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How to Prepare and Evacuate Safely During a Disaster

Getting prepared for disaster season can be nerve-racking, even more so depending on where you live — hurricane, wildfire-prone areas and flood zones all require having a plan in place as early as possible. Disaster Response Expert Monica Sanders shares her preparedness tips and considerations to keep in mind when developing a disaster response plan for you and your loved ones’ needs.

Emergency Alerts:

  • Update your weather and/or local news app.
  • Sign up for emergency alerts from your town, employer or school. That way you can get text messages or alerts based on any potential hazard in your area.
  • Sign up for text or email alerts from your power company to stay up to date about hazards or outages.
  • Get a solar or battery powered radio to keep up to date in conditions.

Overall Preparedness:

  • Make sure your “go-kit” or shelter-in-place kit is ready, including extra doses of critical medication on-hand if sheltering-in-place or evacuating.
  • Make an evacuation plan and decide on a meeting place if you’re coordinating departures in multiple groups.
  • Photograph important documents, including identification, birth records and deeds, and store them on your phone’s cloud in addition to putting the originals in a fireproof box. These are most needed for insurance and federal assistance after a big event. Not having this information is a significant block to receiving immediate assistance.
  • Always have emergency cash in case of power outages, since there could be ATM and electronic payment outages.
  • It’s a good idea to keep some masks and disinfecting products, like Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes, on hand as you travel, and if you are in a wildfire prone region, the KN95 is a good filtration mask in heavily smoky areas.

Evacuation:

  • When under a hurricane evacuation order, I recommend traveling at least 250 miles away from the path of a major storm. This is especially true if you are in a low-lying or disaster-prone area on the coast.
  • If you have a pet, pre-check for “pet friendly” shelters and hotels.
  • Check shelter and food service locations for availability and any restrictions ahead of time, and the same is true for hotels. Always know where you are going.
  • Keep a paper or offline version map in your vehicle in case cell towers/GPS are down.

When sheltering in place:

  • Make sure phones and devices are charged and charge up power banks. I also keep a solar charged power bank on hand.
  • Be sure to have enough non-perishable food items and water for up to three days. You can also use Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach for emergency disinfection of water to make sure it’s safe to drink.

Communication:

  • Stay in touch with family and other emergency contacts about how, when and by what means you are evacuating.
  • Save the same emergency contact list on all family/group members’ phones.
  • Let your work supervisor know where you are going and check in with them once you arrive.
  • If you have access to social media, take advantage of check-ins to let people know how and where you are as well as how loved ones are doing.
    • Do not take “disaster photos” for social media or go into potentially dangerous areas.

Transportation:

  • If you are going to fly, purchase your ticket and any other preflight needs (pre-check, CLEAR) before you get to the airport.
  • If you are driving, ensure you have a full tank of gas, your “go kit,” including bottled water, non-perishable snacks and food, and medications, and any of your pet’s needs.
  • If you have to use public transportation, make sure you have a pre-planned route and are aware of any limitations in the distance that you can travel. Pre-purchase fare cards before a big event.