Just about a year ago, we had a national #1 priority wildfire near our doorstep -- quite literally. Many of our friends and relatives were in mandatory evacuation areas. We had 2 people w/dogs and cat living in our guestroom until we were notified for 'pre-evacuation. So what were some lessons learned? My personal one was a major flaw in past preparedness planning. I had prepared based on the belief that normal duties, especially going to the office, would cease. WRONG. Turns out many scheduled vacations were cancelled so we could help out in case the nearby military installation had to be evacuated. A work wardrobe was not in my GO!bag. I figured out how to get 6 or 7 outfits from a skirt, pair of trousers, 3 or 4 shirts and 2 jackets in case we, too were evacuated but needed to keep working. It was a bit easier for me because my work wardrobe was already simplified around a basic color and matching scheme. (Solid color skirts, trousers and jackets with contrasting or patterned blouses)
The lesson I learned from those with very short and urgent evacuation notices was to PLAN AHEAD or at least think ahead. More than one person indicated that they were sufficiently shocked or panicked that they couldn't make decisions about what to load. In more than one case that meant everything burned. One very sad situation early in the fire, when it flared fast and furiously beyond the Forest Service prediction, had many homes threatened with barely enough time to get out. An evacuee staying next door summed it up: I had enough time to grab my purse and the cat, call the dog, load them up and I watched my house burn in the rear view as I left. She literally lost everything but the ground her house was built on. She may not have had time to grab the box of [insert your most important/precious possessions] but you may have a smidgen more time if it happens to you.
Plan ahead and don't forget to prioritize. It might even be smart to make a list, because your brain may not engage when reality triggers the 'plan.' If you don't have room in your vehicle for both the family china and the painting from Grandma Jones, which is more important to you? Will sacrificing the china mean you will have room for two more important boxes? I also heard a few evacuees stressing because they grabbed the 'X' and were kicking themselves for not taking the 'Y' instead. About 60 of them who lost their homes never had the chance for a do-over.