By Caroline Bujold
If you had only 60 minutes to grab a few belongings, with the knowledge that you might not get back to your home any time soon, or ever. What would you take?
As wildfires are still raging in the north of Alberta and my adoptive hometown, Edmonton, is welcoming evacuees, this question has been my obsession. What would I grab? What’s our emergency plan?
Heck, sometimes people only get minutes, not an hour!
Two years ago when the flash floods happened in the south of the province, my sister-in-law could not even get home to grab anything. Not even her dogs. She was “lucky“, her dogs were safe, her basement was flooded, but not the upstairs. It took a long time, as these things do, but she was eventually able to return home and “renovate“, as her home wasn’t destroyed or didn’t have to be torn down.
So back to my question, what would I grab if I could? And where are our most important papers that would help rebuild our lives if need be? I’ve wanted to tackle this for a long time and what better time than NOW to do so?
I think all of us can use a little bit more preparedness in our lives. You can use our a downloadable checklist from the Printable Library to help you prepare as well.
If I had only an hour to prepare, what would I take
1. Luggage + Clothes + Footwear
Think comfortable, everyday stuff: jeans, shorts, t-shirts, one or two sweaters, a jacket, underwear, runners, flats and sandals for the shower (you might be staying in a community centre for a few days).
When planning your own list, think about items that would be familiar to you and your family and would make you feel a little bit better in this time of crisis.
2. Toiletries + Medication + Eyewear
In all honesty, you can always go by that stuff, so skip this if you have no time. But having a few items on hand can help make you feel like yourself again. A hot shower and a cup of tea have been known to alleviate any type of misery, at least temporarily.
Since I travel for work on a somewhat regularly basis, I have a toiletries go bag pretty much packed all the time at the bottom of my closet, I just need to throw in the few items I use everyday and it’s ready to go. It might be a good idea for you to have something like that prepared at all times. On the plus side, it makes packing for a trip really easy.
3. Other essentials depending of your situation
Of course, if you have kids and/or pets, your list of things to grab may also contain these items: dog food and dish, a few dog toys, diapers, care products, Sippy cups and bottles, stroller, favourite blanket or stuffed animal, a few toys and books/DVDs.
4. Important papers
This seems obvious, but not necessarily easy. Besides what “lives“ in my purse and my husband’s wallet, there are other important papers to consider. We know where they all are, but they’re not ready to go in a second and we don’t have copies stashed anywhere else; so this is one of my next projects:
- Take pictures or scan our important documents, save them on my computer and on a cloud;
- Insurance policies: life, car, home
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Home title + mortgage
- Wills (ahem, we don’t even have wills »»» but it’s on our list of projects)
- Itemization of property (a list of your possessions, also on the list of projects this year)
- Home Info Document (this is basically all your service providers information, so you can contact them, and yes it’s also on my list of future projects)
- Assemble a Grab This File First with copies of important papers in our filing cabinet, because having originals is always better;
- Invest in a fireproof box to help preserve some documents; alternatively, you could also invest in a safe deposit box at your bank.
It feels like leaving electronics would be a great loss. Of course the items are replaceable, but the files inside, maybe less so.
I know I should backup some files on a cloud and many are, but not all. What’s more, my backup hard drive is in the same room as my computer. It would be a good idea to have one more redundancy, i.e. cloud space where documents are saved.
6. Camping gear + Emergency kit
This might seem superfluous, but I think if we had to be away for a while, having our own camping gear, would provide us with some independence and privacy. Furthermore, if you’re evacuated from your home and you’re temporarily out of a job, what do you do all day? I might be wrong on this, but I’m thinking parking myself in a campground somewhere safe, might help me keep my sanity.
As you might have noticed, I like to be ready to go in a pinch, but mostly, I like to not have to think about what we’re “supposed“ to bring on any vacation. It’s no different with our camping gear. We have a bin that has all the stuff we usually use for making food: pots and pans, a can opener, plates and cups, utensils, etc. If you are a camping fan, you probably have something like this already. We also have a second empty bin that we use for food and water supplies.
If not, maybe a small bin where you throw a few items would suffice: a manual can opener, a few bowls, plates and glasses, utensils … only one of each per person. You could also add a couple extra blankets and pillows on top.
Finally, we have a plastic bin in our pantry that has all of our first aid supplies. If there were time, I would grab that too.
7. Mementos (only if there was time)
This one is hard mainly because it’s different for everybody and also because if it was a question of life and death, I would gladly leave it all behind. But that’s just me; other people might grab that first.
If I did have a few minutes to spare though, I might grab our wedding box (original photo CDs in there) a couple of photo albums and a mail box with old letters and postcards. I’d make sure I have my wedding rings and earrings and my mom’s wedding rings.
The only other thing I can think of are paintings that were done for us by friends and family. I absolutely adore these paintings and they are irreplaceable. For me to grab them thought, we would have to have a lot of space (leave with two vehicles).
It’s worth spending some time thinking about this in advance, so you know what is truly important and irreplaceable to you.
Maclean’s Magazine did a powerful piece on what people from Fort Mac grabbed in the moments before they had to leave. See what some displaced residents took with them.
So this is what I would take given that there was some time to prepare. You can download the checklist from our Printable Library.
BONUS – Get a Go Bag in your car
Prior to this exercise, I already had a few things in my car. During my last two closet decluttering sessions, instead of giving away some older clothes, I had put them aside and added them to a bag that is permanently in the trunk of my car.
This bag originally contained an older winter jacket, mittens and a toque. I figured that if I ever got stranded on the side of the road in the winter this could help. I also have booster cables, matches, candles, a headlamp and a safety vest (can’t remember were I got that one).
To this I added: a pair of jeans, a shirt, a pair of old runners and some underwear. I’ve also decided to add an extra blanket to the mix.
As anxiety inducing as this might be for you, the whole idea here is to think about this BEFORE it happens so that if you ever have to live through it, you come out the other side fairly unscathed and ready to rebuild your life.
I think that it would be sad to loose everything, but I know I would be OK as long as we are both safe. I think situations like theses are worth thinking about. They really put things into perspective.
Now it’s your turn. What would you bring? What are your most prized possessions and do you know exactly where they are?