What To Take If You Evacuate

Many of those fleeing the Southern California wildfires left their homes with little more than the shirts on their backs.

If you ever had to evacuate, would you be prepared? Would you know what to bring along?

Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen offered a checklist of essentials Wednesday.

She pointed out that evacuations are frequently hurried -- many people are only given minutes to get out.

The key, Koeppen says, is to have a plan. In addition to the obvious -- their loved ones -- people usually grab "the three Ps" -- purse, pets, and pictures, but that's not enough.

You should also be ready to take clothes, cash, important documents, medications, and some food and water. Also your computer hard drive!

Among the documents to have ready to go: insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, and an inventory of everything in your home. A good place to store them is a fireproof safe, ideally one small enough to take.

As for that home inventory, Koeppen suggests videotaping what you have in your home -- your furniture, electronics, etc. And keep that video in the safe or in a safe deposit box.

It's also a good idea to keep copies of your receipts in a safe place so you can prove you owned them if need be.

Another idea from Koeppen: Keep all your pictures on your computer AND upload them to a Web site so if your computer is destroyed before you can take out your hard drive, your pictures would be safe.

For a detailed list from the Insurance Information Institute of preparations to make and things to take, click here.