Every second counts in the event of a natural disaster or other types of emergency situations. If an unforeseen event occurs, it’s important for everyone in your family to know exactly what to do to quickly evacuate your home and get to safety. The best way to prepare for these unexpected emergencies is by putting an evacuation plan in place.
When Would An Evacuation Be Necessary?
You may need to evacuate your home for a number of different reasons, including:
- Chemical/hazardous substance exposure
Each of these emergencies could put your family in danger and leave you with no other choice but to evacuate your home.
How Long Should It Take to Evacuate?
The amount of time you will have to evacuate in the event of an emergency will vary depending on the situation.
For example, authorities may advise you to evacuate several days in advance if a hurricane is approaching your city. But it’s not possible to predict or closely track other natural disasters such as wildfires, tornados, and earthquakes. If one of these natural disasters strikes, your family may only have a few minutes to leave your home.
It’s best to try to create a 10-minute evacuation plan, which means your plan should outline how you and your family can safely leave your home within less than 10 minutes.
How to Create An Evacuation Plan For Your Family
Don’t wait until it’s too late to start thinking about how you can evacuate your family in the event of an emergency. Follow these steps to create an evacuation plan now:
Figure Out Where You Will Go
Decide where you will go if you are forced to leave your home. If you must evacuate, chances are that friends and family who live nearby will also have to evacuate. This means you shouldn’t plan on staying with these loved ones. Plan on staying with a loved one who lives in a different city or at a hotel or local shelter instead.
Map Out Routes
Next, figure out how you will get to your evacuation location if you must leave your home. Remember, there may be a lot of road closures or traffic delays if people in your community are being forced to evacuate. Because of this, it’s important to map out multiple routes that will take you to your final destination.
Don’t rely on your smartphone or GPS system to give you an alternative route—you may not be able to get a signal on these devices if there is a natural disaster.
Discuss What to Do If Your Family is Separated
You never know what will happen as your family tries to quickly leave your home. Despite your best efforts, it is possible that your family will get separated from one another while you evacuate. This can be incredibly frightening and stressful—especially for children. Try to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety by planning where you will meet if someone gets separated.
Put Important Information in Writing
Everyone who lives under your roof should have important evacuation information in writing, including:
- Contact information for the place you plan on going if you need to evacuate
- Maps with directions to this location
- Contact information for everyone in the family
- Directions to the location where you should go if you become separated from the family
Ink is typically not waterproof, so if possible, laminate these documents so they aren’t destroyed in the event that they are exposed to water.
Prepare A “Go Bag”
There won’t be time to pack your belongings if you are asked to evacuate your home. Instead of leaving empty-handed, prepare a “go bag” that contains items you will need in the event of an emergency. Some of the items you should include in this bag are:
- First aid kit
- Bottle of water
- Battery-powered radio
- Pet supplies
- Change of clothes
- Cell phone charger
Keep this bag close to the door—perhaps in a closet or under the stairs—so you can quickly grab it on your way out.
Gather Important Documents
You will need to take certain documents with you when you evacuate your home, including:
- Birth certificates
- Driver’s license
- Insurance policies
- Estate planning documents
Don’t wait until a disaster strikes to start looking for all of these documents. Instead, find them now and put them in a safe place so you can quickly access them if you need to leave your home in a hurry.
You may also want to scan these documents so you can save digital copies on a USB drive. This way, you will have backup copies if the original documents are destroyed before you are able to evacuate.
Plan For Everyone in the Family
Every family is different, so consider your family’s unique needs when crafting an evacuation plan. For example, if you have a pet, make sure you add supplies that they will need to survive to your emergency bag.
You should also consider members of the family who may live elsewhere for a portion of the year, such as college-aged children or members of the military. Think about how your plan may need to change depending on whether these family members are home or not.
Practice Your Plan
Make sure everyone in your family is familiar with the details of your evacuation plan. Then, test it out. Get a timer and see how long it takes your family to gather their belongings and get out of the house in accordance with your plan. The American Red Cross recommends practicing your plan twice a year to ensure everyone understands what they should be doing if a disaster strikes.
Following these steps will help you put together an effective and practical evacuation plan that your family can rely on in the event of an emergency.
It’s Never Too Early to Put An Evacuation Plan in Place
Natural disasters and other emergencies can strike at any time, which is why it’s so important to put an evacuation plan in place now. Sometimes, you may only have a few minutes to leave your family home. If you don’t have a plan in place, evacuating everyone in this short time span could be chaotic and dangerous. But by planning ahead, you can protect your property from damage and ensure that your loved ones are able to evacuate safely at a moment’s notice.