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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Organize To Evacuate

Author: The Survival Mom

“All for one and one for all!” makes a great family motto when it comes to an emergency evacuation. When everyone has designated jobs and knows what, exactly, to do, your family can be packed and out of town before most other families grab their toothbrushes. To make this happen and avoid panic, chaos, and tears, your family needs a Family Evacuation Plan.

When I first started thinking about the possibility of evacuating from our home, I visualized sheer panic. Immediately, I realized that I needed a written list of procedures posted in two or three locations.

First, I want all our pets contained. I don’t need them underfoot as I rush around, and my daughter would become hysterical if she thought they would be left behind. First on my list is to load the dog crate in the Tahoe and then put each dog inside. We have four small dogs, so they all fit, in a cozy sort of way!

Next on the list is to crate the cat and put her in the Tahoe as well. I can’t tell you how much easier this is said than done! In fact, this summer we’ll be having regularly scheduled cat-in-the-crate drills! I expect to go through plenty of Band-Aids. By the way, I have delegated the job of loading the pets to my daughter. They love and trust her, and this will free me to get busy with other details.

Next, we’ll begin loading necessities. If the concept of a 72 Hour Kit, or a Bug-Out Bag, is new to you, you can find details here and here. It feels so reassuring to know that I have basic supplies already packed. In fact, I keep a well-stocked 72 Hour Kit out in the Tahoe for emergencies when we’re on the road.

As I put our evacuation plan together, the steps seemed to fall into five main categories.

1. Animals and their supplies
2. Food, water, and other personal necessities
3. Preparing the house
4. Documents/Computer
5. Vehicle

Here is my finished Family Evacuation Plan, along with a few comments.

Animals and their supplies

* Put dog crate into car, crate dogs. (I have their collars, leashes, and a water bowl already stored in the crate, along with some dog food double-bagged in two large Zip-Locs. Ants love dog food!)
* Put cat into crate. Keep her away from the dogs!! Pack small bag of kitty litter and her food.

Food, water, and personal necessities

* Load 72 Hour Kits and personal 72 Hour Backpacks.
* Load our strong box. (This contains originals of things like Social Security cards and birth certificates.)
* Load our firearms and ammunition. (Guns are one of the first things burglars look for. I don’t want them getting into the wrong hands, and who knows? In a worst case scenario, we may need them for protection.)
* Cash. I usually keep this in twenties or smaller. (In case of a widespread electrical outage, ATMs and credit/debit card machines may not be working. I want to be sure we can pay for hotels, gas and food.)
* Load the five-gallon bucket with plastic liners. (This also holds a couple of small blankets and extra shoes, but in an emergency, it can be used as a toilet. I’ve read accounts of the Hurricane Ike evacuation in 2008, and I don’t want my family using the side of the road as a toilet. Enough said.)
* Pack my Grab-and-Go Binder and my Survival Mom Binder. (The Grab-and-Go is detailed here. I’ll have details on the Survival Mom Binder in an upcoming article.)
* Load additional food and water, as much as we have room for. (I keep our freeze-dried food separate from everything else, and this is what we’ll pack first. It’s light-weight, and a little goes a long way. It was also pretty darn expensive!!)

Preparing the House

* Turn off gas and water.
* Go out to electrical panel and switch off everything except for the breakers marked for the kitchen.
* Unplug everything in the house except refrigerator, freezer and a lamp. (The lamp is already on a timer. We’ll plug it into an outlet in the kitchen. Even if our entire neighborhood is evacuated, I would just rather my home look occupied.)
* Turn off and unplug the computers.
* Close and lock all windows. Close blinds and curtains.
* Turn off air conditioner/heat.


* Use a flash drive to save important business and financial information from our desktop computer. Pack flash drive with laptop.
* Pack our laptop computer.
* Turn off desktop computers.


* load extra gas cans

Depending on how much time we have and how much room is left in the Tahoe, we’ll also pack extra clothing. There’s a change of clothes or two in our 72 Hour Kits, but if we are gone for days or weeks, we’ll need more. We can pack these in large plastic trash bags. Ugly, but they’re not as bulky as suitcases. Hey, they could double as raincoats in an emergency!

When our plan was finished, I discussed each step with my husband, and we delegated each task to a different family member. In a crisis situation, assigned tasks will help defuse feelings of panic and confusion. It’s more difficult to become hysterical when you have something to focus on. Not impossible! Just more difficult!

I’m very aware that an emergency evacuation may happen while my husband is not at home, so I’ve made sure that I know how to turn off the gas, water and electricity in case it’s just the kids and me.

There’s one step missing. Will this really work? How much time will it take, and will there be any room for passengers in the Tahoe once it’s loaded?? Obviously, we need an evacuation drill. Sounds like a great summertime family activity to me!

“Hey kids! Let’s pretend there’s a mountain of red hot lava rushing toward us, and we have to be out of the house in thirty minutes. Everybody know their jobs? Okay! Ready…..GO!!!”

When we have our first drill, I’ll let you know how it goes! In the meantime, I encourage you to make your own personalized Family Evacuation Plan. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes, wildfires, and the like, you already know a thing or two about bugging out in a hurry. Share your experiences and tips on this blog.
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