Sheltering Tips from Our Disaster Program Managers: What to Include in Your Emergency Plan

When it comes to knowing what do during a disaster, the community looks to the American Red Cross. And here at the Red Cross, we look to our Disaster Program Managers that lead our sheltering teams. We asked them, “As the experts in seeing what sheltering looks like first hand, you may often hear from people about what they wished they knew before or something they forgot to bring with them. Can you share a piece of advice with us?”

From the Madera and Mariposa territory, Katrina Poitras, our Disaster Program Manager for over 10 years, enlisted her sheltering team to share their knowledge on what they should bring to a shelter in case you ever have to evacuate.

Some of our Madera & Mariposa Sheltering Team: J.R. Matchett, Julie Doyle, Pam Silva, Sandy Morehouse, Taylor Poisall and Kelly Peck

Sandy Morehouse: Bring entertainment! Book or something you enjoy to do and have a list of your family’s contacts info. PS don’t forget flip flops for the shower!

Michele Merhtens: Don’t forget include something that is comforting to you, whether it is a comfortable pair of socks or another article of clothing or perhaps a favorite tea or non dairy coffee creamer- something that is easy to pack. If you have pets, put pet food in your emergency kit to help prevent an upset tummy and an article of clothing with the owner’s scent to help with anxiety.

Julie Doyle: Bring headphones for music, podcasts or audiobooks to keep you entertained. Some times of the day in a shelter are busier than others, and some times they are slow. This can help! Pro tip: bring your comfiest pillow and your favorite candy bar for a pick me up.

Gail McGaugh: If you use eyeglasses, pack an extra pair in your go bag. Red Cross Nurses can help replace prescriptions, but not immediately when you come to a shelter.

October 2019, members of our Disaster Program Manager Team: Kate Henry, Katrina Poitras, Megin Hughes and Jesse Sandoval

Kate Henry, Senior Disaster Program Manager of Central California: Speaking of phones and entertainment, don’t forget your chargers! The two questions we get asked the most are “When can I go home? And where can I charge my phone?”

Jesse Sandoval, Disaster Program Manager of Fresno County: One thing to do now to prepare beforehand, is to start having conversations family and friends about emergency plans – where can you stay and with who? You can then enact your emergency plan from the warmth and safety of a Red Cross evacuation center!

Megin Hughes, Disaster Program Manager of Kern, Inyo and Mono Counties: Shelters will be noisier than home and also pretty boring, even though we try to find activities for our shelter residents to do. Some of the things that I would suggest if people have time to gather them: Bring your favorite snacks if you have time, a pillow, ear plugs if noise bothers you at night, and something to keep you and your family occupied – books, playing cards, etc.

Kaytlin Crough, DPM for Kings & Tulare Counties at a Community Preparedness Event.
Pacific Coast Disaster Program Manager, Jessica Hodge

Kaytlin Crough, Disaster Program Manager of Kings and Tulare counties: Take small steps in your daily life to be prepared. When you’re leaving your neighborhood for work, take a second and think of a different evacuation route from your neighborhood.

When you’re packing for a trip, take a second to think about what would be most useful in your go bag if you had to evacuate your home for the same length as your vacation. Take the time to think about these small things now, so you’re less stressed in the moment. Be prepared!

Jessica Hodge, Disaster Program Manager of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties: Be flexible – there can be a lot of down time if you are at a shelter. The tips above will keep you comfortable and entertained!

The time to prepare for wildfires is now.

At the end of July, The National Interagency Fire Center reports 82 large fires have consumed more than 1.6 million acres across 13 states. Since fires began in June of this year, as many as 520 trained Red Cross disaster workers have answered the call to open or support shelters and evacuation centers in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Oregon.

Red Cross and partners have provided nearly 3,000 overnight shelter stays and thousands more are camping after being forced from their homes. Campers are welcome to come to the shelters to get information, food, showers or just to escape the smoke. In addition, the Red Cross has provided more than  21,000 meals and snacks and more than 2,800 contacts with clients.

Preparing for disasters can seem overwhelming, but with tips like these and more at, you can be ready for life’s emergencies.

To become Red Cross Ready, find preparedness tips at or Wildfire Preparedness Resources

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