6 Things to Do When You Evacuate Your HomeTake these steps to get yourself and your family to safety. Anything from a major storm to a fire, flood or industrial accident can lead authorities to call for an evacuation—either ahead of the event or in its aftermath. These tips and resources can help you prepare to leave your home quickly, no matter how much notice you have.
- Create a disaster preparedness kit. The most important things to have on hand are water, food, money and important documents such as your insurance policies. Put everything in a portable container that you can take with you quickly. Read “Are You Ready for a Power Outage” for tips on creating an evacuation plan.
- Keep your car gassed up. If it seems like an evacuation may be ordered, keep a full tank of gas in your car, since gas stations will be congested once the evacuation begins. Also, plan to take one vehicle per family to reduce road congestion and keep your loved ones together wherever you go. If you have neighbors or nearby family members who don’t drive or who are alone—particularly if they are elderly—reach out to them ahead of time, too.
- Follow TV and radio alerts. In the event of a disaster or approaching weather system, local authorities issue evacuation updates and route information through the media. Sirens or telephone calls may also be used. If you are instructed to leave, gather your family and go.
- Move out early. When severe weather approaches, heed the earliest calls for evacuation. At that point, official evacuation routes are less congested and alternate routes are often open. As the storm moves in, the weather or authorities may limit the number of ways out.
- Stay in communication with family or friends. Make sure those who care for you know that you are safe, and where you’ll be. Let co-workers and friends know whom you’ll be staying with and how to reach him or her. Then, check in with your host along your route so he or she know you’ve evacuated safely and can pass the news along if necessary.
- Know when and how to “shelter in place.” In the case of a tornado or some other situations, local authorities will tell people specifically NOT to evacuate. In that case, you may need to move to a corner of the basement or an interior room on the ground floor and protect yourself with sturdy materials like plywood or mattresses until danger passes.
- Buy surge protectors for all electronics. If you have a $1,200 television, it’s worth a few bucks more to buy a UL-listed surge protector. The same goes for your computer and any other device susceptible to damage, says Don Nanney, senior manager in the System Analysis and Control Division at EPB, a municipal power company in Chattanooga, Tenn. If there is a power surge, replace all your surge protectors. “It’s their job to give up their life for your more expensive electronics,” says Nanney.
- Unplug everything if a lightning storm approaches. Lightning can come into your house through the wiring, so unplugging everything before an electrical storm strikes is an easy way to protect your electronics and appliances. Once the storm reaches you, though, stay away from those electrical outlets.
- Turn off or unplug appliances during a brownout. Anything with a motor, such as a refrigerator, will struggle to operate in a low-voltage situation. Those appliances develop too much heat and can burn out their motors, says Nanney. If you notice a prolonged dimming of the lights or other signs of a brownout, turn off or unplug anything with a motor or electric circuitry.
- Use generators wisely. Portable generators can be a great solution during a blackout. But if one is connected to the main power supply of your home when the power comes back on, your generator can be “catastrophically destroyed,” says Nanney, and possibly cause injury. It can also send electricity back out onto the power lines, which could hurt someone trying to perform repairs. When running a generator, turn off your main breaker so you’re disconnected from the electric utility. Unplug the generator before turning the main breaker back on.
- Invest in an uninterruptible power source (UPS) for your computer. If the power goes out when you’re working on the computer, you risk losing everything you were working on. A UPS gives you five to seven minutes of power to save your work and power down safely. “For less than a hundred dollars,” says Nanney, “you could save yourself a lot of time and money on lost work.”
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