At Ernest Homes we know one of the most important things you can do for your family is to protect them when a big storm comes our way. Weather is always unpredictable, and a hurricane can strike at any time. By planning for an evacuation in advance, your family will have peace of mind and a greater sense of security.
Here are some simple steps for creating a hurricane evacuation plan that will help your family get through harsh weather. Once the plan is in place, be sure to post it where everyone can access it easily. Assign specific responsibilities to each person in your family and make sure that everyone knows what they need to do and where they should go in case of an emergency.
- Choose a safe meeting place outside of typical evacuation areas that everyone knows ahead of time, so everyone can find each other if they get separated. Family members may need to evacuate in separate vehicles, or may need to leave from different locations. Adult family members and older children should know how to get to this place, preferably by two or more different routes. Younger children should memorize the address of the meeting place, the name of the place or the name of the person you’ll be staying with, and the appropriate telephone number. A family emergency sheet like this one can help you organize your family for an evacuation.
- Prepare for limited communication. Telephone service and broadcast media may be compromised and service may be interrupted. For routine communication, text rather than call. Texting uses fewer resources and reduces the message traffic carried over the wireless network during high usage periods. Keep a car charger in every vehicle to ensure that devices stay charged. Store emergency numbers in your phone and keep up to date with weather apps and ongoing alerts. To protect your phone from water damage, store it in a zippered plastic bag (with all necessary accessories) when not in use. To ensure that you can receive any FM radio updates on the progress of the storm, visit http://freeradioonmyphone.org/ to learn how to use your smartphone as an FM radio receiver.
- Make arrangements for your pets. One capable family member should take charge of your animals. Get a travel kennel for each pet, and have enough dry food to last for several days and a gallon of fresh water ready to go at a moment’s notice. Cats should travel with a portable litter box such as a Jonny Cat Kat Kit. NEVER leave your pets unattended in an evacuated home! Make sure your designated meeting place will welcome your pets in an emergency. Many hotels are willing to waive their “No Pets” rules during times of evacuation, so call in advance to find one in your emergency location that will give your entire family shelter from the storm. You can also team up with friends and neighbors to form a safety network for unevacuated pets. If you can’t return home to claim your pet before evacuation is necessary, you’ll know that your “pet buddies” will protect your pet, and you will do the same for them.
- Keep important documents in a safe, accessible place. It’s also a great idea to snap pictures of these documents and upload them to a cloud-based storage system. Birth certificates, passports, identification, social security cards, copies of all prescriptions and other important documents should be readily available. You don’t want to waste precious time rounding up these items. Make sure copies of insurance policies are in your emergency packet, and that all insurances are up to date and cover your possessions adequately.
- Weatherproof your home before a storm threatens it. One option is to invest in storm shutters or wooden protectors cut to the size and shapes of your windows, so that they can be installed quickly. Another option is to purchase a supply of large cardboard sheets and electrical tape that can be used to protect exposed glass. While not as sturdy as wood, covering your windows with cardboard will provide some protection to items in your home that can be damaged by flying glass. Make sure all doors have sturdy deadbolts installed. Brace your garage door for extra support. Most think the roof is the most vulnerable part of their home during a storm, but it’s actually the garage door. Trim all trees to remove dead and questionable limbs that can cause damage if they fall. Remove unsecured items from your yard, such as outdoor furniture, trash cans, tools, toys, grills and lawn ornaments, moving them to your garage or a sturdy storage shed. Turn off as many utilities as you can before leaving your home.
- Prepare an evacuation kit to take with you – ahead of time! Spend a Saturday afternoon assembling the items recommended here. Use large, waterproof tubs with locking lids to store your supplies, which can be pre-packed and stored in a garage, shed, basement or spare room. Food suggestions can be found here and tips for managing your water needs are listed here. If it’s appropriate for your emergency evacuation location, pack some basic camping gear as well.
- Make sure your vehicle is in safe operating condition. Keep it in good repair and try to keep the tank at least half full at all times, in case a rapid evacuation is necessary. A great checklist for an emergency car kit is available here. Learn the best evacuation routes from your departure locations ahead of time.
- Don’t forget entertainment…you’ll probably have hours to fill! Simple board games, playing cards, books or puzzles can help both adults and children pass the time during an evacuation, and they don’t depend on television or devices.
- If you think you have enough batteries stored in your kit…think again and pick up some more. Useful for radios, flashlights, children’s games, clocks and other small packables, these essential items will be harder and harder to find once an approaching storm is announced.
- Don’t panic…keeping a cool head is the best way to get through a hurricane. Take a deep breath, follow your plan, and everything will be fine in the end.