How do you Prepare for an Emergency Evacuation?

On June 28, 2020, in Utah, there were four major wildfires burning throughout the state. Roughly 12,000 residents were evacuated from 3,100 homes.

On June 28, 2020, Sunday night in Utah, there were four major wildfires burning throughout the state.  Roughly 12,000 residents were evacuated from 3,100 homes (KSL Staff).   A local emergency has been declared and a temporary gathering area has been designated. 

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) says that evacuations are more common than most people realize. 

They say that evacuations occur hundreds of times throughout the year within the US.  In the event of an evacuation, being prepared can help you stay calm and feel safe.

What do you need in case of an evacuation?  An evacuation checklist can help you prepare and ensure that you and your family are ready in case of an evacuation.  

Evacuation Checklist:

  • Grab and Go Kit: Includes essential supplies such as water, food, and first-aid supplies (72-hour kit);
  • Copies of important documents in a plastic, waterproof case: Documents to include are your driver’s license, the deed to your house, proof of insurance, medical records, passports, social security cards (social insurance numbers for Canadians), and a list of personal contacts;  
  • Protect your pets: Ensure they are microchipped and have ID collars. Have a pet grab and go kit that includes leases, medications, food bowls and three days of food and water;
  • Prepare your yard: Proper on-going maintenance can help ensure that branches and shrubs are less likely to fall or damage your property during a disaster;
  • Utility shut-off: Know how to safely turn off all utilities, including those that may require special tools in the event you are asked to do so before you evacuate.  If you are not asked to turn off all utilities, and if time permits, unplug electrical equipment (radios, televisions and small appliances) but leave your freezer and refrigerator plugged in (this is only if there is no risk of a flood); 
  • Identify primary evacuation routes from common locations: This includes from your home, office, and children’s schools or child care centres;
  • Create a family communication plan and a reunification site in case of separation. Identify a place to go if you have to leave or how you will learn about reception centres during a disaster.  If an evacuation seems likely, ensure that if you have a vehicle you plan to use to evacuate that you keep it full of gas.  If you don’t have a vehicle, plan how you will leave quickly and safely;
  • Know how to physically prepare your home for the disasters common in your area.  This may include sandbags, if appropriate, or shutters meant to protect windows from hurricanes; and 
  • During an evacuation, if time permits, call a family member not likely to be affected by the disaster to tell them where you are going.  This person should be identified in your communication plan.

While not all evacuations are mandatory, it is always a good idea to listen to local officials and evacuate before things get dangerous.  If a mandatory evacuation has been called residents must leave or face potential fines or even jail time.  Ignoring an evacuation order can not only put your life at risk but also those of your family and first responders who would be attempting to help you to safety later on. 

There are many ways for you to stay informed about disasters and evacuations here in Canada.  Local television and radio stations will broadcast information to their viewers/listeners using the Alert Ready system, but other options are also available.  For me personally, I would not be likely to hear an alert if radio and television were my only options.  Wireless cellular providers also broadcast emergency alerts from the Alert Ready system to their subscribers as a wireless public alert text message.  Alertable is another free to use solution that is available to Canadians.  Alertable provides many options to receive emergency alerts including mobile app (iOS and Android), website, smart speakers (Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices), social media (Facebook and Twitter), text/instant message (SMS, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Microsoft Teams) and many more.  Pick the option(s) that is right for you to ensure that you and your loved ones stay safe and informed.

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