The Grab Bag

Packing for an Emergency Evacuation

What to prepare, what to do and what to pack …

Recently, like many other Australians across the country, I had a knock on the front door from a policeman telling me it was time to go! I had to evacuate the house as soon as possible. This was a first for me and not really something I had ever seriously considered a possibility.

I blundered around for a while, grabbed a few things, stopped and tried to make a rough list, wondered what my partner would need (she was away for the afternoon), stuffed a bag or two, picked up my laptop, locked the door and was gone.

It wasn’t until several hours later that I started remembering all the things I should have taken and should have done before I left the house. I was one of the lucky ones as I could stay with friends who lived nearby and passed a very pleasant night in a comfortable bed so did not feel the loss of the items I should have taken – many of my neighbours were not so blessed.

A day or so later after we were allowed home, I decided to create a checklist – maybe even the ultimate emergency Grab Bag checklist.  I did a little Internet research and soon discovered I wasn’t the only one with this bright idea. The list below is a compilation of my ideas and the thoughts of many others.

I have broken it down into sections – and with each section have posed a few questions you might want to consider when deciding what to take.


Things to do so you are ready in case you need to evacuate.

  • Scan all your important paperwork and store online and on a USB stick – insurance, passports, bank details, drivers’ licence, personal contacts, birth certificate, will, irreplaceable photos (ie deceased parents) and so on.
  • Take photos of the rooms in your house – they may be useful if you need to replace all that is lost. (Store online as well)
  • Identify what is important to you – the personal things you don’t want to leave behind. (If an emergency evacuation is likely consider moving those items to a safer location beforehand or, if possible, bag them up ready to go)
  • Get cash from the bank – you may not be able to access an ATM or use your cards during the emergency.
  • Get a battery pack for your phone – you may not be able to charge it during an emergency. (Consider spare batteries for other necessary devices like hearing aids)
  • Each person should have a suitable bag(s), ID, water bottle, snack food, and change of clothes …
  • Create your ‘evacuation kit list’ (I keep mine on my phone)
  • Create an ‘evacuation to do list’ – turn of the utilities, locking up the house, turn off the BBQ gas tank and move away from house …
Other things to consider before you need to evacuate
  • You may have to travel some distance to safely evacuate and you may not be able to return to home for several days. (Fill up the car while you still can)
  • You may have to stay in a communal shelter or evacuation centre (Do you have friends you could visit instead?)
  • Alerting your friends and family about what is happening – they will have seen the news and will be concerned. Status updates on Facebook or your favourite social media platform work well.
The List


  • Keys (and a spare set)
  • Wallet (licence, cards and cash)
  • Passport
  • Identification
  • Water bottle


  • Duffle bag / grip / backpack / wheelie (are you walking? taking the car?)
  • Daypack
  • Briefcase (for the technology?)


  • Phone & charger
  • Laptop & charger
  • Kindle/eBook & charger
  • Headphones
  • USB Stick (scanned documents, contacts …)

Heath & Hygiene

  • Toilet bag
  • Medications
  • Towel
  • Ear plugs
  • Face mask (or suitable bandanna)
  • Sunglasses
  • Insect repellent
  • First aid kit


  • Glasses (and a spare)
  • Pocketknife / multitool
  • Torch
  • Umbrella
  • Notepad & pen
  • Books, playing cards – toys for the children
  • Pets & supplies (food, leash, carry cage …)


  • Sufficient for time away – 2-3 changes
  • Think warm, waterproof, light weight and sturdy.

Eating (optional)

  • Bowl
  • Takeaway food container (reusable)
  • Keep Cup
  • Knife, fork & spoon
  • Can opener

Food (optional)

  • Will you be fed at the shelter?
  • Water
  • Non- perishable food
  • Snacks
  • Esky and freezer blocks (only useful for a short time)

Sleeping (optional)

  • Pillow
  • Blanket(s)
  • Sleeping bag / sheet / pillowcase
  • Sleeping mat

Miscellaneous (optional)

  • Rubbish bag
  • Whistle
  • Gaffer tape
  • Radio
  • Folding chair
  • Tent
  • Cooker & fuel

And there will be other things that I have yet to remember and things that you know you can’t do without – pack them too! I do hope you never have to go through an evacuation but if you do, maybe this article will help.


Good Luck


Mark Squires
Outdoors Queensland

Become a member

We welcome membership applications from outdoor organisations and individuals

Learn More