Wednesday, January 6, 2010

5: Short Term Evacuation (3-5days)

Advance preparation can be as simple as making a list of things to remember. Actually keeping some supplies and necessities packed and easily accessible will provide the luxury of a head start or valuable time to double check priorities. In preparing for a short term evacuation, whether it is voluntary or mandatory, there are a few things to keep in mind:
  1. The nature of the emergency, fire, flood, hurricane, environmental issue, etc.
  2. There is always the possibility that the evacuation may not have been necessary at all
  3. There is a possibility that the situation may be worse than expected and extend to a long term evacuation
  4. Once you have evacuated, even though immediate danger is past, you will not be allowed to return home until officials deem it safe
  5. Your home might actually be destroyed as the result of the emergency
Preparing accordingly is important to your safety, comfort, relief from worry and, if necessary, your recovery. Here is a list of things to do before leaving home:
  1. Empty the refrigerator & freezer, unplug it and prop the doors slightly open
  2. Unplug all of your electronic equipment including the TV
  3. Turn off the water supply to your washing machine
  4. Turn off the heat/air conditioner
  5. Turn off the home's supply lines for water, gas and electricity at the source
  6. Lock all windows and doors
  7. Secure shutters if you have them
  8. Secure all movable items from outside the home, tables, chairs, umbrellas, children's toys, plant containers, garbage cans, lawn ornaments, etc.
Things to consider when planning what to pack:
  1. What obligations would generally be met over the next month if I were still at home - bills to pay. prescriptions to refill, etc?
  2. What is delivered to my home regularly, mail, newspaper, etc? A 'temporary hold' or 'vacation hold' or forwarding to a friend or relative might be a good idea.
  3. How do I (the family) prepare to meet the day each morning - toiletries, bath/shower supplies, toilet tissue, day planner, brief case, breakfast, medications, supplements, etc?
  4. What would be worn during the day to be comfortable, as if on vacation?
  5. What is the bedtime routine - toiletries, medications/supplements, reading material, pillow, blanket/sleeping bag or bedroll?
  6. How do I stay informed and maintain contact - cell phone w/ chargers, battery operated radio, laptop w/ power supply?
  7. What is the most important personal information that is kept in the home - insurance papers, legal documents, address book, contact information, computer files, bank records, credit card information, tax records, immunization records, prescription numbers and refill pharmacy information, etc?
  8. What about the pet(s) - vet records & contact information, food & water and dishes for both, medications, carrier, bedding, leash?
  9. What are the children's most treasured items?
  10. What activities will help keep the children calm and occupied?
If you have made preparations for an immediate, emergency escape, many of your evacuation needs will already be met and you can concentrate on food provisions and securing the items within your home that have particular significance.

Since I live in a wooded, rural area with occasional fires as well as in a hurricane zone, I keep a bin filled with canned goods and general comfort provisions. Each spring and fall, as seasonal clothing is rotated, I rotate the canned goods back into the pantry and replace them with a new supply. I also change out batteries, medicines, clothing items, etc. and update records and photographs on the flash drive.

Another person, in the path of a hurricane, secured framed art between mattresses and under couch cushions before leaving home. A daughter, in the direct line of a slowly approaching wild fire, spent an entire day moving prized belongings to a friend's house, outside the danger zone, based solely on the possibility that an evacuation of her neighborhood might be necessary. She also gave each of her children a box in which to pack their own favorite things and was surprised to discover that the children packed items much different from the ones she would have selected for them.

Another family, in a different smoke-filled fire zone, wouldn't consider evacuation because the fire itself was no threat and existed across a waterway. By the time the smoke literally drove them away, they could not find a vacant motel room anywhere along their 300 mile route and were fortunate to find a church that offered them shelter for a night.

Also, any given community has a limited number of vehicles and trailers available for rent. If their use is a part of your thinking/planning, you would be well advised to make your reservation at the earliest sign of danger and be prepared to lose your deposit should the emergency not materialize.

If finances or transportation could pose a problem for you, it is far better to face the issue seriously and find a solution in advance than to find yourself in a desperate situation with limited or no options. Even collecting lose change at the end of each day can provide needed funds over time. Advance arrangements can be made for a friend or family member to provide your transportation or for someone to drive from a distant town to pick you up. Most critical items, like records and photos on disc or flash drive can be packaged in a USPS Flat-Rate box and mailed to safety.

Being prepared is not a matter of being afraid or even wary. it is a source of confidence and calm in times of potential crisis and goes a long way toward setting our minds at ease.

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