Create a Life Saving Family Evacuation Plan

A plan of evacuation for your family is a crucial part of preparing for a disaster. Some key things to remember when creating such a plan are:

evacuation plan
  • Make sure all family members know how to communicate with each other
  • Keep important documents and emergency contact information together
  • Plan ahead for the care of your pets in an emergency
  • Follow all directives from local authorities

Creating an evacuation plan for your family is an important precautionary measure in case of an emergency. The need to evacuate may arise due to a number of unexpected disaster situations, which could include extreme weather like hurricanes, tornadoes, or flooding; a natural disaster like an earthquake or wildfire; an industrial accident or chemical spill; or a terrorist attack.

While no one expects these events to occur, and we certainly hope we'll never have to use an evacuation plan, preparing yourself for the unexpected can make or break your family's safety in an emergency. You should also realize that evacuation is sometimes a mandatory order given by the authorities; being prepared to follow these orders will make the process far easier for you and your family should the need arise.

First, create a plan for how you will get in touch with your family members if you are separated when an evacuation order is issued. A communication plan is essential in case the need to evacuate should arise. Make sure all family members have access to each other's cell, work, and school phone numbers, as well as local and out of state emergency contacts.

Next, consider your transportation options. Keep your car in good running order, and make sure you have emergency supplies like blankets, food, water, and a first aid kit that you can quickly put in your car if you need to evacuate. You should make sure to have on hand at least three days worth of supplies. Also, find out what options exist in your community for alternative transportation (bus, train, etc.), since the roads in your immediate vicinity could become impassable. You may need to walk out of your neighborhood to access mass transit options.

You'll want to keep all of your important documents and vital records organized in a home filing system such as a fire proof box to grab in the event of an emergency.

Don't forget about your pets when creating your evacuation plan. It's important to plan ahead, since emergency shelters aren't likely to accept pets other than service animals. Research the options in advance so you'll have somewhere to take your pet in case of a prolonged emergency.

Once you've got your evacuation plan in place, it's also important to listen for directives from local authorities. They may give specific instructions for when and where to seek shelter in your area. Follow whatever directives are given, and if officials determine that the decision of whether or not to evacuate should be left to each family's discretion, take stock of the situation to determine whether you're better off leaving the area entirely, staying with a nearby friend or relative who is unaffected by the disaster, or going to an emergency evacuation shelter in the area.

The most important thing to remember is that you must follow all instructions given by local authorities. If an evacuation order is issued, follow it. Don't be tempted to stay behind and weather an emergency against the warnings of local officials. The many people who failed to heed evacuation warnings and perished during Hurricane Katrina are proof that failing to obey an evacuation order can prove deadly.

Be sure to also check out how to put together an emergency preparedness checklist to make sure nothing is left out of your family's emergency action plan.

Photo courtesy of William Wynn may not be copied, reproduced, or sold.

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