Before an emergency happens, develop an evacuation plan. Or rather, develop a series of evacuation plans.
The first type of plan that you need is for a short-range evacuation. Plan this for an emergency that happens to your home, such as a fire or gas leak. Use this plan when the emergency doesn’t extend beyond your home to your neighborhood or town. Your plan should include a spot where all family members will gather to be able to check in with each other, assess the emergency and take further action. A neighbor’s house can be a good option, or a local place of business that is open nights and week-ends.
The second type of emergency evacuation plan is more medium-range but with the understanding that you can reach your destination on foot. This is your plan for a fire or other emergency that extends beyond your home to other homes on the block or possibly more of the neighborhood. It may also be necessary in times of civil unrest. Agree to meet your family members at a location outside of your immediate neighborhood. Plan a couple of different routes in case streets are blocked.
Then, finally, make long-range evacuation plans that will get you out of town. Rehearse with your family every step along the way. First, you meet at the short range or medium range meeting location. Then, once your family is together, proceed with your long-range plan.
Consider all your options. Even if you can and would prefer to drive, research public transportation routes. Choose two or three possible destinations. You want to have a couple of places pre-planned in case one of them is facing the same emergency that your town is facing. Pick homes of out-of-town family members and friends. When you discuss your plan with those family members and friends, encourage them to make their own emergency evacuation plans and offer to reciprocate as their safety destination.
Decide on at least two alternate routes for each of your destinations. Again, you don’t want to be trapped when a road is closed. And don’t forget that if your town is experiencing an emergency, roads will be crowded with other fleeing families. You should learn the routes well enough to be able to navigate them without assistance but you should still take paper maps with you in case roads are closed or you have to improvise at the last minute. GPS systems may not work and your cell phone may go out, so be sure to have paper maps as a back-up.
When an emergency arises, you may need to evacuate your home and move to a close-range location, evacuate your neighborhood and move to a medium-range location or evacuate your town and hit the road. Don’t wait until the emergency arises before you decide where to go or how to get there. Come up with alternative destinations and routes now.
Conduct drills with your family. Drills not only teach your family what the plan is, they also help you identify deficiencies in your plan and improve it.
Get in the habit now, before there is an emergency, of keeping your gas tank at least half full. You don’t want to have to stop and wait in line for gas and run the risk of shortages or increased prices at the moment that you need to activate your plan.
And in each case, whether short-range, medium-range or long-range, be sure to grab your bug-out bag on the way out the door.
Make a plan and work to practice and improve it. Knowing that you can keep your family safe in an emergency brings peace of mind.
What are your experiences with your plans? Have you made your plans, practiced them or implemented them? Let us learn from your experiences — share them in the comments.
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