Do You Have a Home Evacuation Plan?

In recent years, there’s been an influx of natural disasters across the globe. From hurricanes and tornadoes to earthquakes and wildfires, these events often give you little time or no warning to prepare. Having a home evacuation plan is an important aspect of navigating a catastrophic event, as it can help you evacuate quickly and safely. We’ve assembled six strategies to consider when creating your plan.

1. Plan your exit strategy ahead of time. To help minimize the impact of a catastrophic event, consider identifying more than one evacuation destination and mapping out how you’ll get there. Take time to sit down as a household and:

  • Become familiar with disaster incidents known to affect your area.
  • Make sure your cell phone can receive Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs).
  • Establish destination options: home of a family member or friend, a hotel or a shelter.
  • Map out primary and alternative routes to your destination(s).
  • Create a paper list of important telephone numbers and email addresses. Consider sending this list to an emergency contact as a backup.

2. Build an emergency kit. A grab-and-go kit should be placed in one or two portable containers such as a duffel bag, backpack or plastic bin. Be sure to periodically check and replenish expired items. A basic emergency kit could include any of the following items:

  • First-aid kit
  • Electronic devices and chargers
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • Utility knife
  • Bottled water
  • N95 face masks
  • Food for you, your family and your pet(s)
  • Medications
  • Travel-size personal hygiene products
  • Clothing, shoes and blankets
  • Local maps

3. Create a list of items to take. The severity of the event will determine how much time you have to gather items. Preparing a list of items and where they are stored can save time and reduce stress and anxiety. Items to consider are:

  • Keys
  • Cash, credit cards and checkbooks
  • Photographs
  • Family keepsakes and heirlooms
  • Collectables
  • Equipment for infants, disabled or elderly household members
  • Comfort items (e.g., your kid’s favorite toys)

4. Gather important documents. You’ll want to include documents that will help verify information, confirm your identity and assist with recovery efforts, such as:

  • Driver’s license, identification cards and passports
  • Social security cards
  • Birth, death and marriage certificates
  • Medical records
  • Wills, trust documents and property deeds
  • Insurance cards and policies (health, auto, life, homeowners, flood, title, etc.)
  • Financial information, including stocks, bonds and certificates of deposit

5. Create a home inventory list. An inventory list can prove helpful when applying for recovery assistance. The list should include item descriptions as well as model and serial numbers, if applicable. It is also beneficial to take pictures or a video of each room in your home. Doing so, can:

  • Provide an opportunity for you to review your insurance coverage
  • Avoid the need to create a list by memory under stressful conditions
  • Ensure all your items are covered under your homeowners, flood or earthquake insurance claim
  • Possibly speed up the insurance claim process

6. Prepare your home. The nature of your preparation will depend on the type of catastrophic event that occurs. Some examples may include the following:

  • Fire – shutting off gas and turning off pilot lights
  • Hurricane – stocking up on plywood in order to secure windows
  • Tornado – designating a safe room such as a basement
  • Earthquake – making sure bookshelves are secured to the wall

An organized evacuation plan is an important tool to protect you, your home and your family against catastrophic events. It can eliminate confusion, injury and property damage. Take the time to develop a plan that is specific to your area and incorporates the needs of you and your family. To learn more about the natural disasters in your area, how to prepare for them and other valuable resources, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s website.