As I write this, I’m sitting in our family room contemplating what, if anything, I would grab on my way out the door in an emergency evacuation. As it turns out, other than this laptop, there’s really nothing else of vital importance, except our three dogs. Scanning my kitchen, I came to the same conclusion. I’d leave my three sets of crystal stemware behind (what was I thinking when I bought that stuff???) as well as my knife block and pots and pans.
For the most part, items of real, immediate value are found in our bedrooms: changes of clothing, sturdy shoes, toiletries, and some financial records. My Grab-n-Go Binder needs to be updated as do the clothes in our family 72 Hour Kit. Could we evacuate in 30 minutes? As it stands right now, no. I need to repack our Bug Out Bags/72 Hour Kits and make sure our most important papers are all in one, handy place.
Could your family evacuate in 30 minutes? Run through this assignment together one night this week, and see how close you are to that 30 minute deadline. Here are a few steps to get your evacuation plan streamlined and speedy.
- Survey each room. What, if anything, should be included in an emergency evacuation. Family photos? A wedding album? The kids’ schoolbooks? If you determine ahead of time that nothing in a certain room is worth packing, you won’t waste valuable time searching through drawers or shelves and trying to make on-the-spot decisions under duress.
- Make a master list of what must not be left behind and then begin gathering those items into one or two locations. Make it a point to always return those items to their assigned locations.
- Prepare or update a Bug Out Bag for each member of the family. It should include one or two changes of clothes, including a jacket appropriate to the current season, closed toed shoes and socks, a small, personalized toiletry bag, and two or three items for entertainment.
- Mom’s and Dad’s bags might also include a firearm with a supply of ammo and enough cash to pay for a hotel, gas, and unexpected expenses.
- Prepare or update a family bag with enough non-perishable food to last three days, a first aid kit including important medications, a way to heat water and food, a portable water filter, maps, and any other items to see you through at least three days.
- Do you have cases of water bottles ready to grab? Where is the water you will pack with you?
- Don’t forget your pets. Determine now if they will go or stay, and then prepare accordingly. Our turtle stays, sorry, Onyx!, but the cat and dogs go.
- How will you prepare your house? Who will be in charge of making sure that every door and window is locked? Who will turn off the gas, water, and/or electricity if need be?
- Check out your bug out vehicle. Do you have at least a can or two of extra fuel and motor oil? Are you prepared to change a tire if necessary? Do you have an emergency kit including road flares, a jumper cable, and a flat tire repair kit? Is that vehicle 100% ready to get on the road and go as far as you need it to go?
- Where will you go? Once you’re in your vehicle, along with all your carefully planned and packed supplies, now what? Read Emergency Exits for more tips.
Once you have your plans and preparations in order, it’s time. Yell out, “Evacuate! Evacuate!”, set a timer, and see how close you get to that thirty minute goal. Evaluate the results.
- What was your actual time or did you have to call it quits after two hours?
- Who remembered their assigned tasks? Who forgot?
- If your thirty minute goal wasn’t met, what can be done to speed up the process?
- Was there anything of importance you forgot to include?
An evacuation is an extremely tense and fearful experience. Just ask anyone who has had to run for their lives from an oncoming flood or firestorm. Preparedness helps take some of the panic out of the process, and when the whole family is informed and is involved with the planning, you can count on getting out quickly and efficiently.
For more tips, read Organize your Emergency Evacuation.
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