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 leave because of a natural or man-made 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 like school and work. Learn what sort of emergency plans are in place for your workplace. If you have children, find out how school officials will communicate with you during an emergency. Write down your plan. And keep the plan in a safe place that all family members can get to easily.

Be prepared

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes. Plan how you’ll contact one another. 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 instance, 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 place 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. Make sure they all have a cellphone or a prepaid phone card to call that person.

Choose a destination

Whether you decide to leave on your own or you’re ordered to leave, plan how you’ll gather your family and plan ahead where you’ll go. Choose several places in different directions so you have choices 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, like matches, candles, flashlights, clothing, and bedding.

  • Take your pets and pet food. But understand it's possible 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.

Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Susan K. Dempsey-Walls RN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2024
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