Most people think of evacuation as something that happens in third-world countries when there's a war or when nature runs amok and sends a tsunami rushing ashore. But the truth is there are evacuations taking place around our own country all the time.
Right now, for instance, more than 32,000 Colorado residents are on the run from a wildfire that has engulfed their homes, destroying everything they own. The governor of the state said the region looks like a military invasion, and there is no end in sight as the scope of the fire is growing.
It's the same story in neighboring Utah and New Mexico where fires are forcing residents out of their homes. Where will these people sleep tonight? Where will they go, and what will they have to look forward to in the coming days?
Imagine for a moment that you are one of them. Sometime during the day you are notified that you must leave your home and get out of the area, because there's an official evacuation notice. Or perhaps you're at work or school or out shopping when your neighborhood is overrun by a wildfire, and you have no chance to return to your home to grab anything.
That's the way forced evacuations work sometimes. You might not have any time at all to scramble around, grabbing this and that to take with you. You might have exactly what you're wearing and what's in your vehicle, and nothing else.
So that begs the question of what you're wearing and what's in your vehicle, because that might be the sum total of what you are able to have during the evacuation — if you're lucky.
If you're less lucky, you might not have the vehicle. It might be swept away in a flood, or cremated by a wildfire, or destroyed in the wreckage of collapsed buildings after an earthquake.
Then you have only what you're wearing and what you can grab in an instant.
Getting out alive is the highest priority, even if it means you have no time or opportunity to grab anything at all.
But, if you have prepared an evacuation bag (sometimes known as a "grab and go" bag or a "bug out bag"), you are miles ahead of the game. A well-prepared evacuation bag will be sitting by an exit, where you can lay your hands on it as you're fleeing the building. Or it will be in your vehicle already.
For ultimate versatility, organize your kit in a "backpack" style piece of luggage that has substantial wheels, an extendable handle, and shoulder straps.
Just because you're in survival mode is no reason to live like a heathen. To make life easier when you're on the run or are living in a refugee camp, here are my basic recommendations for items to be included in the kit.
A couple changes of underwear and socks
Long -sleeved shirt
Rain poncho or rain suit
Spare eyeglasses (if you need them)
Contact lens solution (if you need it)
Bandana or large handkerchief
3 or more MREs or Mountain House meals
Folding military-type can opener
Salt and pepper
Backpack stove, fuel, and lightweight pot (JetBoil Personal Cooking System is excellent for this)
2 liters of water
Backpack water filter
1 roll of toilet paper
1 heavy-duty trash bag
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
Bar of soap
Liquid camp soap
Small towel, washcloth
First aid kit
Lightweight tent or tarp
Sleeping bag or blanket
Flashlight (hand crank type, or take spare batteries)
Fire starter and tinder
Signal mirror, whistle
Trowel for digging a latrine
Emergency radio (hand crank type like Grundig FR200, or take spare batteries)
Deck of cards to alleviate boredom while in a refugee situation
Roll of quarters (for showers)
Small cache of spending money (keep this hidden)
Pencil and notepad
Prescription medications (rotate to keep these fresh)
This might seem like a lot of stuff, and you might not be able to prepare your kit with everything on this list. But if you can, you will be able to live well and comfortably no matter where you end up after the evacuation.