What to bring to a Red Cross shelter

Started by Blast, May 10, 2024, 01:29:16 PM

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Blast

Having recently finished my 5th deployment as a Red Cross shelter manager, I figured I'd share some tips on what to bring with you if you end up in one. Yes, I know the plan is to bug out to a secure location but life gets in the way of plans. Also yes, you probably have a bugout bag ready and sitting by the door. If nothing else, share this information with those friends/family members that say "We'll just go to your place." 

I wrote this as part of my May 2024 newsletter which hasn't been released yet, so y'all are getting a sneak peak.
-Blast

These last four years have definitely opened people's eyes to the fragility of "The System" revealing the truth that the more complex a system is, the easier it is for something to go catastrophically wrong. There's all sorts of websites devoted to helping you prepare for any type of disaster, so I thought I'd end this newsletter with some thoughts on a glaring hole in this information – what should one bring along to a Red Cross emergency relief shelter. I'll break it down into necessities, hygiene, and comfort.
 
Depending on the emergency, you may or may not have much time to grab things before you evacuate. First and foremost, you need to bring any prescription medicines you have. Also, right this minute use your phone to take clear photographs of the label on each showing all the details. If you don't have time to grab your meds, the shelter medical staff will be able to use those pictures to get you replacement medicines. Note, glasses and contacts fall into the prescription medicine category. Keep a copy of your eyeglass/contact prescription on your phone, too.
 
In addition to your medicine, also grab copies of important papers such as insurance policies, banking info, birth certificates, passports, driver's license, and other important paperwork you think of. And yes, take pictures of those things now, too.
 
As mentioned earlier, upon arrival you'll be given a small bag with gender-neutral, travel-sized toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, wash cloth, comb, razor) for use while in the shelter. You may want to rescue your expensive hair/skincare products, makeup, and perfumes, but your storage space in the shelter will be limited to the space under your cot. Grab feminine hygiene products instead. You may be limited to a shower just every other day or more, depending on shelter resources. Bring at least two extra sets of clothing, especially socks and underwear. Some shelters have partnerships with donated clothing organizations that, upon request, will bring you some clothing in your size, but you won't have much say in the style/type of clothing, and do you really want to wear someone else's used underwear?
 
The shelters are set up for safety, not comfort. You will be given a cot, a single blanket, and pillow. Quiet time starts at 8pm and lights out is generally 9pm-6am. Because of the number of people around you, you'll appreciate comfortable earplugs to reduce the noise (people snoring, children crying) and even a sleeping mask if you don't want to be woken up when the morning lights come on.
 
During the day, options for entertainment are very limited, so something to pass the time helps a lot – books, a deck of cards, games without a lot of pieces, and other non-electronic entertainment are smart choices. Do NOT assume you'll have fast (or any) WiFi available to watch movies or scroll through social media. Also, options to recharge your phone or other electronic devices will be limited, so even though you had better bring charging cables, you may not be able to plug in anytime you want. Note, you will be most beloved person in the shelter if you show up with a multi-outlet power dock so more people can charge their devices off a single wall outlet!

You will be surrounded by strangers in cots about 3' away. I'm sure most of them are great people, but it's still smart to have some sort of box or strong bag to hold your stuff when not in use. Don't make it easy for someone to "accidentally" wander off with your items. The dorm staff will try to keep an eye on things but we're generally way outnumbered.
 
God willing, you never need to use this information, but as a shelter manager let me add that having these things makes my life easier, which will really make me like you. That's a good thing!
 
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Moab

I assume firearms and knives are not allowed or confiscated? Anything else on the no fly list?
"Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why would we let them have ideas?" Josef Stalin

MacWa77ace

Or pets and their supplies.

The earplugs are something I never thought about, and sleeping ear plugs are different than shooting ear pro, I sleep on my sides. Sleeping earplugs are flat.

I don't like sleeping with earplugs because it takes away a sense that can be used for defense. But I remember this one time [at band camp?] We were supposed to sleep outdoors in a campsite we built, but it poured that night so all the kiddy campers piled into the main cafeteria and it was noisy and hard to sleep. Wish I had them then.

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Moab

Quote from: MacWa77ace on May 10, 2024, 01:59:10 PMOr pets and their supplies.

The earplugs are something I never thought about, and sleeping ear plugs are different than shooting ear pro, I sleep on my sides. Sleeping earplugs are flat.

I don't like sleeping with earplugs because it takes away a sense that can be used for defense. But I remember this one time [at band camp?] We were supposed to sleep outdoors in a campsite we built, but it poured that night so all the kiddy campers piled into the main cafeteria and it was noisy and hard to sleep. Wish I had them then.


I live 6 blocks from LAX. I use these every night. Best db rating. And they fit snuggly into your ears. There is also enough sticking out to get them out with just your fingers. Ask me why I know that? Lol.

Flents Foam Ear Plugs, 10 Pair with Case for Sleeping, Snoring, Loud Noise, Traveling, Concerts, Construction, & Studying, NRR 33, Green, Made in the USA https://a.co/d/6MgHgUh
"Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We don't let our people have guns. Why would we let them have ideas?" Josef Stalin

MacWa77ace

@Moab I don't like those foam ones, they don't work for me, to hard to get in. I have some similar ones though. [for when all my other types including electronic noise cancelling sound amplifying muffs are spent. [I have a set of just plain ol' noise cancelling muffs too. But that's all for shooting and comms really, you can't sleep in them unless you're sitting up or in a recliner ]


I believe the technique is to twist and compress the foam ones and jam them in your ear canal. It takes way to long for me to get them just right. I've tried them for shooting and using my loud yard tools.

Maybe i have small ear canals. Plus if you need to take them out to hear someone speaking to you its another couple minutes getting 'em back in just right.  :smiley_shrug:

I'd try something like this. Cleanable, reusable, for sleeping. My coworker got these recently for a vacation which included a long flight, and for relatives that snore. LOL.

Noise Cancelling Ear Plugs for sleeping

I have not tried these yet so can't say that they are good. But might get a couple pairs for the GoBags and test them out. I would only go to a shelter if my home was destroyed, and BOL's 1 and 2 were unreachable or similarly destroyed. So prepping for shelters [ or an Alien invasion] are pretty low on my preps lists.

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Ask me about my Fully Semi-Automatic 30-Mag clip death gun .


Blast

#5
Quote from: Moab on May 10, 2024, 01:35:32 PMI assume firearms and knives are not allowed or confiscated? Anything else on the no fly list?
Correct. Guns and "weapons" are not allowed in the shelter building but they can be stored in your vehicle, following whatever your state's laws require for transporting a vehicle.

We do not perform any sort of search or pat down of clients but they are read all the rules and have to sign a legally-binding agreement stating they will follow the rules. After that, we just keep our eyes open and if we see a gun, we report the owner to the police officer on duty. Knives are in a weird limbo. According to Red Cross rules, all knives are absolutely forbidden to be carried by clients or staff, except as necessary by the feeding team. That being said, there's some leeway in enforcement of that rule.

As far as anything else on the "no fly" list, if it doesn't fit under your cot it has to be placed in your vehicle. If you don't have a vehicle, it will be placed in an unprotected corner of the shelter and the shelter/shelter workers are not responsible for theft or damage.

Pets are expected but they aren't allowed in the shelter for safety & hygiene reasons. Generally the shelter will have a bunch of dog/cat kennels for pets and anything else will require the owner to supply the proper containment. Our shelter has several bags of generic dog and cat foods, but replacing it when it's gone takes several hours. We had a guy show up with eleven dogs during this event. We've had plenty of snakes, rabbits, rodents and even a miniature "emotional support" horse.

-Blast
My book*: Outdoor Adventures Guide - Foraging
Foraging Texas
Medicine Man Plant Co.
DrMerriwether on YouTube
*As an Amazon Influencer, I may earn a sales commission on Amazon links in my posts.

NT2C

As a ham here in Virginia I've worked providing comms in various shelters during simulated and actual emergencies.  As Blast notes, I instantly became to most-liked guy in the shelter when I opened up my comms kit and suddenly multiplied a single duplex wall outlet into 16.  One shelter worker compared me to that guy with the loaves and fishes (my long hair and beard helped).

If you do bring power strips or power cubes with you, label them with your name and phone number and make certain they are fused (usually a circuit breaker "reset") and UL-rated, just for safety and to help avoid overloading them.

When I travel I take along a few battery banks and at least one power strip and I'll be switching to one of these on my next trip: https://a.co/d/eJOzeji

I do highly recommend the Tessan brand power strips.  I find them to be particularly well-made and with enough different kinds to support most needs.
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Raptor

This is a great article Blast! Thank you.

Are the shelters still open in your area?

BTW I fully recommend ear plugs and a face mask. They make sleep for me at least in a strange room (or airplane) a lot easier.
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majorhavoc

Great post. Not everyone needs or even wants a tactical setup for an unsupported bugout under potentially hostile conditions.

A lot of preppers may very reasonably determine that a hurricane, wildfire or some other disaster necessitating evacuation to a public shelter is all they're interested in preparing for.  This list is a good primer on certain items that might not occur to you, but will make that scenario a lot more bearable.
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TACAIR

#9
A DIY disaster kit. A twelve part series to make your own kit. | Survival Monkey Forums

covers a lot of items for a shelter.  I'm assuming no cot or blankets here locally, hence my earlier Shelter bedroll post.
  I had posted this to the old site IIRC.

A small AM/FM radio running from AA battery and with earbuds only makes a great way to stay informed without upsetting folks. 
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