In the event of a sudden emergency such as a hurricane, you may have just minutes to gather your family and important papers, and get out of your house, possibly for good. Are you prepared? Where would you go? What would you take with you? With preparation and practice, you stand the best chance of getting out with what you and your family need, and ending up in the right place.
Arrange Your Evacuation Ahead of Time
- Identify where you can go in the event of an evacuation. Try to have more than one option: the home of a friend or family member in another town, a hotel or a shelter. Keep the phone numbers and addresses of these locations handy.
- Map out your primary route and a backup route in case roads are blocked or impassable. Make sure you have a map of the area available.
- In case your family members are separated before or during the evacuation, identify a specific place to meet and ask an out-of-town friend or family member to act as a contact person.
- Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
A home inventory will help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions. It can also speed the claims process and substantiate losses for income tax purposes. A detailed home inventory is also helpful should you need to apply for disaster aid.
Click through for a step-by-step guide to: Create Your Own Home Inventory.
Plan What To Take
- Medicines, prescriptions and first aid kit
- Bottled water
- Clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, pillows)
- Flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Special items for infants or elderly or disabled family members
- Computer hard drive or laptop
- Pet food and other items for pets (litter boxes, leashes)
Gather Important Documents
- Insurance Policies
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Drivers license or personal identification
- Social Security cards
- Employment information
- Wills, deeds and recent tax returns
- Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
- Bank, savings and retirement account numbers
Include Pets In Your Plan
After many disasters, thousands of pets are tragically left to fend for themselves and most were lost, injured or killed. Since most public and all Red Cross shelters exclude pets, it is essential that you plan ahead!
- Find a Safe Place Ahead of Time
- Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets.
- Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians outside your area that might be able to shelter pets in an emergency. Include emergency phone numbers.
- Ask your local humane society or emergency management agency for information regarding community disaster response plans, which might include pets.
- In the event you are not home when disaster strikes, make advance arrangements to have friend or neighbor pick up your pets and meet you at a specified location.
- Be prepared to leave early; don’t wait for an official evacuation as you might be ordered to leave your pets behind.
- Keep pets on leashes or in carriers at all times.
- Your pet should wear up-to-date identification at all times. Include the phone number of a friend or relative outside your area in case your pet is lost and you cannot be reached.
- Find a Safe Place Ahead of Time
Make A Disaster Kit For Your Pet
Just as you should have a disaster kit for your family, containing important papers and other key items, you should prepare a similar kit for your pets. It should contain the following:
- Medication and medical records (including proof of rabies vaccination) in a waterproof container.
- Leashes, harnesses and carriers for transporting pets.
- A muzzle, if your pet requires one.
- Food and water for three days; a manual can opener.
- Cat litter and litter box.
- Current photo and description of your pet in case you become separated.
- Name and phone number of your veterinarian.
- Insurance company contact information and policy number, if you have pet insurance.
- After the Storm
- After The Storm
- Once you return to your home, don’t allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet may be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in these situations.
- Be patient. Try to get your pets back into their normal routines as soon as possible, and be on the lookout for stress-related behavioral problems—if these persist, talk to your veterinarian.
- About Other Pets
- Snakes can be transported in a pillowcase but they must be transferred to more secure housing when they reach the evacuation site. If your snakes require frequent feedings, carry food with you. Take a water bowl large enough for soaking as well as a heating pad. When transporting house lizards, follow the same directions as for birds.
- Birds should be transported in a secure travel cage or carrier. In cold weather, wrap a blanket over the carrier and warm up the car before placing birds inside. During warm weather, carry a plant mister to mist the birds’ feathers periodically. Do not put water inside the carrier during transport. Provide a few slices of fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content. Have a photo for identification and leg bands. If the carrier does not have a perch, line it with paper towels and change them frequently. Try to keep the carrier in a quiet area. Do not let the birds out of the cage or carrier.
- Pocket Pets, Small mammals (hamsters, gerbils, etc.) should be transported in secure carriers suitable for maintaining the animals while sheltered. Take bedding materials, food bowls, and water bottles.
- For more information about pets and disaster planning:
- After The Storm
- Take the Ten-Minute Challenge
To find out if you are ready, do a real-time test. Give yourself just 10 minutes to get your family and belongings into the car and on the road to safety. By planning ahead and practicing, you should be able to gather your family members and pets, along with the most important items they will need, calmly and efficiently, with a minimum of stress and confusion.