Public Health

What to Do If You’re Evacuated: Preparing to Leave

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Disasters come in many forms. Floods. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Wildfires. In many different types of emergencies, your local authorities may ask you to evacuate your home. It can be very stressful to make sure your family is ready to evacuate safely, quickly, and with the best outcome possible. Knowing what to do and bring when you need to evacuate can give you peace of mind and allow you to stay calm when disaster strikes.

Preparing to Evacuate

There are two important parts to getting ready to evacuate – things you need to do and the belongings that you need to assemble. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are some helpful tips:

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. If possible, fuel the vehicle in which you’ll be traveling before you leave, or map out the first possible stop to refill.

Decide Where to Go

Your well-being matters to us, and we want you to stay safe during a storm. Our hospitals can’t act as shelters, however. At acute care hospitals, resources are committed to caring for patients who must remain there during the duration of the storm. We aren’t equipped to serve as a mass evacuation shelter and can’t provide the services an official shelter can provide, like food and a place to stay.

Instead, you may want to consider staying at a hotel or with family and friends who live outside of the evacuation zone. If these aren’t the best option for you, you can download the FEMA app for real-time access to the list of shelters that are open near you. For individuals with special needs, your local special needs registries and shelters can also be a great resource.

Pack or Prepare the Essentials

  • Compile important documents, such as:
    • Emergency contact numbers (family and doctors)
    • A list of all medications and dosages
    • A paper or digital file of all personal documents (store in waterproof bags)
    • A paper or digital file of all medical records and documents (store in waterproof bags)
    • A photograph of each family member and pet (in case you get separated and need them for identification)
  • Pack personal belongings for yourself and loved ones, including:
    • Cell phone and charger
    • Change of clothing for each family member
    • Eyeglasses or contact lenses and solution
    • Personal hygiene items
    • Sleeping bags or blankets
    • Medications (7-day supply stored in waterproof bags)
  • Prepare shared supplies for your family, like:
    • Activities for the kids (Lose power? Discover ways to entertain your kids with family time that doesn’t require batteries or electricity)
    • Batteries
    • Can opener (manual)
    • Cash (ATMs may not be functional)
    • First aid kit
    • Flashlight
    • Water (3 gallons per person for evacuation)
    • Food (minimum of 3-day supply, easy to prepare, non-perishable)

If you or a loved one has a medical condition, you may need to consider additional supplies specific to their care.

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 and can help get the work done faster. To motivate kids, consider making a game out of who can prepare fastest or gather the most supplies.

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 let your loved ones know where you’re going to evacuate: a hotel/motel, friend’s home, or an evacuation shelter.

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, and it’s always best to bring them 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. You will also want to bring:

  • Bowls
  • Can opener (manual)
  • Cat litter if needed
  • Food
  • Gloves and garbage bags (in case you need to dispose of pet waste)
  • Litter box if needed
  • Medications and medical records (store in water-proof bag)
  • Pee pads
  • Pet bed or crate
  • Toys
  • Water

During the Evacuation

The near-constant stream of news about the storm’s arrival can cause feelings of stress, anxiety and fear, especially if you’ve had to leave your home. Being intentional in recognizing your stress reactions will be helpful in safeguarding your emotional well-being. Here are some additional coping strategies you can employ for both you and any children in your family.

Sign Up for Emergency Alerts

For some, staying informed can help alleviate fear, and getting updates from trustworthy experts can be a source of peace. 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.

Create Healthy Distractions

Smartphones can be a diversion, but constantly scrolling through social media isn’t the healthiest way to calm your mind. Plus, you might want to conserve your phone’s battery life for after the storm. Consider relying on other distractions like board games, books and cards.

Get Some Rest

If conditions are safe, the storm is a perfect time to catch up on sleep. Take this time to rest and relax, especially after the stress of an unanticipated evacuation.

Returning Home

If you live in an evacuation zone or you've been away from home during a storm, it's important to emotionally brace yourself to return home once it's safe to do so, as it could be a trying experience. Once the worst of the storm has passed, the challenges of cleanup begin. Tree-strewn lawns, dangling power lines, and flooded streets are the scenes that many residents could return to after a hurricane sweeps through the region. While it’s easy to forget your emotional health when you’re dealing with the logistical issues, we encourage you to be patient and take time to invest in your emotional recovery. And if you find you need a little extra help or support, we’re committed to helping you feel whole again in body, mind and spirit.

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