evacuation 101


First things first – if you are ordered to evacuate, you should do it. While evacuation is inconvenient, mandatory evacuation orders are issued for a good reason, which is to prevent loss of life.

So, should the orders come down, or if your gut tells you to evacuate anyway, there are some things you can do to make the process as efficient and painless as possible.


STEP 1:  Decide what you’re going to do early.

Decide and act before everyone else does. Crowds are not your friend in an evacuation situation. Shoot for five days to a week in advance. Early action is key to making sure you can get out, have a place to go, and your property is adequately protected.


STEP 2:  Prepare your home before you evacuate.  

You want to mitigate damage to your property as much as possible while you’re away. Again, start early so you have time and supplies to do the job right. Most evacuations in North America are issued for storms or wildfires.  The following are good resources for each situation.

  • Hurricanes / Storms: Consumer Reports has a very comprehensive guide to prepping your home for the water and wind that come with big storms.
  • Wildfires: Your concern here is less about water damage and more about fire and smoke. This list is simple and on point. 


STEP 3:  Evacuation – pack up and get out.

There are numerous evacuation checklists available online, so rather than repeat the usual advice, we suggest you start with this list from the U.S. government. 


Here’s some less conventional (but very practical) advice:

  1. Get a road atlas. A real paper atlas. Make sure you know how to get out of town without your phone navigation and plan multiple alternate routes so you don’t get trapped trying to escape (remember Hurricane Ivan?).
  2. When you evacuate, bring your own bedding – blankets, pillows, linens, etc. If you evacuate to a hotel, you may find yourself with more people than beds and without enough bedding. In mass evacuation situations, hotels often don’t have enough bedding to cover all the extra guests.
  3. Get a high-quality ice chest cooler. One of those that keeps stuff cold for a really long time. If you need to evacuate you’ll want to take as much food as you can and a good cooler will delay spoilage while you’re on the road.
  4. Download and complete / print all the FEMA, Red Cross, and other emergency documents prior to evacuating. You can save hours of standing in lines at the emergency stations.
  5. Got school-aged kids? Be sure to bring their school identification, last report card, and birth certificate. If you are evacuated long term, you will need to enroll children into a local school near your shelter.
  6. Check on your neighbors, especially the elderly. Some people don’t evacuate because they can’t and you may be able to help.
  7. Keep a basic tool kit in your car (a good idea at all times) and check fluids and tires before you head out.
  8. Bring rolls of quarters for coin laundry at laundromats / hotels and your own detergent.
  9. Walkie talkies can be helpful to maintain communication between multiple vehicles if you have a caravan.
Storm preparedness

Storm preparedness checklist

Take the proper steps to keep you and your family safe during storm season with this checklist.

Download Checklist

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