When disaster strikes, you may have only minutes to gather your loved ones, your pets, and your belongings, and get on the road. Are you ready?

Whether it’s a flood, fire, or other emergency, there are times when evacuations are necessary. These are often stressful times when you need to move quickly, and might not have time to grab everything you need. Preparing for emergency evacuations ahead of time will help you and your family know exactly what to do, and what to bring with you, in times of crisis.

Here’s what you need to consider when planning to evacuate.


Learn about local disasters and policies.

    • Your place of work, your children’s school or daycare, and your local community probably have evacuation plans. You’ll want to find out about them, so that you can incorporate that information in your plan if it applies. Ask these places how they communicate about disaster procedures and what their policies are for emergencies and evacuations.


Pack it up.

    • Pack an emergency kit full of essential items and documentation your family will need that’s ready to go and keep it in a place where you can grab it easily. Make sure it’s one you can carry or transport easily if you have to walk long distances or travel on public transportation in an emergency.
      • Pro Tip: Revisit the content of your kit every six months. That’s when food may expire and children’s clothing sizes may change.

    • You will need nonperishable food, bottled water, and supplies for 3 days. This includes soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and prescription medications. Make sure you include supplies for pets or infants, such as food and formula, and for any special dietary needs for members of your family. Also pack clothes and pajamas for every member of your family, as well as any bedding, pillows and sleeping bags. Finally, bring a first aid kit and all of your devices and chargers, as well as a battery-powered radio to stay on top of news and information.

    • Keep a small amount of cash or traveler’s checks at home in a safe place where you can access them in case of evacuation. Store important papers in a fireproof, waterproof container that may be grabbed in case of an emergency. These may include birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, insurance policies, wills and deeds, and even treasured photos.


Plan your escape route.

    • Plan for the worst-case scenario. You want to make sure that every member of the family can exit your home safely in the event of an active disaster, such as a fire or earthquake.

    • Draw a floorplan for your home. Use a blank sheet for each floor. Mark 2 escape routes from each room. Hang the drawing at eye level in each child’s room. Make sure children understand the drawings. Do a room tour and point out the exits. Practice using them. Talk about when your children might have to use them.

    • Plan for which adults are bringing which items packed in the previous section. Dividing the responsibilities will help you get out more quickly.

Know where to go.

    • Know your options about where you can evacuate. You may choose to evacuate to a shelter in your town, to a local hotel or motel, or to family or friends in another town, away from the danger. It also may depend on the type of disaster. You may not be able to stay local in a widespread flood but might be able to shelter in a hurricane. Download the FEMA App to locate emergency shelters in your area.

    • If you choose the local shelter, find out the rules. You want to make sure that they can accommodate your family. You’ll also have to make separate arrangements for pets. (See the pet section below.)

    • Choose destinations in different directions in case the emergency is in one part of town. Have the addresses and phone numbers handy for easy access.

Map it out.

    • Keep a full tank of gas if evacuation seems necessary. Gas stations may have long lines or not be able to pump during a power outage.

    • Be familiar with alternate routes in case you cannot take the route you know. Be alert for road hazards, washed-out bridges, and downed power lines. Avoid driving in flooded areas.

    • Bring a physical map in case you don’t have access to a GPS or if satellites go down or your devices run out of power.


Plan for pets.

    • You want to protect your pets during a disaster. That means you will need to find them a safe place to shelter, whether it’s with you at a pet-friendly location or at an animal boarding facility. Know that facility’s evacuation plan if they may be in the region.

    • Pack pet food, leashes, litter boxes, crates, beds, toys, and any other supplies needed by your pet. Bring a copy of updated veterinary records.

    • Make sure your pet is microchipped and has a proper ID on his or her collar if applicable. Bring a photo of you and your pet together, which can help if for any reason your pet gets separated from you.


Stay in touch.

    • Establish a place to meet near your home in case you get separated. Choose a place immediately outside (such as the driveway), a little bit further (such as the stop sign at the end of the street), and a location even further (such as the neighborhood grocery store).

    • Choose an out-of-state contact that you all can call if needed. Update that person when you are evacuating and as you change locations.



Ready, set, go.

Take the 10-minute evacuation challenge. See if you can get your family and belongings in a car in just 10 minutes. Then, practice your evacuation drill regularly.

Finally, check that you have enough insurance to cover your home, car, and possessions in case they are destroyed in a natural disaster or other emergency. You’ll all have peace of mind knowing that you are fully prepared and know exactly what to do.



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.


California Casualty

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