A Challenge: Emergency Plans for Your Home and Family

This series will help you become emergency-ready. This week's post covers preparing for an evacuation.

Wildfires in California, hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, an 8.1 earthquake in Mexico, tornadoes in Florida, and the summer fires in Montana and other western states - it's been a tough year. No wonder so many peoples' thoughts have turned to preparing for emergencies.

How prepared are you? I'm guessing that most of our readers are at least somewhat prepared. Folks with a homesteading mindset want to provide for their own needs, and doing so means that they are probably better prepared than most people. Would you be ready to evacuate your home in an emergency?

I stopped in at my insurance office the other day, where a family was talking to the agent about relocating to our area. They had evacuated from Texas before the onset of Hurricane Harvey and didn't plan to return. That brought it to a more personal level for me. As hubby and I talked about a plan later that day and I made notes in the notebook I carry nearly everywhere, I thought we'd explore some aspects of preparedness here as well for the next few weeks.

Each week I'll challenge you to work on one aspect of emergency preparedness. Some weeks you might already be prepped and ready! In other weeks you might find a few things you need to work on. In addition, I'll be posting tips on my Be Prepared Pinterest board. If you're new to preparedness, I hope this series will show you where to start without becoming overwhelmed.

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Today let's start by discussing an evacuation in the event of a natural disaster. What if your neighborhood is under mandatory evacuation orders? Or a wildfire is headed in your direction? Do you have a plan to evacuate your home if necessary? The first step in making a plan is to identify the threats you might face. What natural disasters or other emergencies are you likely to face in your area?

While hurricanes aren't a consideration in our area, wildfire is my biggest fear. Wildfires were a common occurrence during my childhood in California and although we never had to leave home, we were packed and ready to go several times. One fire threatened the boarding stable where I kept my mare and we had to evacuate all of the horses. I picked up my parents' respect for fire and I keep a very close eye on the horizon here during fire season.

If you had to leave your home, where would you and your family go? You might have relatives or friends you could stay with, you might plan to go to a hotel in an area far enough away to be safe from the danger, or you might have to go to an emergency shelter. Decide what you would do if you were faced with an emergency that required you to leave home.

Keep your vehicle's gas tank at least half full. We have friends who fill up their car every time they drive to town. Finding an open gas station was a big concern for those evacuating ahead of the hurricanes; having at least a half tank of gas in your car when you leave will get you further down the road before you have to start looking for fuel.

Next on the evacuation plan is to keep items you want to take with you easily accessible. Keeping evacuation supplies organized and in one place is the key to getting out quickly - and getting out quickly is the key to being in front of the crowd that is also trying to evacuate. You don't want to be in the middle of the crowd.

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The supplies you might need to take with you will vary according to the emergency and also your destination. You might want to take different things to a relative's house than you would to a hotel. A shelter might require other items. But there are things you'll need no matter where you're going; let's talk about those.
Clothes - You don't need to take your whole closet; clothes are replaceable and they can also be washed when you get where you're going. I'd like to take several days' worth for each family member if I have time. The secret to doing this quickly is to always put away the clean laundry.

Personal care items  - these items are also replaceable, so if you're in a hurry to leave the house you might not want to spend time gathering them. Or you might decide to keep a packed toiletries bag that's ready to go at a moment's notice. This is an inexpensive option, really: how much does a spare toothbrush cost? Shop the "travel size and samples" aisle at your local big box store and you're set to go. 

Medications - You'll need everyone's medications and the original prescription bottles so you can have them refilled while you're gone if necessary. For this reason, I never get down to an empty bottle before I refill a prescription. By refilling them a week in advance, which most insurance companies will approve, you can build up a few weeks in reserve to see you through an emergency. Remember to rotate your reserve medications just like you rotate food, using the oldest items first so that your "stash" is never out of date.

Personal documents - Official documents are extremely important and are a hassle to replace. Identifying and gathering these will be next week's challenge.

Pets - Your pets are important family members; the reports of dogs whose owners left them tied to trees and evacuated before the hurricanes without them broke my heart. Keep collars and leashes in a designated, easy-to-get-to place. Don't store the cat's carrier in the back of a closet with books in it; instead keep it accessible and ready to use. I keep a supply of cat food and other items next to the carrier. Think about what your pets need on a daily basis and keep duplicates packed in a duffel bag: food dishes, food, a can opener if needed, a roll of paper towels in case of accidents, and so on. Buy a package of disposable litter boxes - here are several options available at Amazon.com (affiliate link) - and a jug of lightweight cat litter (affiliate link) for your cat.

Evacuating your homestead livestock is also something you need to think about. Make a plan before an emergency happens.

So many families have to live paycheck to paycheck and in the case of a recommended evacuation these families might decide to stay because they don't have the money to travel. I recommend having an emergency fund set aside for this very reason. Cash is important, especially when credit cards and ATM's aren't working, but you might want to have one credit card that's designated for dire emergencies only.

Don't forget any hard-to-replace items that young children, the elderly, and those with special needs might require.
Here is your first week's assignment: Start by making a list of everything you'd want to take along if you had a whole day to prepare for an evacuation and unlimited space in your vehicles. When you've finished that list, make a shorter list of the things that you'd be able to fit in your vehicles. When that list is finished, make a third list, this time of the items you could carry with you if you only had fifteen minutes to get out the door.

I know this exercise probably seems overwhelming and there will be some hard decisions to make, but this is the first step to being prepared. Making those decisions now will allow you to gather your important items quickly in an emergency situation that might paralyze you with fear and indecision.

 The first post in this series on emergency preparedness will help you plan for an evacuation.

When you're finished, keep these lists in your household binder or in your emergency kit so you can find them quickly if a situation ever arises. 

Related posts:

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  1. Kathi, I LOVE this challenge idea! Fantastic resource to get all our families thinking about important things! Thank you!

    1. I hope it's helpful, Michelle!

  2. Thank you for this, Kathi! It couldn't be more timely, and I love how you're breaking it down so it isn't so overwhelming. There are groups on FB for equine-owners where people list places they can be boarded. I can't remember what they're called now since I rehomed mine, but that would be a good resource for finding a place you can evacuate to when you have equines in tow. If one has facilities, it would be a good place to offer help, too.

    1. I didn't realize there were FB groups for owners of horse motels - that's what my friend calls hers, and she will usually take in horses when there's an emergency like this. Thank you for this resource, Michelle!

  3. Great read!
    Having an elderly MIL 50 minutes away and other family out of state, we have 'big out bags' for this very reason. I need to put your info to use and redo my 'bag'. Thanks!

    1. Debbie, I found my plans very helpful when my dad was in the hospital; I was able to get to him very quickly! Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes.

  4. Really good info! Thank you for sharing it on the Homestead Blog Hop!


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