The storm’s coming — and you’re going. Whether you’re ordered to evacuate during a flood or hurricane or make the choice on your own, you’ll need to be ready to act fast. Here’s how to prepare as thoroughly as possible for a quick escape from home and how to ease the shock of displacement until you can return.
By American Red Cross
1. Pre-assemble emergency kits for every member of the household, including pets. If you live in a region at risk for hurricanes or flooding, pack these kits now and keep them in an easy-to-grab location should you ever need them. Include:
• Three days’ worth of nonperishable foods
• Any required openers, disposable utensils etc.
• Three days’ worth of bottled water (about 3 gallons per person)
• Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
• Spare batteries
• Basic toiletries
• First aid supplies
• Spare eyeglasses or contacts
• Bed linens
• Toilet paper
• Hand sanitizer
• Change of clothing and shoes
• Copies of vital documents, especially insurance information, house and car deeds, photocopies of your driver’s license and credit/debit cards, medical records and prescriptions. You also can scan these and keep them on a remote data storage site such as Google Docs, but if you don’t have power or Internet access, you may not be able to retrieve them right away.
• Spare keys
• Cash (include smaller bills, as merchants may not be able to make change)
• Zip-top plastic bags and trash bags
• Phone numbers of close relatives or other emergency contacts. Include at least one person who lives out of state or in a location that won’t be affected by the storm.
2. Plan where you’ll go and how you’ll get there. The path of a storm is unpredictable, so choose two or three locations in different directions: hotels, family members’ or friends’ homes, emergency shelters etc. If there are too many people in your household to fit into a single vehicle, confirm that everyone knows which spot to head to, based on where the storm is projected to travel. If you have pets, make sure the temporary location you choose is pet friendly; many shelters prohibit animals.
Map an exit route out of town, but have in mind an alternate in case your original choice is closed or becomes impassable. A GPS unit or a map also can be useful if you’re traveling through unfamiliar territory.
3. Know what you’ll grab on your way out the door. In addition to your emergency kits, “It’s the four p’s: people, pets, pills and pictures,” says Houzz user bekp, who has plenty of evacuation experience living in North Dakota’s flood-prone Red River Valley. “The rest can eventually be replaced.” Be sure also to take your purse or wallet, laptop or tablet, cell phone and chargers with you. Children may want to bring a favorite stuffed animal or toy.
Florida gulf coast resident Kerry Christopher, who evacuated during Hurricane Ivan in 2004, suggests bringing your latest pile of dirty clothes. His rationale: They’re items you’ve worn recently that work together and that you probably like.
4. Gas up your car. If there’s even a slim chance you might need to evacuate, go ahead and top off your tank now. Otherwise you’ll be sitting in a long, crawling line of cars at the pump.
5. Protect your home. Unplug all the electric appliances you can, leaving your refrigerator on unless instructed otherwise. Switch off heat, air conditioning, fans and vent systems. Shut off your water and gas if ordered to do so. Be aware that you’ll need professional help to turn these utilities back on, and after a disaster, the wait time could be as long as a couple of weeks.
Bring patio furniture and any other loose outdoor items inside. Remove rugs and bric-a-brac from the floor and lower cabinets and place them as high as you can if flooding is a possibility. Lock doors and windows and secure storm shutters or cover windows with plywood if needed.
If you have time, tie the bottoms of draperies and swags to the curtain rod to prevent them from water damage, suggests Houzz user bekp in the Comments to a story about Hurricane Sandy. “Sometimes it’s just the small things — that there is something that you can save/restore from before the flood/storm that can make a huge difference”.