What is an evacuation?
Evacuations are more common than many people realize. Hundreds of times each year, transportation and industrial accidents release harmful substances, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes. Fires and floods cause evacuations even more frequently. And almost every year, people along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts evacuate in the face of approaching hurricanes.
When community evacuations become necessary, local officials provide information to the public through the media. Various organizations will work to provide emergency shelters and supplies. But just in case, you should have enough water, food, clothing and emergency supplies to last at least three days. In a catastrophic emergency, you might need to be self-sufficient for even longer.
The amount of time you have to evacuate will depend on the disaster. If the event can be monitored, like a hurricane, you could have a day or two to get ready. But, many disasters offer no time for people to gather even the most basic necessities. This is why you should prepare now.
What to do if you are told to evacuate?
Listen to the radio (do you have a battery powered radio?) and follow local instructions. If the danger is a chemical release and you are instructed to evacuate immediately, gather your family and go. In other cases you may have sufficient time to follow these steps:
- Gather water, food, clothing and the other items from your emergency checklist.
- Wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes.
- Secure your home. Close and lock doors and windows. Unplug appliances. Take any actions needed to prevent damage to water pipes by freezing weather if this is a threat.
- Turn off the main water valve and electricity, if instructed to do so.
- Let others know where you are going.
- Leave early enough to avoid be trapped by severe weather or traffic.
- Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take short cuts, they may be blocked. Be alert for washed-out roadways and bridges. Do not drive into flooded areas. Stay away from downed power lines. Drive defensively, other drives may not be familiar with the roads.