A disaster evacuation checklist can help when seconds count
Mary Lou Jay
If you suddenly had to evacuate your home in the event of a tornado, flood, hurricane or fire, would you know what to do -- and what to take with you?
Before disaster strikes
Planning pays in home evacuation preparations. If you know a hurricane is coming, or you live in an area prone to flash floods, keep your vehicle gassed up and ready to go. Carry a map of the area in the glove compartment. Keep plenty of cash on hand for emergency purchases.
Make sure all family members know your evacuation destination, and establish a contact point where everyone can meet if you get separated. Tell an out-of-area family member or friend about your evacuation plans.
Create a home disaster kit that contains enough food, water and first aid supplies for at least three days without power or shelter. The American Red Cross recommends creating an emergency medical kit and including a checklist for any medical-related items you need to add at the last minute, such as:
- Prescription medications.
- Eyeglasses or contact lenses (and contact lens solution).
- Hearing aids.
- Canes and walkers.
Keep important official records (like health, auto, life and home insurance policies) and emergency contact numbers ready so that you can grab them as you're heading out the door. Progressive recommends keeping them in a waterproof container or zipped plastic bag.
Consider keeping copies of this information with your out-of-area contacts or in a safe deposit box. Keep important family photos on CDs or DVDs for easy transporting. These also can come in handy for finding missing family members. The Red Cross recommends also including recent photos of your pets, in case they go missing.
Before rushing out the door
Before you leave your home, the Red Cross recommends securing any outdoor furniture or toys that could blow away in a wind. Turn off electricity and water, but leave natural gas on. If flooding is expected, consider placing sandbags around your home to help keep the water out.
If you're expecting high winds, board up your windows. In the case of a wildfire, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises homeowners to keep windows and doors unlocked in case firefighters need to enter.
If you have time, move expensive electronics (like computers, TVs and microwaves) to safer parts of the house, such as upper floors. Wrap them in blankets for protection.
If you have pets, make sure an evacuation center will accept them. Put them in carriers, and take plenty of food and water for them.
If you are able to drive away, make an ATM stop. Power outages may render credit and debit cards useless, according to USAA. Listen to the radio so that you stay informed about the weather and important safety announcements.
It's difficult to walk away from your home and wonder whether you'll ever see it again. But knowing you've done everything possible to keep your loved ones safe during an evacuation may bring some peace of mind.