Disasters come in many forms. Floods. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Wildfires. In many different types of emergencies, it may be necessary to evacuate your home. Learn what types of disasters are likely to happen in your community, and what the specific local shelter, emergency and evacuation plans are for each type of disaster. Feeling secure in your family’s evacuation plan can give you peace of mind and allow you to stay calm when disaster strikes.
Since natural disasters tend to happen without much warning, planning ahead is critical to making sure your family is ready to evacuate safely, quickly and with the best outcome possible. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are some helpful tips:
Assign Tasks and Work Together
Assign specific tasks to family members and work as a team. Sharing the responsibilities takes the burden off any one person.
Be Ready With Supply Kits
It is a good idea to have disaster supplies kits stored both at home and in the trunk of your car. Even if it has to be a modified kit due to space limitations, you can make sure you have the most important items.
Create a List of Emergency Phone Numbers
Make sure all family members know how to contact each other. Store emergency phone numbers in your phones and make sure schools, daycares and the parents of your children’s friends have your contact information as well.
It’s smart to also keep a hard copy of the most important numbers in a Ziplock bag in your disaster kit. This way, you’ll have a waterproof copy it if you lose power and need to use a landline.
Also, let your loved ones know where you’re going to evacuate: a hotel/motel, friend’s home or an evacuation shelter.
Designate a Contact Person
Decide on a contact person who is out of the danger zone that can help coordinate meeting locations in the case that your pre-designated locations are no longer accessible.
Know the Evacuation Routes
In the midst of an emergency situation, you may not be thinking clearly. Knowing the evacuation routes well may help you get your family to safety quickly and without incident. It’s also important to make sure all family members, even the youngest, know the way.
Map Out Your Meeting Places
Plan how to gather your family members in a central location. And remember that meeting places may vary depending on type of disaster or emergency situation. Meeting outside your home a safe distance away in case of house fire, for example.
Also, elect a location outside your neighborhood if you’re away from home when disaster strikes and you can’t return.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice as much of your plan as possible at least twice a year to make everyone more comfortable with the plan.
Understand Evacuation Zones
Know your evacuation zone. Log on to FEMA’s website and search for your evacuation zone by using your address. Most counties have four evacuation zones – A, B, C and D – that indicate areas where flooding may occur. Zone A is nearest water and is usually the first zone to be evacuated.
Sign Up for Emergency Alerts
Weather can often change quickly, exposing you to dangerous conditions like flash flooding, hurricanes or wild fires. Bring a weather radio (and extra batteries) to stay on top of the forecast.
The National Weather Service will provide updates on weather and emergency alerts. It’s also helpful to download apps that send local emergency alerts directly to your phone. This information can be crucial in knowing when evacuations are ordered, and knowing when to execute your evacuation plan.
Don’t Forget the Pets
Pets are loving members of the family that rely on you for their physical and emotional support, especially during a disaster. If possible, it’s always best to bring your pets with you during an evacuation. Make sure your pet is wearing a secure collar and identification tag with his or her name and your contact information.
Don’t Hesitate to Evacuate
Every minute counts. If you’re instructed to evacuate, do so immediately — don’t hesitate. Your response time can make a significant impact on your family’s safety.