Evacuate Immediately!


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Evacuate ImmediatelyIf someone said to evacuate RIGHT NOW, would you be ready?

  • Do you know where you would likely be heading?
  • Do you know if your pet will be allowed to go there with you?
  • Do your family members/children, who aren’t at home right now, know where you will be and how to contact you?

Here’s more about evacuations that might help you answer these questions!

Who actually gives the evacuation order?

News reports always talk about “the authorities.” In our local community, evacuation orders are given by the fire department and executed by the police department. To get the most attention and the best response to evacuation orders, professionals recommend that the warnings be issued as coming from ALL sources available (First Responders, local government, Red Cross, National Weather Service, etc.), so as to make them more credible.

Once I leave, when can I come back?

Generally, once an area is evacuated, residents will be prevented from returning until officials declare an all-clear.

If the evacuation takes place “too early,” authorities are challenged to retain control of the once-evacuated area. There’s always the danger of looters trying to sneak in. And residents go to all lengths, finding their way by back roads, etc.,  to get back to their homes to pick up valuables and particularly to deal with pets that were left behind.

What if I don’t want to leave?

As a private citizen, you can always leave your home at any time if you feel threatened. By the same token, you can refuse to evacuate if you think your home is safe, you need to provide continuing care to a family member, etc.

If an area has been officially evacuated, though, emergency personnel may be pulled away from your neighborhood and you will be left on your own. (For a very interesting view of the kinds of people who don’t respond to evacuation orders, check out this blog post: Why don’t people evacuate?”

What if I can’t leave?

You may not be able to evacuate because you don’t have access to transportation, you are mobility impaired, or you can’t afford to leave. Obviously, officials will try to provide evacuation services where possible.

In Hurricane Sandy, some people with mobility issues were trapped in high-rise buildings when electric elevators no longer worked. Only if friends and neighbors know of disabled neighbors are they likely to be able to help. If you know that evacuation would be impractical or impossible for you, your preparations for sheltering in place need to be more rigorous.

Get more about how to cope with evacuation for people with disabilities here.

Where do I go?

Your city or county will have already identified potential public shelters. Look for a list online or request one from your property manager, local fire department, etc. If an evacuation is called, you will be told where shelters are open and space is available. Don’t head for any shelter until you know it is open!

Interestingly enough, only about 15% of people go to shelters; most evacuate to friends, family or to hotels.

Can I take my pet?

Traditionally pets have not been allowed in Red Cross shelters. People end up leaving their pets at home, or leave them in the car when they have reached the shelter. Obviously, you would want to find a shelter or hotel that is “pet friendly” well in advance of an approaching storm. You can do that research beforehand. As for large animals (horses, etc.), sometimes they can be cared for a facilities such as fair grounds, etc. Check with your vet for resources and further information.

What should I bring?

Your evacuation kit should always be prepared and ready near the exit of your home. You won’t have much room in the car or even in the shelter, but your kit should contain some food and water, medical supplies, prescriptions, sturdy shoes, clothing and blankets. Having an emergency radio and flashlight is smart. Have a list of important emergency contact phone numbers; copy important papers onto an electronic “flash drive” and include it in your kit.

The Emergency Plan Guide comprehensive Checklist has two lists, one for the “Survival Kit” and another for an “Evacuation Kit.” We also have a Pet Emergency Checklist.

Hope this has made you think about how YOU will handle an evacuation order!

Virginia Nicols Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Have you been through an evacuation?  Tell us what happened and what you learned . . .! (If you have a whole story, I’d love to publish you as a guest blogger.  Just let me know.)

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