How to Evacuate Without Forgetting Anything Important: an Evacuation Checklist

Are you at risk for a hurricane, forest fire, flood, or other disaster that may require you to evacuate?


Then you need to how to evacuate and create an evacuation checklist so you can do so effectively and efficiently.
You do not want to leave this to the last minute. If you are prepared, you will stay calm, think more clearly, and take what is most important with you.
  How to evacuate without forgetting anything important | Prepare to evaucate | evacuation checklist


The thing about evacuation is that the amount of time you have to prepare to leave will depend on the hazard. With a hurricane, you may have a day or two. But with a house fire, you may only have seconds. Or you may have somewhere between those two extremes. Without an evacuation checklist, this can quickly become overwhelming.  Think about it:
Would your family be ready to evacuate if necessary?


  • What would you grab if you had a full day’s warning?
  • What would you grab if you had 30 minutes warning?
  • What if you had 10 minutes warning?
  • What if you only had moments?
  • Where will you go if only your home is affected?
  • Where will you go if only your immediate area is affected?
  • Where will you go if your area and hundreds of miles around are affected?
  • How will you gather all your family members?
  • Where will you gather all your family members?
  • How will you communicate with local and long-distance family members?



Create Your Evacuation Checklist

Having a pre-made evacuation checklist allows you to DO without THINKING when asked to evacuate.  It will help you avoid panic and overwhelm and ensure you won’t forget anything important.  Here is how to create one:

First, sit down with all the adults and teenage children in your home. Create a list of everything you’d want to take with you if you had a full day’s warning to evacuate and could do so in your car. Also, include things you may need to DO. Think about what you are preparing to evacuate FOR in these situations. Will you need a tent, or will you be going to your brother’s house in the next town over? Think about items that will help you take care of your family as well as sentimental items you would not want to lose if your home were destroyed.

Now, prioritize that list according to what is most important to you. Those things that are absolutely essential to grab or do should be at the top. Print your evacuation checklist, post it near your doors, and put one in your grab and go binder.

Next, move any items that you can (pictures, hard drives, extra keys, grab and go/important documents binder, water, books, tents, 72-hour kits, etc.) near an exit to make them easier to grab quickly.

Last, practice at least once to make sure you can get through everything on your evacuation checklist as quickly as possible and so you know how to fit everything in your car.  Make needed adjustments.  Then practice yearly.

We did this a few years ago, and it brings such peace of mind! We actually split our evacuation checklist into two: “Moments” and “Minutes or More” because we found our priorities were different depending on the time we had.

In addition, our prioritized list is split it between my husband and me. We each just start working down our list until we have to leave.

We’ve also assumed that if we had 10 minutes notice or more we would be able to leave in our van and would likely be able to get to a friend or family member’s home within a day or two. If we only had moments, it would be on foot.

Below are our lists. I’d love to hear your plans/suggestions!

Note – The links in this post are affiliate links meaning if you purchase after clicking on them, I will be given a small commission (at no additional cost to you).  Learn more here about how I am (and am not) compensated, and thank you for your support of me and my family!



Get girls’ shoes on

Get my shoes on

Grab purse and cell

Get to a garage with girls

Get 72-hour kit on

Get outside with girls


Get boys’ shoes on

Get own shoes on

Grab wallet and cell

Grab external hard drive and camera

Get to a garage with boys

Get 72 hr kit on him and boys

Get outside with boys




My shoes on

Kids’ shoes on

Turn on a movie for kids IN VAN (on iPad)

Jackets and winter gear in a van (if winter time)

My purse, Nathan’s wallet, keys, cell phones, and chargers in a van

External hard drive and camera in the van

Extra flashlights (these are my favorite), solar generators, and other power out supplies in a van

Quick Meals and extra snack food in the van

A cooler filled with milk, cheese, fresh fruit and frozen water in the van

Kids’ pillows, blankies, and stuffed animals in the van

Extra clothes, diapers, and medicine in a van

Toys, coloring books, games, and crayons in van


Shoes on

Shut off gas and water to the house

Put 72-hour kits in the van

24 pack water bottles in a van

Family pictures/journal tub in a van

Kids keepsake boxes in a van

Family tent in a van (also heard good things about this one, but we don’t own it)

Butane Stove and quickfire stove in a van with butane and quickfire pucks

Firewood in van

Fishing gear in a van

Additional extra blankets in a van

Guitar in van

Favorite books in a van


You can create your own prioritized evacuation checklist on this form.

You can record your predetermined family meeting locations HERE.

A Few Notes

  • If the house is in full flames, we wouldn’t worry about ANYTHING on the list except ourselves and our children.
  • We keep our grab and go binder, camera and our (1 TB, but very small) external hard drive RIGHT by our garage door. We would walk right by them on our way out making it simple to grab them as we go.
  • We keep our 72-hour kits in our garage.
  • The reason for turning on a movie for the kids is to keep them out of the way/distracted while my husband and I run around like crazy people. Rolling on the floor laughing
  • We keep a pair of shoes near the garage AND front doors for all family members.
  • All our power out supplies are in one upstairs hall closet making it easy to find and grab things.
  • We keep one cooler, 24 pack water bottles, firewood, our family tent, fishing gear, and our butane stove, and quickfire stove in the garage.
  • We keep (all day every day) an emergency crank powered radio, a first aid kit, mini 72-hour kit, extra blankets, an emergency road kit, snacks, a current and 3-4-year-old family photo (for ID purposes) and small bills (money) in our van.
  • All of our family pictures are on our external hard drive, but we have some pictures of mine and my husband’s childhood that aren’t. (Remember the days of film??)  These, along with older written journals are all in a tub in our basement.
  • We also have a tub and file folder for each of our kids where we keep sentimental things for them when they get older.  These are also in our basement.
  • We did not list out scriptures separately as we have a copy of them on our iPads/phones.
  • You can find a list of what USED to be my Grab-and-Go binder here.  I’ve since started using the Prepare My Life Planner which is much better for so many reasons, but it isn’t free like the printable I provide in that post.  My free folder worked for me for a long time!


There you have it!  Now, go create your family’s evacuation checklist!


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How to evacuate without forgetting anything important | Prepare to evaucate | evacuation checklist



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Becky is a wildlife enthusiast and pet and livestock care expert with a diploma in canine nutrition. With over a decade of experience in animal welfare, Becky lends her expertise to Simple Family Preparedness through insightful info about pets, livestock, bee keeping, and the practicalities of homesteading.

77 thoughts on “How to Evacuate Without Forgetting Anything Important: an Evacuation Checklist”

  1. I live in a high earthquake zone & attending a neighborhood association meeting I learned a neat trick. The instructor said to bungee a pair of shoes to each bed. In an earthquake (and other emergencies) things can go flying & sliding. You will need shoes to protect your feet & won’t waste precious time looking for them.

    • I survived the Northridge Earthquake RIGHT ON THE FAULT POINT! After that, and for over a decade, I slept ON TOP OF A FLASHLIGHT. I could never figure out how I would ever find that darn thing once the earth started rolling or worse, popping us like popcorn as it did in Northridge. Thank you for this. I am going shopping for bungee cords now!

  2. We live in the Mohave desert and there are just three reliable routes out to the nearest decent size towns/cities – we know because we have taken the time to drive each route. And we make sure the fuel tanks of our two vehicles never get below half-full, which is more than enough to get to any of those other towns. That being said, if we just had moments to evacuate, we would put our two housecats in their carriers and load them and their food into one of the vehicles. In each of our two vehicles we would place one or more cases of bottled water, a sleeping bag for each driver and any passengers, one 72-hr emergency food bucket, one portable camp stove with fuel, extra ammo, the charger for each driver’s mobile phone and a small overnight bag per person with prescription meds, basic toiletries and a change of clothing.

    Of course each adult would have personal ID, credit cards/bank cards, and personal firearm — stuff we always take with us when we leave our house (yes we have the appropriate permits). We’d make sure the house was locked up, decide which evacuation route to take and leave in a convoy of two vehicles. The lead vehicle would be using the Garmin just in case we had to use an unfamiliar detour on our way out of our town. If one of the vehicles broke down during the evacuation, people and pets would be transferred to the remaining vehicle and our journey would continue. Anything other items we might like to have for an extended stay out of town, we would buy at our destination or just be tough and do without.

  3. This week’s lesson just hit my inbox with perfect timing. My significant other, the dog and I spent all day today exploring alternate, rarely traveled routes to get us out of our suburban area and to the rural area my mother, son and grandson live, about 70 miles away. As we came back towards town, and back into cell service, we saw how quickly the freeway can be shut down… A semi hauling 600 beehives had overturned, the bees were swarming in the 107 degree heat and eastbound traffic had been at a standstill for several hours.

    From making the decision to explore alternate routes (and play in the river on the way) to leaving took 20 minutes, most of which was spent walking the dog and watering plants. The last few weeks I have dedicated 2 hours/day on my days off to preparedness organizing and what used to take 90 minutes now takes moments – grab cooler, water, frozen water bottles, snacks, already packed day packs for both of us plus the dog, and go.

    Tomorrow I am moving a couple more items to the front hall closet for efficiency if we ever have to evacuate in a hurry. It was interesting to come off all the essentially traffic free back woods roads today and see the several miles of backed up, overheating freeway traffic and to realize that every vehicle barely inching along was doing so by choice – they had chosen not to take any of the several exits and go around the mess by alternative routes.

    Thank you for all the great info!!! I appreciate it.

  4. Great information here. I am currently working on an evacuation plan for my family and i see external hard drive high on the priorities even at 10 minutes. May i please ask what information are you keeping on it. Is it like copies of birth certificates, pictures?

    • Sorry for my late response here Elena. Our external hard drive is mostly pictures. We also have backups of important documents and a backup of my website.

  5. Thanks so much for this great list. I really appreciate your adding “turn on a movie for the kids.” I know this will keep my son distracted and from under foot while we are preparing to evacuate.

  6. Hi Misty,
    This is wonderful, thanks for sharing and could you please email me your template too?

    And personally, I think grabbing the guitar is a wonderful idea, music is magical, if you’re stuck (safely) in your car for a great length of time, or when you finally reach safety, hearing your husband play could be just what the family needs.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing so much info. I just downloaded and printed out the emergency binder and located all the important documents (you wouldn’t believe how hard to find and scattered they were all over the place!) I still need to work on fine tuning the binder and we are slowly getting our 72 hr bags together, the kids and I worked on them today! (My 8 year old daughter was SOOO excited! She really loved working on hers) and I feel so much better with just this tiny start! Thank you again!

  8. As I begin to learn everything about 72 hour kits I see how everyone adds there personal touches. I have added a whistle in each of the kids front packs. My hope is for those to go around their neck right away. We then developed a family “tune” and a reply in case one of us gets lost.

  9. Love your lists..and that you divided them between you and your spouse.I realize that you didnt specify what was in your 72hr bags and may have covered this..but I picked up cheap (but very colorful and cute..bonus!) one each of a car and wall charger at WalGreens in the checkout lane..for our iphones to keep in our BugOut hopes that we may have electricty or at least the car battery when we get where we are going. Both of us having iphones as well as an ipad allows for a universal charger vs having 3 or 4 different chargers. I also regularly copy and even scan older photos onto flash drives and keep them in our safe deposit box so I’m not heartbroken having to leave them behind.

  10. I found your site on Pinterest. I love your list! My son is working on the Boy Scout emergency preparedness merit badge and needs to make a kit. I think this list is a must add.
    I am a single Mom and both my kids are teens. I plan to make us each a list for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour and 1 day. We get lots of tornado’s here so everything needs to be in the basement. I love the comment someone made about having an extra box. It takes a lot of time to carry stuff up from downstairs. I think an extra box would help out.
    I am a photographer so photos are a must for me. I plan to keep a extra copy of all my favorite photos and scan important documents on a flash drive in my 72 hour backpack kit. Put the flash drive in a water proof cell phone box with your name, phone number, email address. They cost $5 at Walmart. This way if its raining or the bag gets dropped in water you will still have it.
    If I only can grab two things it would be my purse and my backpack kit. I plan to keep a copy of the Boy Scout First Aid merit badge book in my kit. It has a lot of simple ways to treat big first aid problems.
    Thanks again for your amazing list and website.

  11. I found you through pinterest, and of all the great things I have found there, your information is wonderful! You have such useful, life saving info. We already do a lot of the things you have here, but you have them organized in a way to get out quickly, I will be working to revamp our things asap. Thank you so much for all you do – this really is great 🙂


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