With September being National Preparedness Month, I thought it would be a great time to create an emergency evacuation plan for our family. While we don’t normally live in an area that requires evacuation, it still is no excuse not to have one.
So let’s start with some basics that everyone needs to know about how to create an effective emergency evacuation plan. It is always easier to create something so important when you know the reasons for doing it. Obviously safety is the main reason, but let’s discuss that further.
Why Do I Need To Create An Emergency Evacuation Plan?
Most people think that they don’t need to create an emergency evacuation plan because they typically don’t live in an area that is prone to natural disasters that require evacuation. Well, natural disasters aren’t the only reasons you could be evacuated.
What if there is a fire in your home? Or there are other circumstances that in your local area that may need you to leave with little to no notice, which can be a really scary situation if you don’t have a plan in place before hand. So having your plan in place before you would ever need it is a wise decision and one that may lessen the panic and fear if the situation arises.
How Do I Know What I Need In An Evacuation Plan?
The best place to start figuring what you need in an emergency evacuation plan is the Ready.gov website. I love how the website shares everything in an easy to understand format. For instance, here is a snippet from step 1:
- How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
- What is my shelter plan?
- What is my evacuation route?
- What is my family/household communication plan?
These are great starting points for making your evacuation plan. Plan a family meeting with one family member designated as a recording secretary. Using these 4 starting points, brainstorm together what you should be doing in each of those steps. Designate a person to be “in charge” of knowing what is involved in each of those steps.
Make sure everyone knows where the emergency evacuation kit is located in your home, and who is in charge of grabbing it. You should check and update this kit at least twice a year, or even once every quarter. Also take the time to check dates of the supplies in your emergency first aid kit.
I Have Created My Evacuation Plan, Now What?
Now that you have created your evacuation plan, what are you going to do with it? First, you are going to print it neatly(or type it out) and make a copy for each household member. Then take it to a local office supply store and get them laminated. Give each member a copy to keep in their room.
Second, you are going to practice your escape routes from your home. Take the time to go over what you need to do if there is a fire that is in your home. Stress that you should not worry about personal belongings, just get out and get to the designated family meeting spot.
Third, take the time to drive the emergency evacuation route you would be taking. Make sure your GPS is charged and has the most current maps(I do this every other month). When there is the possibility that you may need to evacuate, try to locate different places that you could get gas in a hurry. Along the same lines, always make sure your car is road trip ready. You can read how to do that here.
Consider making a bag you keep in the car with blankets, sweatshirts, heavy duty socks, etc. If you are evacuating and there is a chance that you may be stranded in your car, the warm clothing will help. If you don’t want to keep it in the car, have it near your car in the garage that you can just toss it in.
Also, you may want to be thinking about keeping energy bars and water in your vehicle at all times. When you look at the dates in your first aid kit, take the time to check the expiration dates on these items and replace them if needed.
Tips For Evacuation Plans For Elderly Family Members
In this age, family homes are most likely multi-generational. Many times, grandparents are staying with family because they can no longer care for themselves. So what do you need to know about helping them to evacuate?
If your elderly family member is suffering from dementia, have a contact card you can slip into their pocket in case you would get separated at a shelter. Put their name, age, any medical problems & medications, and your contact information(Remember laminating your plan? Consider doing that for this card as well). An emergency alert bracelet can be used as well for this information.
If they require mobile assistive devices, consider having a spare chair or cane you can keep in the car or near your vehicle so that you don’t have to worry about bringing them down the stairs. Ideally, if you can evacuate them by professional transport before it becomes an emergency, it would be a safer option.
Learn the cross-handed carry. Most first aid/CPR discuss this technique for moving victims out of harm’s way. It is a great way to safely carry an elderly person to safety if they are larger than you and have difficulty walking.
Special Considerations For Younger Family Members
Emergency situations are REALLY scary for kids. So this is a section where you really want to take the time to plan and practice.
- Make sure you tell kids where they shouldn’t go. They shouldn’t hide in closets or under the beds, that could be a tragic situation.
- Remind them that they will not be able to take all their toys and games. However, create a “Grab Pack” with a few favorite things, activities, and snacks. Keep it in the car or with your car linens pack so it is available at a moment’s notice.
- They need to know what to do if they ever get separated from their grown-ups. This is a good time to make sure they know the family phone numbers.
- Reassure them that it is ok for them to be scared. But also let them know that you are scared too, and that it helps you to know that they are prepared to do the right thing if an emergency happens.
Remember To Have An Emergency Plan For Your Pets
A consideration for your evacuation plan should be what will you do about your pets in the case of an emergency. This is a great pdf file to use as a starting point. While you want to think that you will be able to take your pets with you, there may be forced to leave them behind. Here are a few things you should add to your plan:
- Where can we safely contain them with food and water?
- Is there a way to make a place for elimination needs in the room?
- What do you do if your pets need medications?
- Would other family members in a safety zone be able to keep them?
These are just a few of the things you should discuss in your emergency plan before you would need to use it.
How Often Should I Update My Emergency Plan?
You should update your plan each year. Make sure you review it with the entire family, and note any changes that may be necessary. If you have had the need to use your plan, discuss what worked(or what didn’t) and verify that it is still valid.
This may also be a good time for you to consider taking a basic first aid & CPR class near your home. You never know when you may need it, especially in an emergency when first responders may be overwhelmed.
Important Phone Numbers For Your Emergency Evacuation Plan
American Red Cross: 1-866-GET-INFO
National Weather Service: 1-850-942-8833
Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222
Some Final Things To Share
No one ever wants to think about having to evacuate their home or their neighborhood. But sometimes it just can’t be avoided. Now that you have taken the time to create an emergency evacuation plan, hopefully you will have a clear idea what you need to do if the time comes. And being prepared means a safe and organized evacuation.