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What to Do If You Have to Evacuate Your Home

Taking the following steps can help you protect your family and home if you have to evacuate because of a natural or manmade disaster, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Advance plan

Consider in advance what kinds of disasters might strike your area. Do you live in an earthquake zone? Is flooding a possibility? Then think about what you’ll do in an emergency. Think about the places your family spends time, such as school and work. Learn what sort of emergency plans are in place for your workplace and, if you have children, how school officials will communicate with you during an emergency. Write down your plan. Be sure to keep the plan in a safe place, with easy access for all family members.

Be prepared

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you’ll contact one another and review what you’ll do in different situations.

In addition to having a local plan in case of separation, having an out-of-town contact may also make sense. For example, if an entire area needs to be evacuated because of a flood or other disaster, someone who is out of town may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members. Once you decide on an out-of-town contact, be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone or a prepaid phone card to call the person.

Choose a destination

Whether you decide to leave on your own or you’re ordered to leave, plan how you’ll assemble your family and anticipate where you’ll go. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency.

Ahead of time:

  • Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside your immediate neighborhood.

  • Become familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area.

When it’s time to go:

  • Take an emergency supply kit that contains water, food, and medical and safety supplies, such as matches, candles, flashlights, clothing, and bedding.

  • Take your pets and pet food, but understand that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters.

  • Call or email your out-of-town contact and tell the person where you’re going.

  • Shut off water, gas, and electricity. If you turn off the gas, a professional must turn it back on. Don’t do this yourself.

  • Leave a note telling where you’re going and how you can be contacted.

  • Check with neighbors who may need help or a ride.

  • Lock your house.