Family Evacuation Planning

When a disaster is impending, local government officials may issue an evacuation order. Typically, this order will be conveyed by local radio and television, or by local police, fire, or other personnel going door-to-door such as the case for a  toxic chemical spill that might become airborne or a wildfire, or by a reverse 911 phone call to your home. Prepare to leave promptly as is conveyed by the order for your own safety.

At other times, the disaster may be more localized and result in a personal decision to leave – flooding, loss of power for heating and cooking, etc.  And finally, the situation may be a single location event such as a fire, tornado, etc.

Single Location Evacuation In the case of the single location event, an evacuation plan should have already been developed and every member of the family or apartment building or workplace or other structure, should be familiar with the building evacuation plan.

  • There should be an evacuation route from each location that a person would be spending any time – office, work area, kitchen, bedroom, family room – and possibly two routes in the case of bedrooms.

  • This is usually the type evacuation where leaving is an immediate decision and action.  There is little or no time to collect anything to take with you.

  • There should be a designated nearby location (tree, edge of street, dumpster etc) where each person is to travel and a count is taken to account for as many people as possible. In the case of large apartment buildings or business, there may be multiple assembly points; however each person should go to their assigned location. Missing people and their probable location should be conveyed to arriving emergency personnel for further action.

  • In the case of tornados, pre-determine the safest location to move to –basement corner toward the storm, hallway without windows or doors, closet, etc.

  • The building evacuation plan should be practiced at least once or twice per year and reviewed/revised each time it is tested.

  • Displaced individuals or families are housed with local family or friends or briefly in a public shelter.

Localized Evacuation  For this type of event, the family may be scattered – home-school-work or together.  Your plan should be simple and include ways to communicate and assemble.

  • Communication via phone is usually adequate in this situation and as a backup everyone should have the phone number of someone outside the area for everyone to check with.  Know how schools and daycare will communicate with you and if they have evacuation plans.  Each family member should have a list of needed phone numbers.

  • Plan safe locations where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood and how they would get there.

  • Develop several alternate routes in different directions or other means of transportation out of the at-risk area. Test the evacuation routes considering where there might be closed roads and routes, i.e. flooding, etc.  If you do not have a car, determine how to leave  – neighbor, friend, public transportation, etc. 

  • Take your pets with you and plan on how you will care for your pets in an emergency.  Your temporary location may be a family member or friend’s home. Some hotels will allow pets; others may not so some research may be required  Public shelters will not accept pets but usually there is another location for pets such as at a veterinarian or comparable location.  Communicate with your out-of-area contact via phone or email who already has your evacuation plan and tell them your designation.

  • Consider the special needs of family members – disabled, medically fragile, elderly, babies, and kids.

  • If there is damage to your home or if you are instructed, shut off water (main valve), gas (pilots will have to be relit after return and usually requires a visit by a technician), and electricity (at breaker panel) before leaving.  All propane tanks should be anchored or moved inside, especially those associated with gas grills.

  • Coordinate with neighbors to make sure that no one is left behind.

  • Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going.

  • Take your evacuation kit with you.

  • Lock all your doors as you leave.

County Wide Evacuation  County wide evacuations are usually the action to an impending major storm such as a coastal evacuation where the county resident must travel some distance before reach a safe location.  Housing is usually with family, friends, or a public shelter.  The location of shelters will be communicated by radio, TV, and State Emergency Management website.

If there is not an immediate evacuation order but there is likely to be one, take action to protect you home and belongings..

  • Bring loose items inside – lawn furniture, trashcans, toys, garden equipment, plants or other objects that may become airborne and damage property.

  • If you did not cut dead or diseased branches, leave them alone as there will not be time for the local collection service to collect them.

  • Look for potential hazards that could blow away or break off and fly in high winds.  Remove and store inside.

  • Turn off electricity and water as described above.

  • 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 cover with plywood.  Tape does not work. Brace garage door to prevent being blown in.  Damage to a house happens when wind is able to get inside.

  • If flooding is expected, consider using sand bags to keep water away from the home.

  • Move objects that may get damaged to safer areas of the home – television, computers, electronic equipment, and small appliances to higher levels and away from windows.  Wrap them in sheets, blankets, or other materials.

  • Prepare a visual (video/pictures) and/or written record of all household possession including model and serial numbers for use with insurance claims.  Take the records with you or store in a secure, waterproof location or multiple locations. Include furniture, appliances, and other items of value.  This should be reviewed annually.

  • Consider moving and storing your household contents temporarily at a safe location.

  • Fill the gas tank of the vehicle that your family would use to evacuate before you leave if at all possible.

If you have only a short time before leaving, take your evacuation kit which was previously prepared and contains the following

  • Duffle bag or large container

  • Personal Disaster Supplies Kit (See Disaster Supplies Kit)

  • Essential Records Kit (Add wills, deeds, vehicle titles, recent tax returns, marriage & birth certificates, stock certificates)

  • Water for traveling (at least one gallon per person is recommended per day)

  • Traveling foods that do not require refrigeration or cooking

Remember that wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy shoes provides greater flexibility in all situations and more protection than shorts and tee shirts..

Housed at a Public Shelter  If you choose to go to a public shelter (Red Cross), note that these shelters usually provide water, food, medicine, and basic sanitary facilities.  In addition, be sure to take your evacuation kit.  Living in a shelter can involve close living with many people in a fairly tight space.  Be sure to cooperate with shelter personnel or even better assist them with some of the workload.  Within a shelter, there can be no alcoholic beverages or weapons and smoking is restricted to certain areas.

The length of time you are required to shelter may be short or long depending on the type of crisis; however it is important that you remain until the authorities in your community say it is safe to return.  During your stay, listen to radio or television broadcast for updates.