Evacuation & Coming Home

A plan for evacuation and returning home

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln

Evacuation is as stressful as moving. If you ever evacuate, you may even feel like you’re leaving something behind.  That’s because you are! 

When an evacuation order is made it’s time to go.  The reason why you’re evacuating dictates how much time you’ll have, and room in your vehicle dictates what you can take.  

The lists below are the basics to evacuating.  The first thing you need to pack is your personal Go-bag – and along with it those important copies of your family documents or the thumb drive/memory stick with them saved!

To make evacuation easier – and my Go-Bag lighter – I always carry an extensive first-aid/Stop-The-Bleed kit and basic auto repair kit in my vehicle so those needs are always met.

Be prepared to evacuate
  • Preprogram your smart phone with the contact info for your communications network
  • Take photos or video documentation of your home inside and out – every room, every closetand store the photos/videos on a memory stick or online (cloud or other storage site)
Preparing to evacuate
  • Determine what you’re taking – make a list – start a “to-go pile” – and load it up
  • Store any valuables you’re leaving behind
  • Secure your windows, leave towels folded on the window sills if you expect rain
  • Close the blinds and draperies
  • Lock and secure all doors
  • Disconnect antennas, satellite dish and cable feeds
  • If you have window protection/shutters and time – install them
  • Bring in any outdoor furniture, décor or grills
  • Shut off the electrical main, gas main, and outside water supply
  • Know where you’re going, have multiple routes mapped out – in case GPS fails
  • Activate your Communications Plan; inform people where you are going – if your plans change, let your contacts know
  • Don’t forget your pets – know where the pet friendly shelters are!
  • Pets should always be micro-chipped, on a leash with collars and identification tags or in a pet carrier
  • Take a photo of your pet as you get ready to evacuate, keep recent photos on your phone
  • Bring pet food, water, bowls, poop bags, paper towels, and a pet first aid kit including any daily medications    

Returning home

This section outlines how to do a home inspection upon returning after evacuating.  Like the other lists in this reference guide – it’s not the end all list – if you’re uncomfortable with any of the tasks – call a contractor.

Don’t plan to return home permanently on your first trip home.
  • Plan an initial assessment to determine your property’s condition
  • Bring a first aid kit, insect repellent, sun block, gloves, N95 face masks, hand tools, water, snacks and fully-charged smart phones for communications and photos
  • Consider your home as a potential disaster area and treat it accordingly
  • Don’t expect power, water, sewer, or other utilities to be working
  • Bring the brightest flashlight you own – do not attempt to turn on lights or appliances upon initial entry until you verify it’s safe
  • Photograph/video document everything and write down what you see

The lists below are layman’s inspection of common systems in the home.  If you’re unfamiliar with or have concerns with anything in the following sections – hire a contractor – the disclaimers on the bottom of every page hold true especially in this section.

Key external inspection points
  • Visually inspect the roof from the ground, examine it section by section for damage
  • If the area was flooded, look for a waterline on the exterior of the home
  • Examine entry points to the home
  • Examine electrical, plumbing, and gas entry points to insure they’re intact
  • Try to inspect the home’s interior through the windows from outside
Basic internal inspection
  • If you suspect severe or structural damage, consider seeking professional assistance with the survey of your property
  • Open the entry door, take a quick sniff before you enter – do you smell gas? (Or mold?)
  • Inspect the ceiling and the walls – look for water marks, wet spots, or mold
  • Check the windows and door frames for leakage or water damage
  • Look for wet spots on floors and carpets
  • Walk through all the rooms and closets
  • Remember to inspect the basement, outbuildings, sheds, or separate lodgings
  • Email yourself your photos/video or load them to the cloud so they are not lost
Gas – Natural or propane
  • If you have propane or natural gas service, leave the gas turned off until the system is checked and known to be without damage – if unsure, call the gas company
Electrical system
  • If you’re not knowledgeable about electrical systems – hire an electrician
  • Be sure the main disconnect and all individual breakers are in the off position before the electric company turns the power back on
  • Once your home is re-energized – and you’re assured there’s no gas leak – turn on the main breaker, then turn on one breaker at a time – if you hear arcing or the breaker trips – leave it off until the issue can be traced by an electrician
  • Test electrical sockets using an electric socket tester and a multi-meter before use
Plumbing
Chemicals Warning: Do not turn on the water main into the house unless you know it’s clean/safe, you risk contamination of the plumbing if you do.
  • If there’s been a flood and you have a well – consider it contaminated until tested
  • If you turn your tap water on and it smells or you cannot verify your tap water is safe, assume it isn’t
  • Do not drink, brush your teeth or bathe with tap water until it is declared safe
  • Do not use potentially contaminated water to wash dishes or clean with
  • Use personal/baby wipes to clean yourself with until the water is declared safe
  • Use only bottled water for cooking or making ice
  • Boiling water does not clear it of chemical contaminants
  • Chlorine or potassium iodine tablets do not clear chemicals

Once your water is certified safe by your community, or an independent testing lab flush your homes plumbing system by opening faucets, showers and spigots and letting them flow freely.

Septic & sewer systems
Reminder: Wear closed toe shoes while walking in an area that has possibly flooded.  Remove wet or possibly contaminated shoes after walking in a flooded area and insure your feet are clean and dry.  Disinfect your feet using alcohol, sanitizer or other approved solution
  • If you suspect septic or sewage back-ups have occurred, you may try pouring a few gallons of water down the shower drain – flushing a toilet may result in a backup and unnecessary mess
  • Do not use public sewer systems until authorities advise it is safe to do so
  • Have your home inspected by a professional plumber if there are any concerns
Home computers and electronics
  • Unplug computers and devices from wall outlets before restoring power to the home
  • Never just “plug it in and turn it on to check it out”!  You may damage electronics by plugging them into an unstable wall outlet
  • Even a damaged computer may contain data that can be saved
Moving back in
  • Once your community and home is declared safe – move back in
  • Photograph/video everything – before and after you make any repairs
  • Do minor repairs as necessary to make your home livable
  • Include descriptions of damaged items, dates of purchase, age, cost at time of purchase
  • Save cancelled checks, invoices and receipts for supplies and materials purchased for temporary repairs and for temporary living costs, food and housing in your list of damages
  • Leave major damage “as is” (if safe) until insurance adjustors have made their assessments
  • Secure detailed estimates of repair and replacement costs from contractors even if they have to schedule your repairs for a later date
Reminder:  Your documented photos and videos taken before the disaster when combined with your post disaster photos are proof for your insurance company and support your claim.
Food safety
  • If you left food in the refrigerator and the power has been off take care opening the refrigerator door – the odors may be over powering
  • Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped tops, twist-tops, and home-canned goods, should be discarded if contacted by flood waters
  • Commercially canned foods can be saved if the cans are not damaged
  • Use bleach (1 cup bleach to 5 gallons water) to disinfect cans
  • Remove labels on canned foods that are flood damaged, wash them – write the contents and best by date on the can of the can in permanent marker
Paying your monthly bills
  • After the disaster, creditors may give you a grace period, but only if you ask
  • Such relief may be offered for mortgages, home equity loans, credit cards, and car loans
  • Make sure any lenders are aware of any pending insurance claims
  • When communicating with a lender, note the representatives name or I.D. #
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