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People are forced to evacuate more often than you may realize. Hundreds of times each year, transportation or industrial accidents release harmful substances, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes and go to a safer area. Fires and floods cause evacuation even more frequently.
As a result, evacuation planning has been in progress for many years. Specific evacuation plans vary by area and by disaster, so your local emergency management or office is your best source for current community evacuation plans.
If an evacuation is called for in your community, local officials will provide information via television and radio broadcasts. Government agencies, the American Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations will provide emergency shelter and supplies. But just in case, you should plan to have enough water, food, clothing and emergency supplies to last at least three days. In the event of a catastrophic national emergency, you could need to be self‑sufficient for at least two weeks.
The amount of time you have to evacuate your home or community will depend on the disaster. If the disaster is a severe winter storm or similar event that can be monitored, you could have a day or two to get ready. But many disasters offer no time at all for people to gather even the most basic necessities. This is why you should prepare now.
1. Use the Emergency Planning and Checklist page to gather emergency supplies for you and your family in case of evacuation. Collect these crucial materials, especially food and water, well in advance of disaster ‑ once you are told to evacuate, you may have only minutes to leave.
2. Review possible evacuation procedures with your family so that everyone understands what to do and where to meet if you are separated.
Ask a friend or relative outside your area to be the "checkpoint" so that everyone in the family can call that person to say they are safe.
Find out where children will be sent if they are in school when an evacuation is announced.
3. Plan now where you would go if you had to evacuate.
Consider the homes of relatives or friends.
Contact the local emergency management or civil defense office for community evacuation plans.
4. Keep fuel in your car at all times. During emergencies, filling stations may be closed. Never store extra fuel in the garage.
5. If you do not have a car, make transportation arrangements with friends, neighbors or your local emergency management office.
6. Know how to shut off electricity, gas and water at main switches and valves. Make sure you have the tools you would need to do this (usually pipe and crescent or adjustable wrenches). Check with your local utilities for instructions.
1. Listen to a battery powered radio and follow the instructions of local officials.
2. Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
3. Gather water, food and emergency supplies
4. Close and lock doors and windows.
5. If there is time, secure your house.
Turn off natural gas, propane, water and electricity if instructed to do so. In a flood hazard area, store propane tanks or secure them to the structure.
Turn off the main water valve.
Take any actions needed to prevent damage to water pipes by freezing weather, if this is a threat.
Let others know where you are going.
6. Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts! They may be blocked.
7. Listen to the radio for emergency shelter information.
8. Carry a disaster supplies kit.
1. Do not return to the emergency site until authorities say it is safe.
2. Continue listening to the radio for information and instructions.
3. Use extreme caution when entering buildings ‑ structures may have been damaged or weakened. Beware of poisonous snakes in flooded structures and debris.
4. Do not take lanterns, torches or any kind of flame into a damaged building. There may be leaking gas or other flammable materials present. Use battery‑operated flashlights for light.
5. If you smell leaking gas, turn off the main gas valve at the meter.
Do not turn on lights ‑ they can produce sparks that will ignite the gas.
Leave the house immediately and notify the gas company or the police.
Do not reenter the house until all odor of gas is gone.
6. Notify the power company or fire department if you see fallen or damaged electrical wires.
7. If appliances are wet, turn off the main electrical power switch in your home before you unplug them. Dry out appliances, wall switches and sockets before you plug them in again ‑ call utility companies for guidance.
8. Check food and water supplies for contamination and spoilage before using them. Follow specific instructions from your local health department or agriculture extension agency.
9. Wear sturdy shoes when walking through debris or broken glass, and use heavy gloves when removing debris.
10. After the emergency has passed, telephone or telegraph your family and friends to tell them you are safe.
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This page last modified on Thursday, March 31, 2011