Monday, October 24, 2011

Great article on preparing to evacuate

I May Never See My Home Again
By Carolyn Nicolaysen


Hurricane Irene, tropical storm Lee, tornadoes, flooding, wildfires in Texas, 5 million without power in California, Arizona and Mexico, and all this since my last article two weeks ago. Yesterday marked the height of the hurricane season however, there are still another two months till the season passes. Fire season is just now beginning as more than 1.5 million acres have already burned and thousands have lost their homes. Lightning sparked over thirty wildfires in California Sunday night.
What if you were called in the middle of the night and told you needed to evacuate immediately. A few years ago this happened to a friend. She could not think clearly about what to do and her comment later was, “I just didn't understand I might not see my home again”. Would you know what to do? Plan today.
No matter what the reason for an evacuation, it is going to be a stressful, chaotic time and you need to be prepared so that you and your family will remain safe and sane until the earthquake, landslide, wildfire, hurricane, tornado, flood, storm surge, tsunami, avalanche, hazardous spill, or terror threat is over.
Start today by preparing the following items to take with you as you evacuate: *

1.* Assemble a 72-hour kits for every family member, be sure to include family photos, emergency phone numbers and family ID cards in a plastic sleeve that can be removed easily.

2.* Assemble a kit of essentials for every pet. Don’t forget a leash for the dog or cat.

3.* Maps: Gather maps of your town, county, state and your out-of-area destination. Take some time and using a highlighter, mark several routes, in different colors, from your home to you destination. Remember the freeways may be very crowded if you wait until an evacuation order is given to leave your home. Longer routes may be the faster in the long run, so think creatively. As you mark your map, note where the rest areas are located. You will need these from time to time, especially if you are traveling with pets and children.

4.* Assemble an emergency car kit and place it in your car now. The kit may include: flashlight, small and large 10” glow sticks (I prefer these to flares because they do not create sparks which are potentially dangerous at an accident scene), folding shovel, tire repair kit and pump, booster cables, work gloves, and a fire extinguisher. Store extra batteries for your flashlight in your 72-hour kit, not in your car, and never in your flashlight (they are less likely to leak or explode if stored separately). To use your flashlight at times other than emergencies, keep batteries in the glove box.

5.* Assemble fun things to do in the car - books on tape, travel games, toys, familiar music that you can sing at the top of your lungs, anything that will keep family members distracted. Remember during a mass evacuation the average time spent in the car is 15-20 hours! You will want to make this time as low stress as possible. Don’t forget scriptures and comforting materials like church magazines.

6.* Assemble a sanitation kit. You should have sanitation supplies in your 72-hour kits but you will want to save those in case you need them at a shelter or at your evacuation destination. If you are evacuating to the home of a friend or family member, others may be doing the same. Don’t assume they will be prepared to care for all your needs. Also, remember there will be many others evacuating. Local residents as well as evacuees will all be at the store trying to purchase supplies when you reach your destination. When you stop at a rest stop along the way there will be no one to re-supply the restrooms and you may be very happy that you have your own stash.* Your sanitation kit should include: Facial tissues, bathroom tissue, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, paper towels, feminine supplies, diapers (always a size or two larger than the baby is wearing at the time you assemble your kit) and biohazard bags (to contain waste until you reach a place where they can be properly disposed of). Place your sanitation supplies with your 72 hour kit so it can be grabbed in a hurry.

7.* Food and drinks for the road. Again, save the food in your 72-hour kit for use later. Gather snacks, crackers, peanut butter, and drinks and place them in a cupboard together. This will make it easy and fast to grab items when you are in a hurry to evacuate. It also makes it easy to pack school lunches every day. You will not be thinking clearly, so make a list of food items to add to this supply and post it on the cupboard door. This could include: bread, cheese, deli meats, mayo, fruit, carrots, anything you may have on hand but is kept in another location. As with 72-hour kits, do not include salty foods such as salted nuts, chips, and jerky. These will just increase your thirst and thus restroom stops, which may not be readily available. Plan to eat in your car. There have been incidents of people being hurt when others demanded their food. If you need to stretch, do so, but keep the food and water out of site and a close eye on the kids. Sad but true.
8. Compile a list of family heirlooms to grab if there is time. Post this list in a cupboard
or closet for quick access in an emergency. If you file it, you know you won’t be able to find it in a hurry. We have all had that experience, “but I know I put it in a place where it would be safe”.

9. Stash cash. Accumulate cash to be used during an evacuation. Cash should be in small denominations, nothing over $20.00, and should also include coins. You should have several hundred dollars. Many banks will be destroyed or without power after a disaster, natural or man-made. If you bank at a local or regional bank it may be days or weeks before you can access your account and withdraw cash. ATMs will be cleaned out in a matter of minutes, so don’t plan to stop at an ATM on your way out of town. Power outages will occur even miles from a disaster site making your credit cards useless.

10.* Take a household inventory. Take pictures or a video of everything in your home, including the items inside closets and cupboards. Place a copy in your 72-hour kit and send a copy to your out-of-state contact.

We have a friend whose home burned down four years ago and the insurance company would not release any rebuilding money until they have turned in a list of everything they lost in the fire. Can you imagine trying to create such a list when you are dealing with such a horrible disaster! Four years later they are just getting back into their home. A home inventory would have greatly reduced this time.

11.* Back up computer files often and send them to your out-of-state contact. Consider backing them up on a server off site so you can keep them current, especially if you have your own business or do much of your work from home.

12.* Compile a list of items to place in the car when you evacuate and post it with your other lists. Include the following and any other personal necessities:

72-hour kit
Pet kit
Maps
Fun things to do kit
Sanitation kit
Food and drinks
Family Heirlooms
Cash
Blankets or sleeping bags
Pillows
Cell phone
Auto cell phone charger
Lap top or computer back up files
Other---such as a walker, baby bottles, or pet cages

13.Assign each family member the responsibility of packing or retrieving each item on your list.

14.Post the Batten down the Hatches List (which follows later in this article).

15. Practice packing your car. Avoid packing heavy items in the passenger area, which can become dangerous if you need to stop quickly. It is better to discover now that you need to pack some items in smaller containers so they will all fit.

16.* Always keep your gas tank at least half full. If you have any suspicions that an evacuation may occur go fill your tank immediately, before others have the same idea. When you return home, park the car in the garage facing out and disconnect the garage door opener in case of a power outage.

The time has come to evacuate.*

1.* Listen to the radio or television for instructions from local officials. They will be able to inform you where shelters are located and which evacuation routes may be open and which closed. Follow their instructions, especially in case of a fire or earthquake. They will help you avoid potential hazards.

2.* Phone or visit house-bound neighbors and/or neighbors whose children may be home alone. Make sure they have heard the warnings and have a way to safely evacuate. This is especially important in case of a fire, every moment counts and parents and caregivers may not have time to get home and rescue children and the handicapped or elderly.

3.* Dress for the occasion. Put on comfortable but protective clothing - no sandals, no shorts, no tank tops. Long pants and long sleeves are the best. Grab an extra change of clothing, but only one. Remember you have another set of clothing in your 72-hour kit, so this will get you through the emergency period.

4.* Remove the radio and plastic sleeve with your maps and phone list from your 72-hour kit and place them inside the car.

5.* Batten-Down-the-Hatches List:
Board up windows
Move all outdoor items inside.
Shut off water, gas and electricity.
Close all interior doors.
Close and lock all windows.
If you are leaving a fire, do not shut off water or electricity and leave lights on. This will help firefighters see your home through the smoke.
Lock all outside doors.
If you are headed to a shelter deliver pets to a pre-arrange care giver.
Leave a note to let neighbors, friends and family know you have evacuated, when you left, and where you are going. This should be out of sight so others will not no your plans. Determine now where you will leave that note and notify your out of area contact and others where that will be.
Notify contact person of your plans and have them notify the rest of the extended family and friends.
Take time now to check with local official to determine what will and will not be allowed in your area shelters. The following may not be allowed:
Alcoholic beverages.
Pets (in some areas, this rule is changing), but guide dogs are always allowed.
Illegal drugs, even if you are using them for medical purposes.
Weapons, including some knives.
Extra food other than special dietary needs. The food in your 72-hour kit is fine.
Valuables. There will be no place to store jewelry, valuable papers or large amounts of money. Again anything in your 72-hour kit will be fine - just be careful and definitely don’t “advertise” that you have anything of value. Don’t access money in front of anyone! Never give children valuables. Prepare your children for shelter living by warning them that other children may want to “share” their toys and books. Discuss how they should handle this.

When faced with evacuation, try to remain calm. Remember, the only really important thing is to get your whole family safely away from the danger around you. Then, when it’s all over, sit down and make a list of everything you would do differently next time, and make an action list. Take time as well to record your experience in your journal. The next generation may find it amazing and inspiring, and your preparation may motivate them to be better prepared by walking in your footsteps.

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