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Emergency Preparedness: Part 2 - Evacuation Planning

Getting out of dodge, bugging out, beat feet, flee, taking the long road. It doesn’t matter what you call it, but in times of crisis, knowing how to safely evacuate can be a matter of life

and death. Whether it's due to a natural disaster, a chemical spill, or any other emergency, having a well-thought-out evacuation plan is crucial. In this second installment of the emergency preparedness series, we’re going to explore the key considerations and steps involved in creating an effective evacuation plan.

Understand Potential Evacuation Scenarios

Different emergencies may require different evacuation strategies. Research and understand the potential hazards in your area. This could include hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, or industrial accidents. By identifying the specific risks, you can tailor your evacuation plan to address those threats. Start small here as it can be easy to become quickly overwhelmed.

Establish Evacuation Routes

Identify primary and alternative evacuation routes for different scenarios. Consider multiple modes of transportation, including car, foot, or public transportation. Map out the routes and ensure all family members are familiar with them. Consider any special needs or limitations of family members, such as mobility issues. You can use resources like Google maps to plot a map out of your neighborhood and then print the map and laminate it. Once you have multiple maps put them with your evacuation supplies and review them at least annually.

Determine Meeting Points

When you were young where did your parents tell you to meet in the event there was a fire in your house? The mailbox, right? All these years later and you still remember. So designate primary and secondary meeting points both within your neighborhood and outside of it. Choose easily recognizable landmarks or public spaces that are less likely to be affected by the emergency. Ensure everyone in your household knows these meeting points and understands the importance of gathering there if separated during an evacuation. If you need to create a map to keep in your vehicle in the glove box do so.

Prepare Emergency Bags

Create go bags or bug-out bags for each family member, as discussed in Part 1 of this series. These bags should contain essential items such as food, water, clothing, medications, important documents, and emergency supplies. Keep these bags easily accessible and consider storing them near an exit or in your vehicle for quick access during an evacuation. If you don’t think this is a good idea, try this experiment. Set a timer for 10 minutes and see how far you can get in 10 minutes? If you have a family get them involved too and see what happens!

Communication Plan

Establish a communication plan with your family members and trusted contacts outside the affected area. Determine a designated contact person who can relay information and serve as a central point of communication. Ensure everyone knows how to reach this person and have a backup communication method in case cell phone networks are congested or unavailable. Get a weather radio so you can monitor emergency channels and local conditions.

Emergency Services Information

Research and keep a list of local emergency services, including police, fire departments, hospitals, and shelters. Save these contacts in your phone and have printed copies as well. Be aware of evacuation orders and follow the instructions provided by local authorities.

Practice Evacuation Drills

Practice, Practice, Practice. Regularly practice evacuation drills with your household members. If you have kids make a game out it. My own kids love it when we practice fire drills because they get to crawl around and act like animals. This will familiarize everyone with the evacuation routes, meeting points, and the overall process. Evaluate and refine your plan based on the outcomes of these drills, identifying areas that may need improvement.

Prepare for Pets

I don’t know anyone who has a pet that would willingly leave them behind in an emergency. If you have pets, include them in your evacuation plan. I remember when I was a kid my house burnt down when I was in the 6thgrade. My dad was traveling for work, so it was just my mom, brother, and me at home at the time. It happened fast but long story short while my mom was racing out the back door calling the fire department my brother and I were at the back door yelling for our cat to come to the door. Eventually the cat came close enough to the door and my brother went back into the smoke-filled house to grab her! People do crazy things! My family and I spent the next couple weeks living in a hotel while other arrangements were made. So, research pet-friendly shelters or accommodations in advance. Pack their essentials, including food, water, leashes, carriers, identification tags and keep a current photo of your pets in case they get lost.

Creating an effective evacuation plan is essential for ensuring the safety of you and your loved ones during emergencies. By understanding potential evacuation scenarios, establishing routes, and meeting points, preparing emergency bags, communicating effectively, and practicing evacuation drills, you can increase your chances of a safe and organized evacuation. In the next part of this series, we will go a little more in-depth and explore emergency communication methods to stay connected during challenging situations. Stay tuned as we continue to enhance your emergency preparedness skills and knowledge.


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