Well before any emergency comes along, you should have an evacuation plan in place. A good emergency evacuation plan includes several different evacuation spots where everyone knows to meet in different circumstances. Whatever your agreed plan is, make it and stick to it. In the event of an emergency, don’t hesitate to call family members and double-check that they are where they said they’d be.

If there’s a fire inside the home, agree to meet by the mailbox across the street, for example. If an evacuation is called, it makes sense for everyone to meet at home and prepare to leave together if possible. If, however, an immediate evacuation is called, only one of you drives a car, and workplaces and schools are far away, you might want to agree that in that case the one with the car will quickly pick everyone else up.

Everyone in your escape plan should know where your bug-out-bag is. During periods of high danger, you may want to suggest that each family member keeps a bag packed with protective clothes, important documents, and small items of great value (financial and/or sentimental) ready to grab if an evacuation is called so that no time is lost. Once an immediate evacuation is called, you should never go back to your house to get these overnight bags or even your bug-out-bag: you may entrap yourself in much worse danger that outweighs the benefits of having any survival gear at your disposal.

Follow these rules to evacuate safely:

  • If you know in advance that an evacuation is possible, fill your gas tank right up. As the deadline approaches, you’ll be vying with other people desperate to fill up at the last minute. Gas stations may run out of fuel, or be forced to stop work for other reasons, or be unable to pump gas due to a power outage
  • If everyone plans to have as many butts on seats as possible, there will be less congestion for everyone and evacuations will be faster and safer. Offer to take neighbors or friends if you have room
  • If you don’t have your own car, plan how you will leave in an emergency with friends, family, or authorities. Evacuating on a bicycle might be possible depending on the terrain – you may even outpace the cars stuck in bumper-to-bumper jams
  • Look at several alternative routes for evacuating your area, but pay attention to advice and warnings and do not attempt routes that may be blocked or unsafe
  • Take your bug-out-bag with you
  • As you drive away, stay alert for washed-out sections of road, flooding and debris. If any of these take you unawares, becoming stranded could be deadly, so be especially vigilant on roads you think you know really well
  • Keep a battery-powered radio on and listen to evacuation instructions
  • You can take your pets, but you should know that public relief shelters will probably only accept service animals (e.g. guide dogs)

If you have time before evacuating:

  • Contact out of town / interstate friends or family to tell them you are leaving and where you are headed
  • Leave a note at home saying that you left and what your plans are (a quick post on social media can kill a lot of birds with one stone here, but a physical note may relieve a worried neighbor that comes looking for you)
  • Put on protective clothing if you have it: a long-sleeved shirt, long-sleeved pants, and sturdy boots (steel-caps if you have them)
  • Secure your home against the expected disaster if relevant – e.g. close storm shutters, go through some of the flood-proofing steps outlined below, etc.
  • Unplug all electrical appliances, except for fridges and freezers (If there is a risk of flooding, unplug those too)
  • If advised to do so, physically shut off water, gas and electricity before leaving
  • Secure your home against humans by locking doors and windows

Useful evacuation checklists

Complete the ICE checklist and store the details together somewhere easy to find. As part of the evacuation plan you make, make sure everyone knows where to find this information in an emergency.

You can use the bug-out-bag essentials checklist to quickly throw together emergency supplies. Check out our main article for everything you need to know about bug-out-bags.

ICE checklist (contact details In Case of Emergency)

  • The radio frequency for your local NOAA emergency weather warning station
  • Phone numbers, addresses, and websites for local emergency services
  • The address of the nearest hospital(s), and a physical map showing how to get there
  • Ditto for your local library (don’t underestimate your local library as a potential base of operations come the zombie apocalypse)
  • Your contact details (for your family to use if they’re at home and you’re not when disaster strikes, or for a neighbor to get in touch if they come looking for you to let you know of incoming trouble)

Emergency supplies kit (bug-out-bag) essentials checklist

  • Water: one gallon per person per day, for at least three days
  • Food: at least three days’ worth of non-perishable food
  • Hand-cranked or battery-powered radio with spare batteries, and the local NOAA Weather Radio frequency for emergency broadcasts written down and taped to the radio
  • Flashlight with extra-batteries (hand-cranked flashlights are not as powerful)
  • Whistle (to signal your location)
  • First-aid kit
  • Dust masks: one per person
  • Plastic sheeting or a tarpaulin
  • Duct tape
  • Pliers or wrench (whichever you need to shut off your utilities)
  • ‘Contractor’ strength garbage bags
  • Wet-wipes (moist serviettes) and alcohol-based (no-wash) sanitizer
  • Scissors
  • A can opener (if your food is canned)
  • Local maps
  • A sharp knife

Did you like this article?

It’s an excerpt from our eBook, The No-Nonsense, Practical Guide to Disaster-Proofing Your Home: Survive and Thrive in Dangerous Times.  You can find the full eBook on Amazon here.