How to prepare for an emergency evacuation
Last updated: January 1
When an emergency strikes, you and your family may need to quickly leave your home — or even evacuate your community. An evacuation can happen for a number of reasons, Ready.gov says. In some cases you may have a few days to prepare, while in others, there's little to no warning. But if you prepare beforehand, you can help ensure a potentially stressful situation goes as smoothly and safely as possible.
Here are some steps to take to prepare for an emergency evacuation.
Make a home escape plan
Creating an escape plan can help ensure your family knows how to get out of your home quickly in an emergency. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends you and your family walk through the home to identify possible exits and escape routes. As you do so, be sure the windows and doors can be opened easily and that the escape routes are not blocked by furniture or clutter.
Consider creating a floor plan of your home that shows two escape routes out of each room if possible, the NFPA says. You can also note the location of any smoke alarms on the map. Be sure that someone is assigned to help anyone who may need it during a fire, such as infants, individuals with disabilities or older adults. Once you have the plan in place, practice it twice a year, the NFPA recommends.
If you live in a two-story home, you will need to know how to escape from the second floor should a fire occur, which means you may need to use safety ladders. The NFPA recommends that a safety ladder should be kept near every second floor window so that they are easily accessible. The NFPA also suggests that all family members practice setting up a ladder from a first floor window. Make sure that children only practice with an adult present.
Pick emergency meeting spots
One of the most important steps you can take is to identify meeting spots for your family. You'll want to choose two separate locations, Ready.gov explains: One near your home and one outside of your neighborhood. The location near your home — such as a neighbor's house or a tree across the street from your home — can be where you meet in case of a fire. You may need to meet at a location outside of your neighborhood — such as a library or high school — in case your neighborhood is evacuated due to threats such as flooding or a hurricane.
To help keep you connected with your family before, during and after an emergency situation occurs, you'll also want to create a communication plan. This plan should include creating a physical list of emergency contacts and labeling contacts in your mobile phone as "In Case of Emergency," which will help emergency responders determine whom to contact should they need to assist you.
Map out a route to leave your area
In the event you need to evacuate your neighborhood, it may help to predetermine possible routes. Ready.gov advises that you choose destinations in different directions from your home so you have a couple of options. Take some time to familiarize yourself with those routes, as well as alternate transportation options, such as trains or buses.
If you think an evacuation may be necessary or you've been warned by authorities that it's a possibility, make sure your car has a full tank of gas. Whenever possible, plan to take only one car for your family, as this may help reduce congestion on the roads. It's also important to have supplies on hand in case you need to evacuate. Having an emergency "go bag" prepared for each member of your family may help you to leave quickly. And, be sure you have an emergency kit in your vehicle at all times.
Nobody expects to have to evacuate their home due to an emergency. By preparing for an emergency now, you can help give your family peace of mind that you'll be able to evacuate safely.