Survival Checklist for Residents Who Don’t Evacuate

By Kathleen Koch
Founder & Executive Director, LeadersLink

Evacuating an entire community in the face of an approaching disaster is difficult, and despite everyone’s best efforts some will stay behind.  Here is a survival checklist for communities to share with residents who can’t or won’t leave.


FOOD / WATER – Have plenty of nonperishable food, a nonelectric can opener and at least a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day).  Have matches or a lighter, a camping stove or grill to cook on (outdoors only), plenty of charcoal or propane tank fuel and a fire extinguisher.  Only sterno cans are safe to warm food indoors.  Coolers packed with ice. Fill and freeze empty 2-liter bottles or Ziploc bags and use them to keep your refrigerator cold when the power goes out and to serve as an extra water source. Remember every hot water heater tank contains 40 – 160 gallons of drinkable water, accessible by opening the drain valve.  Fill bathtubs and garbage cans (lined with plastic garbage bags) with water.  Have paper plates, cups, napkins, paper towels and plastic utensils.  For pets, have a crate, stock up on pet food and medicine and take a photo of yourself together with them so you can prove they are yours if you get separated.

LIGHT / INFORMATION – Have flashlights, lanterns, candles, batteries and a battery-powered or hand-crank radio. Remember that outdoor solar lights can light the indoors.  Get a battery-powered fan.  Have plenty of cash in small bills, as well as desirable items in short supply to barter with after the storm – beer, wine and liquor.  Have quarters in case you need to use a pay phone.

TOILETRIES / MEDICINE – Have bug spray, Handi Wipes, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and first aid supplies and manual.  Have all necessary prescriptions filled with at least a two-week supply.  Also ladies’ sanitary items.  Get a tetanus shot!  Place emergency supplies as high off the floor as possible.  If you are in a two-story house, put some on the second story.

VALUABLES / RECORDS – Take photos and videos of the inside and outside of your home.  Open closets and drawers so their contents are visible.  Make sure your homeowner’s and flood insurance policy payments are up to date.  Carry valuables upstairs or put them in a high location.  Photograph or scan important papers (including pet vaccine records) as well as your driver’s license and credit cards and then email them to yourself or upload them to the cloud in case the originals are lost or destroyed.  Put the papers in a Ziploc bag inside a portable plastic container. Also put photos in waterproof bags and containers.  Safes aren’t impervious to water.  Bank safes and safe deposit boxes are not waterproof.  During flooding, items left in them may be damaged and inaccessible for weeks.

PHONES / COMPUTERS – Fully charge your cell phones and computers now and back them up to the cloud before the power goes out.  Have portable or solar cell phone chargers. Carry a power strip or a multiple port USB wall charger so when you find a place with electricity, several people can charge their phones at once.

CAR – Have a car power inverter so you can plug things into your car.  Keep your car’s gas tank full and fill cans with extra gas. Have a tire repair kit with extra plugs as well as a pair of pliers for fixing flats from driving over storm debris.  If you have an electric garage door opener, know where the manual release lever is located and how to operate it.

COMMUNICATION – Tell loved ones now where you are and designate someone outside the area as your point of contact.  There will be little or no cell phone service after the hurricane when cell towers are down.  If you get service, you may be able to call out of state but nowhere in your immediate area.  Texts are more likely to go through than phone calls.  Turn off internet/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/GPS connections to extend cell phone battery life. Have an old model landline phone that functions without electricity that you can plug into the wall and use. If you rely on a navigation service, plan for how to get around without it if your cell phone dies or has no service. (Remember paper maps?)  Know the GPS coordinates of your home.  When street signs are destroyed or submerged, GPS can guide rescuers straight to you and help insurance adjusters find your home after the storm.

CLEANING – Wash all laundry and dishes now because you won’t have water and electricity for a while.  Have LOTS of clean underwear on hand.  Get bleach and cleaning tools to clean your house (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach to use as a disinfectant), as well as safety glasses, dust masks, sturdy rubber gloves and rubber boots.  Duct tape.  Have a supply of tarps to cover your damaged roof or lay items on the lawn to dry.

GENERATOR – Know how to turn off your utilities and have the tools (wrench or pliers) to do it.  Have a generator and position it at least 20 feet from any structure.  Check the oil, fill it with fresh gas and test run it before the storm.  When it’s time to refill the tank, be sure to shut the generator down and let it cool first.  Spilling gas on a hot generator can cause a fire or explosion.  Don’t connect the generator directly to the home’s wiring since the voltage can backfeed onto power lines, injuring neighbors or utility workers. Instead, use a heavy duty extension cord to connect individual lights or appliances to the generator.  (Make sure they are unplugged when you start or stop it.)  Protect extension cord connections from rain or standing water.

SHELTER – Cover all windows with shutters or plywood.  Roll old towels tightly and press them tight into your windowsills.  This can protect the drywall and floors underneath if wind pressure pushes water around closed windows.  When the hurricane hits, stay away from windows and shelter in an interior room of the house. Close all interior doors to disperse pressure and prevent the roof from collapsing if windows are blown in.  Understand that storm surges roar in quickly and you may have little time to get to higher locations.  Have an ax or chain saw to take into the attic and a ladder to climb up.  Locate in advance the best place to cut a hole in the roof if you need to escape. Have a plan in case you need to abandon the structure where you are.  Look for a taller building nearby or a boat in your or your neighbor’s yard that you could climb into.  Carry a whistle to help rescuers find you if you are injured or trapped.

Good luck and God bless!