A government mandated evacuation is not something that should be taken lightly. When you receive the order to leave the area, follow it! It is not only for your own safety, but also the safety of your community. Wildfires, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes and other civic emergencies are the most common reasons for mandated evacuations. Since these emergencies are often difficult to predict, you and your family should have a plan ready just in case. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Where will you be going? Will you be staying with family, friends or at a hotel? Whose car are you taking? Do you have enough food and water for everyone in your party? Where are the gas stations along the route? Do you have pets? What’s the farthest possible distance you could be traveling? All of these questions, and more, should be answered before you head for the hills. Some evac orders don’t come in until the 11th hour, leaving families very little time to get their affairs in order. The less you have to do before leaving your home, the better. Prepare your emergency kit, have your plan ready, evacuate when the order comes in.
Your friends and family will likely be concerned about your well being, and therefore, your location. Send a few texts, emails or make a phone call to let them know where you are staying, if you are safe and whether or not you need anything. Also, if you plan on staying with friends and family, let them know! Send regular updates and keep the line of communication as transparent as possible.
Unfortunately, looting and robberies are common occurrences during and after evacuations. Board up windows, lock doors and remove all irreplaceable valuables from your home. Insurance will cover stolen electronics and furniture, but jewelry and other priceless belongings should be removed from your home. If you have expensive electronics or furniture, consider storing them in the second floor or attic of your home to avoid flood damage. Remove potentially dangerous items from your property as well. Gas cans and tanks, lawn mowers, sharp objects, etc. These can turn into dangerous projectiles in storms or cause major damage to your or someone else’s home.
Transportation out of the area will be in high demand. You will be sitting in traffic and spending a lot of time in your car. Your car should be your best and most reliable transportation option. The last thing you want happening is it breaking down on the highway and having to abandon your car on the side of the road. Change your oil, perform routine maintenance and keep the gas tank as close to full as you can. Highways will be crowded and traffic will be heavy. Make sure you can rely on your vehicle. If you don’t own a car, check your local government’s website for mass transport options during an evacuation.
Carry an AM/FM/NOAA portable weather radio with you to stay informed. Keep a pair of two-way radios charged and ready in case cell phone coverage becomes spotty or has dropped out altogether. Even if cell coverage is strong, it never hurts to have redundancies at your disposal to give you peace of mind during an emergency.
It will likely be tempting to return home after a day or two, but wait for the all-clear from your local government. There may be gas leaks, contaminated drinking water, raw sewage exposure, exposed power lines and many other dangerous factors. You will feel anxious to get back home, but safety should always be your first concern.
Following an evacuation order may save your life. It is important to remain calm and be patient. Evacuation orders are given with your safety in mind. Follow them!