Build an Emergency Wildfire Kit for Your College Student

With 2020 declared Colorado’s “worst wildfire year ever,” the state suffered from more than 1,000 wildfires that destroyed 665,000-plus acres and forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands. 

Create a Top Notch Bugout Bag

As college students head back to school this fall, one of the hottest items they’ll need to pack will be an emergency kit ready to grab and go in case of a wildfire threat.

Keep your family safe and in touch by talking with your student before school starts to create a communication plan in case of a wildfire threat. That plan should include evacuation and contact information to ensure that everyone is accounted for and has arrangements in place. That emergency kit, sometimes called a “Bugout Bag,” is a vital component of the plan. 

Suggestions for Student Emergency Kits 

Don’t skimp on quality when you choose a backpack or duffle bag to hold your emergency stash. Start with these guidelines for determining the size, weight, and capacity of the pack you should be carrying. Look for sturdy, reinforced nylon, water-resistant canvas, or similar material with generously padded, reinforced straps, secure zippers, and lots of pockets. 

What to fill that bag with? We’ve scoured sources around the ‘net for suggestions, and include the top picks below. 

First, this handy visual reminder (scroll to page two) is a good start to build a backpack or duffle bag with essential items for a hurried getaway, and because each emergency kit will necessarily be different, our list includes suggestions from Ready for, (in partnership with FEMA), and Colorado Emergency Management.

  • Three-day supply of bottled water, nonperishable food, and water purification tablets 
  • N95 respirator masks or face coverings to decrease smoke inhalation 
  • Prescription meds
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Cell phone, laptop, etc., with batteries and chargers
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Cash, in small and large bills and coins, in case ATMs or credit card systems are not operational
  • Two changes of clothes plus a jacket and sturdy shoes or boots
  • Head covering suitable for weather conditions (wool cap, boonie hat, baseball cap, etc.) 
  • Good quality gloves 
  • Basic toiletries, including soap, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, personal hygiene products etc. 
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to use if you get lost or are in danger
  • Compass
  • Multi-use tool
  • Garbage bags 
  • Poncho or rain jacket
  • Lighter or waterproof matches to use as fire starter
  • Notebook and pens 
  • Manual can opener (if needed)
  • Legal documents/important papers
  • Personal photos or mementos (if you have time)

Become Familiar with Your School’s Wildfire Safety Protocols

If you cannot find online information about wildfire safety protocols for the college or university your student will be attending, you should contact the school for information. Questions about emergency alerts, possible smoke inhalation from a spreading fire, safe spaces for overnight stays if there is an evacuation, evacuation routes and access to transportation if your student does not have a vehicle would be pertinent topics to discuss before school starts. 

Other Preparedness Tips Before, During and After a Wildfire

Your child may want to print and display this preparedness sheet as a reminder of a few important tips to use in the case of a wildfire alert. 

Protect Your College Student With Renter’s Insurance

If your college student is heading back to school, a great way to protect them is with an affordable renter’s insurance policy. You’ll be able to protect all of their valuables for a much lower cost than a traditional homeowner’s policy. For more information, contact an agent near you by using our agent finder.