list can be performed by anyone. If you have younger kids, you may want to have a separate list of things they can do.

Our plan is that one person controls the list and assigns the tasks. When a job is complete, the person gets the next task. Each action is placed in order of importance in case the entire list can’t be completed. If time has run out, we drop to the “Final Actions” portion and go.

Evacuation To Do List
Shoes on
Animals in crates
Bug out bags in car
Pet supplies in car
Emergency binder in car
Purses/wallets/cell phones/chargers in car
Fireproof safes in car — (In a house fire, leave the safes where they are and just get out!)
Supply bins in car
Water bottles in car
Pack additional personal items and put in car
Pack additional clothing items and put in car
Pack additional food items and put in car

Optional Actions Based on Situation
Water off
Gas off

Final Actions
Animals in car
Lock all doors (pins in sliding doors)
Set security alarm
All people in car

Each family member has a list of three or four “personal items” that they want to have during the evacuation. This not only helps packing go more quickly (again, because the decisions have already been made), but also ensures that if someone isn’t home, the others can grab the correct items. For my family, these items include specific photo albums, laptop computers and external drives, stuffed animals, and prized possessions.

Be sure the list is somewhere accessible to all. We keep ours laminated and attached via a carabiner to a bug out bag.

“Evacuation Drill!”

As with any preparedness activity, running through a practice drill is the only way to know if your plan will work. Set aside some time when your family doesn’t expect it, and announce, “EVACUATION DRILL!” Go through the entire process of actually loading these things into the car just as if you are actually leaving your home.

Set a timer and see how long it takes to get through the whole list. You may discover that moving a supply bin is a two person job, or that items must be placed in your car in a particular way in order to fit everything in the trunk. You don’t want an emergency to be the first time you test your list and your family.

“If the generals don’t panic, the troops won’t panic.”

Not only does an evacuation list provide you with a pre-determined plan that will ensure you have what you need when you leave your home, but it will also help alleviate panic in the process. As you lead your family to safety, you’ll be doing so in a more calm manner, which will help everyone around you remain calm as well. Evacuating your home will be a stressful time, but with a bit of preparedness, it doesn’t have to be a time of chaos.

*Be sure to use the checklist from this article found in Printables!

21 Ways to Use a DeLorme Atlas to Plan Emergency Evacuations

Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s  house is not a bad evacuation plan at all as long as you have a working vehicle and enough gas to reach your destination. However, not all evacuation routes are that simple, and sometimes you need a detailed map to plan primary, secondary, and even tertiary routes in times of trouble.

Humans are creatures of habit and many of us could probably drive to work, school, the grocery store, or our favorite restaurant with our eyes closed. But in an emergency, a natural disaster, for example, could we get home or to another safe location from those places and how many different routes could we use?

The problem with any passageway, be it a dirt road, city street, or interstate highway, is that they can easily become impassable for a variety of reasons:

  • Flooding
  • Large scale traffic jams
  • Rock or mud slide
  • Multi-vehicle accident — even an accident involving a single vehicle can easily stop traffic
  • Street damage due to an earthquake
  • Riots or violent crime
  • Wildfires
  • Blizzards
  • Roadblocks — by law enforcement or other authorities or by 2-legged predators

Evacuation routes can be planned well in advance, traversed multiple times to help with familiarity, and shared with family members. It’s vital to have multiple, planned routes, marked on a map, because the odds favor one or more of those routes becoming impassable.

Those routes should head in different directions: north, south, east, and west. If you’re at home and learn of a wildfire just a couple of miles to the east and your only planned evacuation route heads in that direction, you’re in trouble! Also, the routes should be prioritized with Route A being the preferred route for familiarity, best direct route, ease of travel, access to gas stations, banks, grocery stores, etc. Route B, Route C, and so on should be marked on the map and be included on occasional practice runs, but those routes will be less preferable for any number of reasons: rough roads, a longer route, fewer amenities along the way, etc.

Use the DeLorme Atlas for evacuation route planning

One of the best resources I’ve found for this type of planning is my DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer. These very large atlases can be found in bookstores and online and there’s one atlas per state in most cases. I bought mine on Amazon.

The DeLorme maps are extremely detailed and as I browsed through mine, I came across a multitude of helpful features. Here are some from my list, along with my notes for their potential usefulness:

1. Hundreds of back roads, marked as thin, red lines, are included in the DeLorme Atlas. These little known routes might help you get from Point A to Point B, if other routes are blocked.

2. Different types of roads are marked, which is helpful in determining the type of vehicle(s) used for bugging out. Be sure to check out each route in person to determine whether or not your vehicle will be able to handle road conditions.

3. Reservoirs are clearly marked, allowing you to plan a route that takes advantage of this water source or avoid a possible flooding area.

4. Airports of all sizes are indicated. If flying away from the danger zone is an option, you can look for multiple routes to get to the airport. At smaller airports you might be able to find a pilot for hire.

5. You can easily avoid bridges as your make your plans. Bridges can be washed out or become choke points in a mass evacuation.

6. Because this particular map is so very detailed, it allows you to plan multiple routes with a pretty good idea of what you can expect to find along the way.

7. You’ll find railroads marked on the DeLorme maps. If you’re evacuating on foot, it could be handy to follow these routes, since you know they’ll lead to populated areas, and you’ll know ahead of time which areas those are so you can either avoid them or not.

8. Military sites are indicated. In a dire emergency, you could head there for help.

9. Along highways, rest areas are marked. At the very least, you’ll find water and toilets at these, but, depending on the location and circumstances, they aren’t always a safe place to stop.

10. The DeLorme maps include charts showing what types of wildlife are in the area for fishing and hunting. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be successful in your fishing and hunting endeavors, but at least you’ll know which animals to look for.

11. A very important feature are the hiking trails that are indicated. There are certainly more trails to be found, but having these already marked is a big help if you must evacuate on foot.

12. Campgrounds are also a feature of the map. If you have absolutely nowhere else to go, you can head for those. If you have a head start on the majority of evacuating people, you might find a prime spot at a well-equipped campground. Otherwise, you can head for a lesser known campground at a state park.

13. The DeLorme atlases are huge, which is a big help for seeing all the details. You can always tear out the pages you really need, laminate them, and keep them in an emergency kit. Keep the rest of the book handy, though, because you never know when you’ll need to expand your planned evacuation route further than you originally planned.

14. Canal and dam systems are marked, making it easier to find water sources.

15. Lakes, even small ones, can be found on the DeLorme maps. If you know how to fish, be sure to include basic fishing gear in your emergency kits or just always have them packed in your vehicle. Planning on drinking lake water? Be sure to have a really good water purifier/filter, such as the Sawyer Point Zero Two Water Purifier.

16. The DeLorme maps provide topographical information, so you have an idea of the elevation of your location and route. During a rainy season or hurricane, this can help you avoid areas that are likely to flood.

17. You’ll also find information about the type of terrain in different areas. At a glance, you’ll be able to locate wetlands, sandy areas, forests, and the like. All helpful to know when planning your route and where you’ll stop overnight, if necessary. If you’re planning to walk, this information can help you plan ahead for the right type of footwear, gear, and shelter, as well as some of the basic survival skills you’ll need for a particular type of terrain.

18. There is a separate DeLorme atlas for every state. If you think your route(s) may take you into neighboring states, get those atlases as well. Since they are mapped by the same company, the map markings will be consistent from state to state.

19. Where lakes and rivers are marked, you’ll also find boat ramps marked. This could be handy if evacuating by water is part of your plan. Also, where there are boat ramps there are also small businesses that sell food, water, and boating related gear.

20. State and national land is indicated on each map. If you really want to get away from it all, you could head to those areas.

21. Detailed maps such as the DeLorme atlases are great for kids learning how to use a real, paper map. Teach them how to use a map key, compass rose (N, S, E, W), and have them help you plan different routes for evacuations, vacations, or trips to Grandma’s house. Our kids are already too reliant on electronics and map reading skills could save a life someday.


Build a Workplace Emergency Kit

While few of us would relish the thought of having to spend a single minute more than absolutely necessary at work, it is conceivable you could end up stranded there overnight. If severe weather rolls in, such as a major blizzard, travel could become treacherous, at best. Civil unrest, flooding, or a terrorist attack could all result in being stranded at work and far from home.

Rather than roll the dice and take your chances on hazardous roads, or worse, you may be better off just hunkering down at your desk.  By planning ahead and assembling a workplace emergency kit, you can turn such an event into nothing more than an inconvenience.

Going back to the 6 S’s of Survival

Whenever I begin making survival plans, I keep 6 categories in mind:

  1. Sanitation
  2. Sustenance
  3. Survival
  4. Shelter
  5. Security
  6. Sanity

In a workplace setting, these items could occupy an empty drawer, closet space, in the company vehicle, or just shoved under your desk. It will be up to you to figure out how and where you can securely store these items. And, just in case you’re able to head home, these should be in a backpack, messenger-style bag, or some other bag you can easily transport.

Sanitation and Sustenance

Depending on your job situation or where you might find yourself on a typical day (on the road, for example), you should pack a roll or two of toilet paper, some Clorox wipes, a few a few plastic trash bags and Ziplocs, and hand sanitizer. The TP can be vacuum packed using a Food Saver to greatly reduce the amount of space it takes up in an emergency kit. In my vehicle emergency kit, I keep a dollar store plastic tablecloth that I’ve used as a drop cloth to help insure that a picnic table or other area is clean enough for eating. It has multiple uses.

You’ll want to include some food, in case you’re not able to get to a fast food joint, the cafeteria, or a restaurant. This food should have a decent amount of protein and fat, to provide energy and that stick-to-your-ribs feeling. I buy high calorie energy bars, such as the S.O.S. Ration Bars. Keep on hand a package of those and by eating 3 per day, plus some dried fruit, maybe some jerky, your daily calorie intake will be well over 1200.

If the power remains functioning, you might want to hit up the vending machines so toss some cash and coins in your kit. Just $10-20 will probably be enough. Make sure the bills aren’t too wrinkled to be recognized by the machine!

Survival and Shelter

Don’t forget to pack a few bottles of water, too. We have no way to reliably predict what the situation might be and the disaster you end up facing could result in water not flowing from the bathroom taps. In that case, you might have to get water elsewhere, and it might be questionable as to its safety. A LifeStraw comes in handy for that and since it’s low-cost and very lightweight, you could easily keep it stored in a desk drawer. The Sawyer Water Filtration System is also portable and very popular.

All too many emergencies include power outages. If you have to remain at work for whatever reason, there’s a very good chance there will be no lights, heat, or air conditioning. A good flashlight with extra batteries (or perhaps a dynamo powered flashlight, where turning a crank provides the power) will make you a hero at work, should the power go out. Many of us work in office buildings where the bulk of the work space has no exterior windows. If all the lights go out, it gets mighty dark in there. Do you really want to take a trip to the bathroom using the Braille method? If your flashlight uses batteries, store an extra set or two nearby.

Your workplace has now become  your shelter, so you’ll need to think through what that means in terms of maintaining a safe, indoor temperature. Hand and foot warmers are a good start, if you live in cold country. Mr. Heater is a very popular and highly efficient indoor heater that requires propane to operate. If you’re able to also stash a small propane tank and you live where cold weather is a serious concern, it would be worth finding a place to keep this little gem.

Without air flow, office buildings are famous for becoming stuffy and uncomfortable very quickly. A small battery-operated fan will take care of that.

If your job requires you to wear business attire or, conversely, you end up dirty and sweaty from working in a factory, a change of clothes would be nice to have on hand. Comfortable jeans, perhaps, and an old flannel shirt, as well as thick socks and sneakers.  The idea is to have clothes you won’t mind staying in for hours on end, rather than spending the night in a skirt or dress slacks.  A hooded sweatshirt might also be desirable, and definitely think in terms of layering your clothes. A change of socks and underwear will be mighty welcome, as well.

It’s very possible that you might have to do some walking to get home or to another shelter. Sturdy, warm, waterproof shoes with wool socks are an absolute must. Shoe Goo can be used to create a waterproof barrier if need be. Again, if you live in cold weather country, consider what clothing you would need before venturing out.

Many workplaces have first aid kits in the break room or perhaps the Human Resources office. Often, though, these are poorly equipped and rarely maintained. Either buy a small first aid kit or assemble one with supplies you have at home.  Adhesive bandages, pain relievers, and meds for stomach ailments should all be included.  If you regularly take any sort of prescription medication, keep in your kit enough to last a day or two, at least.

Security and Sanity

Of course, many of us are guilty of catching a cat nap here and there while we’re at work. But, given that you may end up spending a full night or two at the office, a small blanket and inflatable pillow will be welcome.  Emergency blankets are all well and good, but honestly, they aren’t all that cozy when you are just looking to snooze for a bit. A couple of yards of fleece fabric makes a warm, frugal blanket, although on a chilly winter night, you’ll need something more.

A few hygiene items can help greatly with morale if you have to spend one or more nights hunkered down at work. These include a toothbrush, toothpaste, a small bar of soap, and a hand towel.  If nothing else, having these things in your kit will help prevent people standing further and further away from you during conversations.  Another thing to keep in your kit is your preferred feminine hygiene supplies.

Finally, count on the fact that you’ll probably get bored after a while.  You work with the people around you every single day, you’ve already heard all of their stories and you likely don’t want to listen to them again.  Something to help pass the time will be of great benefit.  A book to read, maybe crossword puzzles or word search puzzles, if that’s your thing.  A deck of cards could be fun, whether you play poker or solitaire (you do know you can play solitaire without a computer, right?).  I would refrain, though, from chewing up your flashlight’s battery to engage in these activities.  If an office has a window, and thus light coming in, great.  Otherwise, save your flashlight for when you truly need it.

A final item, to help insure your cell phone and other small electronics remain operable, is an external battery pack, like the Jackery. I own 2 of these, and they are worth their weight in gold. Just plug them in until they’re fully charged, and then keep one in an emergency kit, your desk drawer, purse, or briefcase. Whenever your electronics need a charge, just connect them to the Jackery!

Your workplace emergency kit will likely fit into a small duffel bag, which can be stashed under your desk or in your locker.  While most of us have our bug out bags or get home bags in our vehicles, having this separate kit at your workplace will prevent you from having to leave the building at all until it is safe to do so.

If you are a business owner, I would encourage you to give serious thought to ways you can be prepared to assist your most valuable assets–your employees–in the event of a disaster hitting during working hours.

If you work from home or stay at home during the day, consider putting together one of these kits for a spouse or other loved one who does have to go to work each day.