Create a Hurricane Evacuation Plan

by Paul Konrardy


In the event of a tropical storm or hurricane, the need to evacuate is decided by local, state and federal government officials and authorities. However, although an evacuation declaration may not have been made, you may want to consider evacuating if you:

  1. Live in a mobile home.
  2. Live on the coastline, an offshore island, or near a river or a flood plain.
  3. Live in a high-rise. Hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
  4. Are a person with special needs, including health or mobility related concerns
  5. Download the University of Idaho–Emergency-Preparedness from the University of Idaho for more tips.
  6. Download the free Red Cross Hurricane app, along with the Emergency app so you can monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.

Evacuation Precautions for Hurricanes

  1. Print out and fill in your Emergency Contact List and keep copies by your phones for easy access.
  2. Plan in advance where to go if you are asked to evacuate your home. You might choose a relative’s home, a hotel, or a shelter.
  3. Keep your car’s gas tank full if you may need to evacuate. During emergencies, filling stations may be closed.
  4. Learn safe routes to higher ground. You may need to drive 20 to 50 miles to locate a safe place. Remember to map alternate routes, in case bridges are out or roads are blocked.
  5. Know where emergency shelters are located. Contact your local emergency management office or Red Cross for information on designated public shelters.
  6. Always have extra cash on hand (at least $100 or so) because ATMs and credit card machines won’t work if there is no electricity. Do this even if you aren’t planning to evacuate.
  7. Download the free RedCross first aid mobile app – just in case!

Hurricane Preparations for Staying Home

If you are not evacuating, these suggestions will help you through staying at home during a storm.

  1. Have a “safe place” in your home where family members can gather during a hurricane.
    • The location should have no windows, skylights or glass doors, which could be broken by strong winds or hail, causing damage or injury; and be out of the path of flood waters (not the basement!).
    • In a two-story house, go to an interior first-floor room, such as a bathroom or closet, or a hallway.
  2. Draw a floor plan of your residence. Mark two escape routes from each room, in case of flooding. If your home has more than one story, make sure there is a way to safely exit the upper floors. Place a copy in each room in an obvious location – near the door, on a bulletin board, etc. – and tell each family member about the escape route plan.
  3. Practice your escape plan every month. Practice using both exits. Make sure windows and doors aren’t stuck and that screens can be removed. Also, practice exiting with your eyes closed or in the dark (it may be hard to see in an emergency especially at night).
  4. Designate a place for family to meet outside the neighborhood. Make sure all family members know the address and phone number.
  5. Ask an out-of-state friend to be your “family contact.” After a disaster, it’s often easier to call long distance.
  6. Know the emergency response plan for your workplace, your children’s school or child care center, as well as other places where your family spends time (i.e. church, gym, rec center).
  7. Meet with neighbors either informally or through a neighborhood group to
    create a neighborhood preparedness plan.
  8. Make a note of neighbors or nearby relatives who may require extra assistance. Write down their names and phone numbers, if you don’t have them already. Keep this list with your emergency kit or your emergency contact list.
  9. Consider stockpiling emergency building materials such as plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, hammer and saw, pry bar, shovels, and sandbags.
  10. Prepare a readily available and fully stocked Home Disaster Preparedness Kit.

WHN TIP – NOAA Weather Radio: Protect yourself and your family as you sleep. If there is a severe warning in your area, at any time of day, the NOAA Weather Radio will automatically turn on and alert you with beeps and sirens. It will even alert you if the power is out because they have battery back-up. Look for NOAA radios with the “SAME” feature (Specific Area Message Encoding) which means the receiver is capable of turning itself on from a silent mode.

WHN TIP – Disaster Kit Drill: Choose a night when all of your family is at home. Turn off the TV and lights, don’t use the faucets, fridge or the stove. Check and see what items might be missing (special needs for family members, entertainment items, can opener, etc.). Make a list and add these items to your kit.

Training Tips

  • Teach each family member how to use a fire extinguisher and have a central place to keep it. Check the extinguisher each year.
  • Consider enrolling yourself and/or family members in first aid and emergency preparedness courses.
    • Adult family members should know how to turn off the water, gas and electricity at the main valves or switches.
    • Responsible family members should also know CPR, how to help someone who is choking and first aid for severe bleeding and shock. The Red Cross offers basic training of this nature.

WHN TIP – In Case of Emergency (ICE): In the event of an emergency or after an accident, emergency personnel use your cell phone to look for “ICE”: who to contact In Case of an Emergency.

Prepare a Home Inventory

  1. Create a household inventory – videotape, photograph or compile a written inventory of your home and belongings. This will make it easier to file an insurance claim.
  2. Keep the inventory off-premises in a safety deposit box or with an out-of-the area contact. The inventory will provide a record for you and the insurance company.
  3. Update your inventory every year or so and every time a major purchase is made or significant renovations are undertaken in your home or on your property.
  4. Prepare a waterproof Master Information Box which contains copies of important documents and records, photos and contact information.

Your Home and Property

Getting ready to improve your “shelter from the storm”? Before you begin, contact your local building official so you know what codes are required. They can provide assistance so you make improvements properly the first time.

For More Information

FEMA’s Avoiding Hurricane Damage: A Checklist for Homeowners – This 4-page pdf file offers a checklist you can do to see if your home is in need of hurricane safety improvements. FEMA prepares the nation for hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.

Institute for Business & Home Safety: Protect Your Property From Hurricanes – The IBHS has articles on protecting your home and business from hurricanes as well as recovery tips. The Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is a nonprofit association that engages in communication, education, engineering and research.

Red Cross: “Hurricane Safety” – This section offers tips on how to keep your home and family safe during a hurricane or typhoon.

Thank You …

A special thank you to the first responders, emergency workers, government officials, lawyers, insurance agents and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.

Photo Credit: pxhere

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