In some ways, this is going to be the hardest part of your pre-planning. This part requires complete honesty and that can be really hard. On the plus side, no one ever has to know but you.
To plan your kits and your evacuation strategies, you first have to understand your needs and the needs of those you are evacuating with. This can be the people and animals that live in your home. It can include family members and friends who do not. This is the first thing you must determine. Who can you not leave behind?
When I had family members still in my community, I included them in my plans. I knew they had their own abilities to evacuate but we would want to go together. This does make planning a bit more difficult because you have to make sure that they are all on the same page as you. Individuals like an elderly family member who lives alone is going to be easier than your sibling with their three children.
I recommend that you include your family and friends not in your household in the conversation. Do they want to prepare with you or would they prefer to prepare on their own? It is perfectly okay to just focus on your household.
Now with that out of the way, what should your assessment look like?
Start with the number of people in your home. Do not undercount children. You may be planning while your youngest is an infant but it could be five years before you have an emergency. Everyone counts as 1.
One person at a time, write down what they need to survive. This includes medication, medical items such as canes and eyeglasses, but it also includes pacifiers, special blankets/toys, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, tobacco. This is not the time to be brave or strong. Nothing makes a disaster unbearable than having withdrawal and no comfort items. This is where you have to be very, very honest.
Once you have gone through all the humans in your home, assess your animals. Unless you have no animals, do not skip this part. A number of people in disaster situations are caught off-guard more by what to do with their animals than with what to do with the humans. Letting them “go” is not a reasonable option. Animals who are cared for do not know how to care for themselves in a disaster.
Keep this list handy (I highly recommend having a notebook dedicated to your planning so you have all your notes together) because you will need to refer back to it as you prepare your kits and evacuation plans.
I know that this seems like a waste of time and that if you are ready, you are ready now. I ask that you trust me. We have one more week of brainstorming coming. These lists you are creating are going to make your emergency planning so much easier.