Learning how to properly evacuate from your home and region is a critical step not only for preppers but for anyone living in disaster-prone areas. If there is a history of natural disasters occurring in your region or if you believe your home won’t be safe when the brown stuff hits the fan, you should be able to prepare your family for potentially having to evacuate someday.
My cousin lives in northern Colorado and is one of the “new preppers” I know. He got into all of it after seeing me do it for more than a decade now, and I believe that the pandemic was the main event that opened his eyes. He’s more of a slow-paced prepper. He takes his time with everything, but even so, all his preparations paid off last year when he had to evacuate during a wildfire.
He recalls it was all a stressful and heartbreaking event, but he was amazed at how smoothly it all went since their family had planned ahead. After his ordeal, he now believes that there’s a high likelihood that almost every household will need to evacuate at some point, and it’s crucial to have a solid written plan ready.
With such a plan, your chances of saving as much as possible from the disaster will greatly increase. Even more, it will help everyone in your family understand what is required of them and get on board with the preparation. If the event you are preparing for does occur, your evacuation plan will save you a lot of time and stress.
So, here are some steps you need to take into account for preparing your emergency evacuation plan.
List your priorities
When drawing out the plan, you should have your highest priorities at the top of the list. For example, in my case, humans come first and animals second, and in the third place, there are some belongings of which we need to take care.
When my cousin wrote his evacuation plan, a lot of emphasis was put on saving the animals he was raising on his homestead. In his case, not only he had to figure out ways to safely evacuate the animals, but he also had to prioritize the different animals he had based on how easy it was to transport them and their chances of survival if they were left behind.
The same goes for the belonging you think are worth bringing along when you evacuate. There are certain things that will take too much space in your vehicle, while others will be too difficult to move or carry. Some only have sentimental value, while others are indispensable for the functioning of your home, but once again, you can’t move the entire house, and you need to properly prioritize.
The prioritization you’re making is also dependable on the type of event you are prepping for. For example, if you are preparing for a wildfire, you can’t leave the animals behind since they most certainly won’t make it. However, you could leave some of your belongings behind if you have a fireproof safe or if there’s a location that will not be affected by the fire.
In case you are preparing for a flash flood, you can leave some of the animals behind as long as they are not caged or tied up since, depending on the animal, they may have a good survival chance on their own. As for your belongings, you may move everything of value up in the attic, or perhaps you may place all the objects that can be damaged by rising waters in heavy-duty plastic bags and tie the bags properly.
These are just a few examples meant to provide an idea of how you should prioritize based on the type of disaster you are preparing for and the priorities you have.
Plan for transportation
You also need to establish and list how each human will leave the household and region. How many vehicles do you have? Who can drive them, and who will drive each vehicle?
In the case of the average household, there are usually one or two cars available for the family, and these should be used to their full extent during the evacuation. You will need to plan in advance how each car will be equipped and what will be transported with each vehicle.
If you have only one vehicle, you will most probably pack it with the bug-out or evacuation kit for each family member, some additional supplies and the crates for your pets, plus some extra supplies for them to make the transition easier.
If you live on the homestead, things get a little more complicated regarding transportation. You will need to make sure you have crates to house all the animals, and you also have to make sure those crates are easily accessible when the time comes. You won’t have time to run around wondering where you’ve put the crates and figure out where other items like harnesses and whatnot are stored.
Also, you will need to make sure you have enough vehicles to transport all the animals in one go since you most probably won’t have time to get back and deal with another load, nor will it be safe to do so.
If you can’t transport all the animals in one load, most probably you will have to leave some behind, and here is where that prioritization we’ve mentioned before comes into play.
Even if you are waiting for someone to bring a trailer to help you evacuate the animals, you should make sure that person is up to date with your emergency evacuation plan.
Pick a destination
When you’re making your emergency evacuation plan, you have to choose a destination. You need to know where you can take your family and animals if you are forced to evacuate. Once again, this is mainly a numbers game, and the more people and animals you need to accommodate, the more challenging the evacuation becomes.
The average family and their pets can be easily housed with friends and family, and there are no major drawbacks here except that it might get crowded depending on how big your family is. As long as you have everything you need with you and there’s enough living space to satisfy everyone, there should be no problems until you are able to go back home or make other arrangements.
However, if you evacuate a lot of animals from your homestead, you need to make preparations in advance and make sure you find suitable places for all your animals. It is highly unlikeable that a single farm can absorb the animals from another homestead, and you need to start making calls.
Call potential places and figure out if the homesteads of your friends and family can accommodate your animals. You will probably have to write down which animal would go where and plan your evacuation route to make as few trips as possible to house your animals.
Make sure you assess your belongings
Deciding what to take in the heat of the moment won’t work, and unprepared people get out the door carrying items that have no real use for their developing situation. It becomes mandatory to plan in advance and decide what’s most important to you long before the evacuation order is issued.
First of all, there are some things that should be readily available like a bug-out bag, a survival kit, important documents, medications, and some supplies for everyone in your family (including pets).
Besides those mandatory items, every emergency evacuation plan should also include items that have sentimental value. Those items that are irreplaceable, and items that have a high commercial value, like, for example, artwork or jewelry.
Each family member has certain irreplaceable items, and everyone needs to make a list of what they want to bring along. After making those lists, there may be the need to prioritize and decide which of your belongings you are bringing along and which ones you leave behind.
For anything of value you left behind, there should be some preparations made in advance. Figure out how you can store those items and how you can protect them in case of natural disasters without risking the storing containers becoming damaged.
And secondly, another thing you have to think about is comfort items. There are certain items that bring comfort, and for example, your kids might have some favorite toys they bring along everywhere. There are many items that fit in this category, and for some, there could be some comfort items in the food category that will make all the difference during a stressful situation. They may not seem like much for you, but for them, they could be a real “lifesaver.”
Plan for various scenarios
There are various natural disasters scenarios hitting our country, and I’ve talked about how each region is prone to various natural disasters, each with a predominantly event. Your role is to establish what disaster (natural or man-made) is more likely to hit your region and prepare extensively for the top 3 on your list.
To figure out how to establish prepping priorities, I recommend my article on threats analysis:
I wrote this article a while back, and it helped a lot of folks learn about how they should establish their prepping priorities based on a formula that calculates the probability of occurrence. You can find more about that by reading the article.
The good part is that most of the preparations you’re making will fit more than one scenario, but even so, the main key to a successful emergency evacuation plan is being able to leave your household in 30 minutes or less while leaving everything in order, based on your plan.
Also, depending on the event, region, family count, and the number of animals you have, you will notice that you have a timeframe that you can use to your advantage. For example, you may have hours or days to round up everyone and everything before the disaster reaches your area. Once the evacuation order is issued, you should have no problem complying.
Review and test your emergency evacuation plan
First of all, everyone involved in your emergency evacuation plan should know what’s expected of them. They need to be informed when certain changes are being made (meeting points, locations, routes, phone numbers, etc.).
Your family members should acknowledge that everyone plays a role in the overall survival plan, and there are things that could go wrong. There are things expected of them and everyone else, and they should act only on the things they can control.
If something happens and there are family members missing, there should be a plan to reunite them, and everyone needs to be able to reach a meeting point or any other designated location.
If someone is in charge of a certain task, don’t assume that they will be able to complete that task without issues and put them to the test. Ask them to come home out of the blue on a school or workday and see how fast they can get home. Do so when there’s little traffic and do so also when the streets are packed with cars, like, for example, during the holidays.
If someone is in charge of fetching and caging certain animals, ask them to do a test run and see how well they can handle the animals and how long it will take them to complete their tasks. Both humans and animals will feel the effects of the added stress during a disaster scenario.
It’s difficult to generalize how you can test your emergency evacuation plan since you’re the one that made the plan and knows exactly what’s expected of everyone. Figure out ways to put things to the test now when you have the luxury of trial and error.
Learn to be flexible with your emergency evacuation planning
Any emergency evacuation plan you make should be flexible since you can’t predict how things will unfold with 100 percent accuracy, and you can’t plan for every single scenario. In time, you will have to change the plan you’ve made as needed. However, the main thing you should keep in mind is that there should be something available to be changed in the first place.
Perhaps you need to plan for secondary evacuation routes, or maybe you need to purchase a trailer for your animals. In case you are preparing for a wildfire, investing in an underground water cistern and a sprinkler system with a backup powering solution would be the smart thing to do. Changing your plan means reallocating your budget to cover the priorities, and it also means assigning new tasks to everyone who would be involved in your survival.
Also, sometimes you have to make tough decisions, and your mind will go blank from the stress when the disaster occurs. Planning in advance and prioritizing things will increase your chances of success, and you will be able to cope better with the stress the event causes. It will help you save not only the humans on your property but also the animals and, hopefully, some important belongings as well.