"Evacuate!" is a dreaded word, even to those who are 'prepared'.
The American Red Cross makes this statement:*
"Local government officials, not the Red Cross, issue evacuation orders. Listen to local radio and television reports when disaster threatens. If local officials ask you to leave, do so immediately!"
We don't always know the reasons for an evacuation order, and its hard to know what we should do. Because of the number of people that must be notified, there may be no way to get pertinent details. Rumors are widespread, and rarely accurate.
There are always questions...
Where are the kids, your spouse, other family members? What about the pets and livestock? How long will you be gone? What should you take with you? How much time do you have? Will the roads be packed? Where are you going? What if you can't find your family members? Will the phones be operating? And many more!
Sometimes residents are evacuated to area shelters, other times they are just told to leave the area. No matter if the cause is an expected hurricane, or a sudden, unexpected hazardous materials spill, communication is totally jammed at times like this. You CANNOT call others for advice. You are on your own.
"Oh I have my 'Bugout Bag'", you say. That will definitely help, but it may not be sufficient.
The Red Cross suggests:*
"If you have only moments before leaving, grab these things and go!
***Medical supplies: prescription medications and dentures
***Disaster supplies: flashlight, batteries, radio, first aid kit, bottled water
***Clothing and bedding: a change of clothes and a sleeping bag or bedroll and pillow for each household member
***Car keys and keys to the place you may be going (friend's or relative's home)"
Does your family have a written Emergency Plan? Does everyone in the family keep a copy with them at all times? Does it cover a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc.? Are the phone numbers still accurate? Do you go over the Plan and its variables with your family several times a year? Does your family take part by asking questions, discussing scenarios, and practicing the Plan?
Is your entire family familiar with members of your Team? Would your children be comfortable leaving school in an emergency with one of them? How would the kids KNOW this is the right person to go with? Do the families in your Team have relaxed talks together about these possibilities?
The Red Cross continues:*
"If local officials have NOT advised an immediate evacuation:
If there's a chance the weather may get worse or flooding may happen, take steps now to protect your home and belongings. Do this only if local officials have NOT asked you to leave.
Protect your home.
***Bring things indoors.
Lawn furniture, trash cans, children's toys, garden equipment, clotheslines, hanging plants, and any other objects that may fly around and damage property should be brought indoors.
***Leave trees and shrubs alone.
If you did not cut away dead or diseased branches or limbs from trees and shrubs, leave them alone. Local rubbish collection services will not have time before the storm to pick anything up.
***Look for potential hazards.
Look for coconuts, unripened fruit, and other objects in trees around your property that could blow or break off and fly around in high winds. Cut them off and store them indoors until the storm is over.
***Turn OFF electricity and water.
Turn off electricity at the main fuse or breaker, and turn off water at the main valve.
***Leave natural gas ON.
Unless local officials advise otherwise, leave natural gas on because you will need it for heating and cooking when you return home. If you turn gas off, a licensed professional is required to turn it back on, and it may take weeks for a professional to respond. ***Turn OFF propane gas service.
Propane tanks often become dislodged in disasters.
***If high winds are expected, cover the outside of all windows of your home.
Use shutters that are rated to provide significant protection from windblown debris, or fit plywood coverings over all windows.
***If flooding is expected, consider using sand bags to keep water away from your home.
It takes two people about one hour to fill and place 100 sandbags, giving you a wall one foot high and 20 feet long. Make sure you have enough sand, burlap or plastic bags, shovels, strong helpers, and time to place them properly.
***Remember. Houses do not explode due to air pressure differences.
Damage happens when wind gets inside a home through a broken window, door, or damaged roof.
***Cover the outside of windows with shutters or plywood.
Tape does not prevent windows from breaking. All tape does is prevent windows from shattering. Using tape on windows is not recommended.
Protect your valuables.
***Move objects that may get damaged by wind or water to safer areas of your home. Move television sets, computers, stereo and electronic equipment, and easily moveable appliances like a microwave oven to higher levels of your home and away from windows. Wrap them in sheets, blankets, or burlap.
***Make a visual or written record of all of your household possessions.
Record model and serial numbers. This list could help you prove the value of what you owned if those possessions are damaged or destroyed, and can assist you to claim deductions on taxes.
***Do this for all items in your home.
Include expensive items such as sofas, chairs, tables, beds, chests, wall units, and any other furniture too heavy to move. Store a copy of the record of purchase somewhere away from home, such as in a safe deposit box.
***If it's possible that your home may be significantly damaged by impending disaster, consider storing your household furnishings temporarily elsewhere.
***Gather essential supplies and papers.
You will need the following supplies when you leave your home;
put them all together in a duffel bag or other large container in advance:
***Flashlight with plenty of extra batteries
***Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
***First aid kit
***Prescription medications in their original bottle, plus copies of the prescriptions
***Eyeglasses (with a copy of the prescription)
***Water (at least one gallon per person is recommended; more is better)
***Foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking
***Items that infants and elderly household members may require
***Medical equipment and devices, such as dentures, crutches, prostheses, etc.
***Change of clothes for each household member
***Sleeping bag or bedroll and pillow for each household member
***Checkbook, cash, and credit cards
***Map of the area
Important papers to take with you:
***Driver's license or personal identification
***Social Security card
***Proof of residence (deed or lease)
***Birth and marriage certificates
***Stocks, bonds, and other negotiable certificates
***Wills, deeds, and copies of recent tax returns"
Do you keep an inventory record of your home, with documentation, OFF PREMISES, and out of your general area? Do you keep it updated? Have you included photos and video records of your valuables and 'collections'? (coins, guns, jewelry, silverware, etc.) Does your entire family know where these off-site records are kept?
"Evacuate!" is much more than leaving home until the danger passes. Our families are more likely to deal with an evacuation than many of the more extreme things we plan for. It makes good sense to be sure our family is TRAINED, and READY for this possibility.
* From http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/beprepared/evacuation.html
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