Preparing for Hurricane Evacuation

Hurricane Irene is the first major hurricane to affect the US this year. As she sits out over the warm water, she’s gaining strength and is projected to travel along the East Coast. Many of the cities that will possibly be impacted aren’t your common hurricane targets. Cities such as New York City, Boston, and other heavily populated areas may be in the path of Irene. Recent reports estimate more than 65 million people are in this projected path.

Coastal communities who were gearing up for a busy Labor Day Weekend are now declaring emergencies and evacuations. Since many of the areas in the path of this hurricane don’t normally expect major storms of this degree, we put together a collection of all our travel and hurricane tips for a natural disaster.

  • Pay attention to local announcements and warnings. Whether you are a resident or visitor to an area, be sure to tune in to local radio stations or have the area’s emergency operations center website bookmarked for easy reference. Many EOCs are making use of social media to get the word out about evacuations or assistance. Keep in mind, that once a storm hits, mobile phone usage and internet access will probably be non-existent. Have a backup, such as a battery powered radio handy for area updates.
  • Waterproof your legal documents. After Hurricane Katrina, a big problem in Louisiana was the data loss of vital records kept by the state. I highly suggest having important documents placed in a plastic sealed bag, and then placed in another plastic sealed bag to take with you when you leave your home. These documents include birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, passports, Social Security cards, and any deeds or other important legal documents. Also bring along a copy of your insurance policy.
  • Document the contents of your home. Before a storm makes landfall, take digital photos of each room of your home, along with the exterior to document the condition before the storm. Be sure to keep a copy of these images on a USB drive and place this in the waterproof bag along with your important documents.
  • Have cash handy. When a storm hits, the electricity and phone lines will probably go out. Your debit and credit cards will be useless. Be sure to have enough cash on hand to last at least a week, and make sure it is in small bills.
  • Share your evacuation plan with friends and family. Once a storm makes landfall, basic forms of communication may be non-existent. You should have a plan in case of evacuation that includes a meeting place so that friends and family can keep track of each other. This meeting place should either be a centrally located point near all your homes or a place out of town where everyone can gather and regroup. There’s nothing scarier than being evacuated and then losing track of loved ones. If you have little ones, you can put your contact information on their arm, with either a waterproof marker or a SafetyTat. I know this sounds doomsday, but if your little one happens to get separated, this information will help authorities or a good samaritan reunite you. Another good idea is to leave a note at your residence with information on how to contact you.
  • Prepare your vehicle for a road trip. Fill up your car and pack the snacks as if you were going on a road trip. If an evacuation is declared, you’ll be one step ahead of the rest of the residents and can get on the highway before everyone else. Check the oil and other fluids before setting out so that you car isn’t the one shown on the news broke down on the side of the road. Pack pillows and blankets, along with enough food for a few days and water for everyone. If you have a larger vehicle or camper, it’s a good idea to bring that along as you move inland. Hotel rooms fill up quickly during disaster evacuations.
  • Refill your medications. If you are on regular medication, you should go ahead and have your prescriptions refilled for the next month.
  • Stay Calm. In a disaster, communities come together to help each other, but for some people, it brings out the worst. Traffic during an evacuation can be frustrating, but keep in mind that EVERYONE is going through the same thing you are. Screaming and yelling will only make the situation worse and possibly frighten your children. Be sure to pack the patience when you pack everything else.
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