With the massive evacuations on the West Coast from fire and on the Gulf Coast from hurricanes, many of us are thinking about how to prepare in case we have to leave our home quickly. Here are some tips to use to put together a plan that’s right for you and your household.
What is an Evacuation Plan? It’s a written plan for safely leaving your home or wildland cabin in the event of an approaching wildfire. It also applies to flooding or other emergencies that may call for evacuation.
In the items below, we’ve included examples in bold orange below. Note that they don’t refer to actual locations or people.
1. Designate a primary exit route, with alternatives you can use if the primary route is threatened or closed by fire.
EXAMPLE: Exit route: Gooseberry Road east to Highway 20, then north to West River Road (Hwy. 433). Then north to the Washakie County Fairgrounds.
2. Determine a specific location for family members to meet after an evacuation. That includes those who might be absent during an evacuation. It should be outside your community, miles away from the home or cabin, and known to all family members. We recommend having a secondary meeting site if roads are closed or the first location is unreachable. Consider including a map of the planned evacuation routes.
EXAMPLE: Meeting spot: City High School parking lot. Secondary meeting spot: Big Box Store parking lot.
Also, it’s a good idea to leave a voice mail greeting on cell phones of where you are going and how you will get there. Even if your phone runs out of battery or you lose it or it’s otherwise not available to you, family members and loved ones calling you will be able to find you.
EXAMPLE: This is Jane Doe. We are evacuating to the Big Horn County Fairgrounds with the dogs and horses. We will be taking West River Road to Manderson then Highway 14 up to Basin.
3. Know the location of important documents and items that you would want to take with you during any evacuation. We recommend keeping them stored together in an easily accessible location.
EXAMPLE: Important family documents are in the fireproof lockbox in the front hall closet; the family history and photo albums are in the office bookcase.
4. Have a “Disaster Kit” prepared just in case you can’t return to your home or cabin for several days. This should include such things as clothing, toiletries, and prescription medications you would usually take on any weekend trip, plus cell phones and chargers, and family finance provisions, as well as items related to any pets you would be evacuating with you.
We just posted about how to assemble this Disaster Kit. Check out our most previous entry here: https://www.bighornbasinfiresmart.com/do-you-have-an-emergency-supply-kit-heres-how-to-make-one.
5. Have updated emergency contact information for members of the family, both in and outside the group being evacuated, and have it WRITTEN DOWN so that anyone can see it.
EXAMPLE: Contact Information: Uncle Joe @ 555-555-5555, Grandma Lucy @ 555-555-5575, Cousin Suzy email—email@example.com.
6. Keep your potential escape vehicles serviced and fueled during fire season (a good idea any time for those of us living in rural or semi-rural areas).
7. Keep your written evacuation plan handy, and share it with any folks staying with you during fire season. It’s good to have a hard copy along with an electronic version on various devices (computer, smart phone, tablet).
8. Post a list of what needs to be done when a wildfire may require an evacuation. We’ll have this in a blog post next week!