The 5-Hour Evacuation Plan

Howdy all! How are those 5-Minute Evacuation Plans coming along? I’ll admit it’s been a decently insane week for me and so I didn’t get around to much of it. Such is the life of us crazy people who try to take on the entire world with one hand tied behind our back, huh? ๐Ÿ˜‰
Well, even though I’m not fully up to par with my 5-Minute Evac Plan, I wanted to go ahead and quickly discuss the 5-Hour Evacuation Plan because it is essentially just an extension of the 5-minute plan. So you might as well just plan the two together.

The 5-Hour Evacuation Plan is for situations in which you know danger is coming, but you have time to properly get you, your family, and your home prepared for the evacuation (i.e. a hurricane, wild fires approaching your area, or other similarly ‘foreseeable’ disasters).
This plan uses all the same parts as the 5-Minute Plan (Parts 1-4), except Part 1 (where you decide what to take with you) can be extended and you’re not in as much of a rush out the door. Other than that, Parts 2-4 are still the same. You keep your same exit routes, destinations, and follow the proper protocol for if the family is not together (although, if you have plenty of advanced warning that you’re going to need to evacuate, your family should have plenty of time to gather, so this should not be much of an issue). You can almost plan for this type of evacuation the same way you would a vacation, only you’ve got to prepare yourself for the possibility that you might not have a home to come back to. (That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?) So take your most precious valuables with you.

Here are some things to consider when evacuating:

  • Leave early! If you know you’re going to have to leave, don’t wait until the last minute because then you’ll be stuck in a terrible traffic jam with everyone else that’s evacuating. (And yes, here in Houston we are well aware of what that means. During the evacuation for the Hurricane Rita threat, we had several deaths occur on the freeway, not from accidents but from things like lack of water (dehydration) and heatstroke! The traffic jams prevented people from getting anywhere (including from exiting the freeway), so people couldn’t get water, gas for their cars when they ran out (which meant no a/c), etc. ย It’s tragic, but also a reality of mass evacuations. So leave early (and that’s also why I say take extra water and gas with you if possible)!
  • Again, take only one vehicle. If you have more than one, try to leave the other(s) in as safe a spot as possible, but please do not contribute to the traffic by taking more than one car. If the other car(s) gets damaged, that’s what insurance is for.
  • Prepare your home for the approaching danger. For hurricanes you can board up windows and bring in any loose yard items. For fires you can leave attached garden hoses and buckets full of water around your house (and be sure to move any propane BBQ tanks away from the home).
  • Turn the water to your home off at the main valve, but leave the gas ON (unless instructed by authorities to turn it off). Once you turn your gas off you must have a professional turn it back on. And in the aftermath of an emergency situation, there’s no telling how long that will be! It’s also best to turn the main electricity off, but doing so will mean your fridge and freezer are going to be off while you’re gone (so I would definitely empty those out before you leave… unless you plan to just trash them when you come back as the smell will be horrific!!)
  • If you have pets, make preparations for them as well. (Note that if you are going to an evacuation shelter, most will not allow pets.)

In general, probably the biggest tip is to just be aware of what the most likely disasters for your area are and then do a quick internet search to find out the best ways to handle those situations. You could also contact or visit your local authorities to learn what they recommend as well as your area policies for emergencies and evacuations.

And as promised, here are my 5-Minute and 5-Hour Evacuation Plans (well, at least Part 1 of them) for those who are more visually inspired and like an example to work from. You’ll see the second is just an extension of the first. Hope this helps. ๐Ÿ™‚ ย (And yes, I edited these so that you all don’t know where everything is in my home and have all my personal information… as much as I love you all. ;))

(You’ll see at the bottom of the first list that I’ve broken up the responsibilities. This is so that if we’re both home, we can quickly accomplish each checklist item and not worry about who’s doing what. ย I don’t worry about that on the 5-hour plan because there’s enough time to verbally communicate what each person is doing and assign responsibilities.)

Oh… and if you get to the ‘guns’ part on these and are worried that we’re down here ready to kill our neighbors, let me put your mind at ease. We take our guns with us because Hubby is a big hunter, and where we evacuate to has a lot of wild game. So our guns are actually a means to more food. Gotta love Texas! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Alright! So, I think we’ve pretty much covered evacuations!! Hallelujah! On to other topics. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Emergency Preparedness: 5-Minute Evacuation Plan

Okay, now that we know we can get out of the house when there is an immediate threat to our safety, let’s work on the next tier: The 5-Minute Evacuation Plan. (Warning: This is a very long, but very important post!) ๐Ÿ™‚

The 5-minute Evacuation Plan is for when we need to exit our homes (and likely the city as well) quickly. Time is of the essence and the threat to safety is imminent, but not immediate, so there is time to grab a few important items before you have to leave. Example situations could include the threat of disaster flooding, a nuclear accident or attack in a nearby area (assuming you are instructed to evacuate vs. shelter in place), a tsunami warning, or other such scenarios. And while the 5-second plan is something we need to have committed to memory (let’s be real… if you’re looking around your house for your fire evacuation plan while your house is on fire… you’re gonna have issues), the 5-minute plan is one that will better serve you if it is written down for you to reference when you’re in the panic of the moment.

To make our 5-Minute Evacuation Plan, we’re going to consider several things:

  1. What are the most important things we need to take with us?
  2. How are we going to exit the city?
  3. Where are we going to go?
  4. What do we do if we’re not all together at the time of emergency?

Part 1: Take Only The Most Important Things With You
You do not have time to be saving your whole house, so take only the things that are the very most important. A lot of this decision is a personal matter, but here are some things you should definitely have:

  • 72-hour kits
  • First-aid kits
  • Change of clothing for each family member (we keep a separate 72-hour clothing bag next to our 72-hour kits so it’s just ready to grab)
  • Blanket and pillow for each family member
  • Cell phones (plus chargers) and wallet/purse (with money, credit cards, check book, etc.)
  • Important papers, including: your driver’s license or other personal identification; social security card; proof of residence (deed or lease); insurance policies (home, auto, and health); birth and marriage certificates; stocks, bonds, and other negotiable certificates; wills, deeds, and copies of recent tax returns. (These should all be located together in one place so you’re not hunting around for different papers. Also, I like to keep copies of them in my 72-hour kits.)

Other optional items to consider might be: family photo albums, things to keep little children entertained, extra water, extra gas (we keep several extra gas cans full in our garage at all times so we don’t have to stop for gas on the way out).

Create a checklist to use during the actual event of an emergency evacuation. Have your list prioritized so that the most important things are listed first. You can even go so far as to designate certain responsibilities to certain family members (obviously only to the ones old enough to handle the responsibility) and have that written out on the list. Then place this list in an easy to grab location. Ours is taped up inside a kitchen cabinet that’s right next to the main hallway. Easiest spot to grab it and start checking off items as we go. I’ll share my list with you next week for some inspiration. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Part 2: Determine Your Exit Routes
Looking at a map of your city, what are the main ways in which you can leave from your home/neighborhood? Plan at least two exit routes for going north, south, east, and west. One of these routes can be a main access road. However for additional routes try to avoid roads that may have bridges out of commission, may be highly congested with traffic, or may be impassible or otherwise difficult to travel on during an emergency situation.
Use a highlighter to mark your routes (it may help to use different colors for different directions or for your primary vs. secondary routes). Keep a copy of this map in each of your family’s vehicles at all times. It would also be wise to keep a state map in each vehicle as well (even if you have a GPS system! :))
(Side note: if possible only use one car when evacuating. This helps reduce the amount of traffic on the road and will prevent the family from being separated. Also, in the actual event of an evacuation, be sure to stay tuned to the emergency radio news stations for any important information you need to know.)

Part 3: Determine A Destination
Deciding ahead of time where you are going to go in an emergency goes a long way in minimizing confusion (as you will especially see when we get to Part 4). Do you have relatives that live nearby? (Well, close enough to drive to but not so close as to be affected by the same disaster you’re leaving?) A favorite city you like to visit? Perhaps one you’ve always wanted to visit? Look at your map again and pick 4 destinations for each direction you may end up leaving by (North, East, South, West).
If you have relatives/friends you plan to use as a destination, give them a call and let them know that they are now a part of your evacuation plan (of course, asking permission first wouldn’t hurt either! :)) If your destination is a city, choose a hotel/motel within that city. (You may want a backup hotel/motel as well since these have a tendency to fill up quickly when there’s a nearby emergency.) Whatever your destination, write down the address, phone number, and directions for how to get there. (A bonus to having the hotel phone number written down is that you can call ahead to make a reservation so there is already a spot saved for you when you arrive.) Keep a copy of this in each of your family’s vehicles.

Part 4: What To Do If The Family Is Not Together At The Time Of Emergency
Honestly, the likelihood of an emergency happening when the whole family is together is rather small. Whether it’s the kids being at school, hubby being at work, kids at friends houses, etc., unless it’s the middle of the night, it’s not often the entire family is all at home. So we definitely need a contingency plan for if the family is apart.
It is impossible to predict every situation of where everyone could be at any given time of an emergency, but if you follow these suggestions, you can generally be prepared for most situations:

  • Have an Out-of-Area Contact. Often in an emergency, local lines ย will not be operating (meaning you cannot call within or into a disaster area), however you can often call out of a disaster area. So even though you could not call your neighbor, you could still call your mom who lives two states over. Sounds strange, but they purposefully limit local calling in an emergency… I believe it is to prevent overloading the circuits and allow emergency personnel the needed lines. SO, establish a out-of-area person to be your family’s contact. In an emergency, each family member can ‘check in’ with that contact person to say how and where they are and what their plans are. The contact can then relay any important information from any other family members. ย (Important Note: Be sure your contact person knows that they are in fact your contact person! Also be sure they have voice mail or an answering machine.)
  • If possible, gather your family together. Know your child’s school’s emergency plan. Can you come get your child in an emergency or do they lock down? Where does hubby work? Is it towards the kid’s school or away from it? Where do you work? (And yes, even if you are at home, you work! You just don’t get paid. ;)) Given all these locations, choose a place where you will all meet. It may be more practical to meet away from home, especially if ‘home’ is not accessible for any given reason, or if daddy’s work is on the way out of town. (Note that if you are meeting away from home, any person that is initially at home will be responsible for gathering all the needed items there to evacuate.) Don’t forget to use your contact person to help determine if anyone will have a hard time making it to the meeting location!
  • If you cannot meet together initially, determine to meet up at your destination (the one from Part 3). See? I told you that would come in handy. ๐Ÿ˜‰ If you are somehow blocked from getting to your family in an emergency, but you know where everyone is headed and you have verified with the contact person that this is still the family’s plan, and you have the address, phone number, and directions for the destination (as it should be in each family car), then away you go. (However, please note that parents should not leave until they are sure all family members are accounted for and no one is being left behind. You can do this through your contact person if local calls are not available. Make sure ALL family members have checked in. You don’t want to leave town and then discover one of the kids got left at school because the other parent could not pick them up! Oh horrors of horrors!) Just remember to keep in touch with your contact person for any updates or plan changes and the family should be able to all meet together at the journey’s end. *sigh*. At last. Emergency averted. Time to rest. ๐Ÿ™‚

Ah, but wait. There’s still one more thing we need to do. Now we need to write this all down and rehearse it with our families. Our job is never done. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I will work on mine this week as well and will post it next week as an example in case there are still any questions. Yes, this is a BIG one. But stay strong! Break it down into parts, if needed. Again, emergency preparedness is one of the first things you should tackle because an emergency is one of the most difficult things to handle if you are not prepared. So keep it up and good luck my friends!

Resources and Other Good Information:

5-Second Evacuation Evaluation

Hey all! Before we move on to the next evacuation plan, I wanted to make sure we’re not zipping along too fast and leaving people behind in the dust. So did you get a chance to get your 5-second evacuation plan done? And more importantly, did you take some time to run through it with your family?

I am so glad I actually took the time to do this because in the process I discovered a smoke detector that was not functioning in our home. We had taken the battery out of it at one point because it kept sounding false alarms, and then we had neglected to correct the problem. So on Monday I went to the store and bought a combo smoke/carbon monoxide detector, andย Monday night hubby and I sat down with our two little girls and explained the importance of fire safety. We replaced the old, non-working detector with the new one and then did a practice drill to make sure the girls could recognize the sound. And I’ll tell ya what… it freaked the pants off my little two year old! (But my one year old thought it was great! :)) Anyway, we had to calm little 2-yr old down and explain to her that the sound has to be loud so it can keep us safe. We used the example of ‘Dora, the Explorer’ (her favorite show) about how they always put their seat belts on and say “so we can be safe!” and that seemed to help her a little. (Thanks Dora!) ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, we went over our evacuation routes, established that Daddy was our first in command and then Mommy (if Daddy isn’t home) along with his/my responsibilities, and then we went outside and determined our meeting location. (We chose a tree in our neighbor’s yard… the same neighbors whose home we would likely be calling 9-1-1 from.)

Bottom line: Although it frightened my little one, this was a very beneficial run through. It was actually the first time we’ve discussed it with our kids (obviously they’re still a bit on the young side), but we’re planning to do this about every 6 months so that 1) we can make sure all our smoke alarms are working (!!) and 2) so that we can get it drilled into our minds what to do so we won’t panic if we actually ever do need to use our plan. So let’s give this one more week to get everything together and next week we’ll move onto the 5-minute evacuation. Good luck! Stay safe!

Oh, and here’s a picture of our family’s evacuation routes*. If you’re struggling with where to start, hopefully this will help get you going…

*I just drew this up in MS Word, so I had to improvise a bit… the little black lines seemingly floating around are where the doors are, and the little rectangular boxes on the walls are the windows (in case you needed help interpreting the map:)). But remember that a rough sketch with a pencil is just as good as anything done on a computer! The important thing is to get a plan in action!

Emergency Preparedness: 5-Second Evacuation Plan

Because an emergency or crisis generally happens with little to no warning and hence little to no time to make preparations, emergency preparedness is one of the first things you should tackle when beginning your ‘self reliance’ journey. You should already have a plan in place for when these disasters hit so that you are more likely to get through it in one piece (physically and mentally).

When a catastrophe strikes, at that instant the single most important thing is the physical safety of you and your family. Everything else comes secondary to this. And while there’s no way to predict every possible situation that could endanger your family, there’s really only one thing you need to know in order to stay safe. And that is, your evacuation plan.
Now again, there are a ton of different disaster-type scenarios (that’s comforting isn’t it? :)) and they all rank differently on the ‘immediate threat’ thermometer. For this reason, I have developed a 3-tiered evacuation plan. This means that depending on how quickly you need to get out, you can use the corresponding evacuation plan. There is the ‘5-Second Evacuation Plan’, the ‘5-minute Evacuation Plan‘, and the ‘5-hour Evacuation Plan‘. Obviously, these are just time estimates, but they indicate the seriousness of how imperative it is to get out of the house. Today we’ll plan our 5-second plan.

The 5-Second Evacuation Plan
The 5-second plan would be for situations like a house fire or gas leak where the threat to personal safety is immediate. For this plan, you have one goal: Get Everyone Out. If you happen to be able to grab the family photo album on the way out, great. But it is obviously not a priority, nor should you ever re-enter a burning home to get any valuables, even if you suspect someone is still inside (although I’m pretty positive that no amount of debating or logic could ever convince me to not go back in if I knew my child was still in the home). And I’m sorry to say it, but pets do not count either. Flat out, your life is more important than your pets (sorry).
Okay. For this plan, you will first want a map of your home (it can just be a rough sketch) that includes every room in the house and two ways to exit each room and get outside (use doors, windows, etc). Mark the location of smoke detectors on your map as well and make sure everyone (especially children) knows how to identify the sound of the alarm.
Next, determine a chain of command. Who is in charge? And if that person is not home or is unavailable, who is next in line? Determine what this person’s responsibilities will entail (some suggestions: ordering the evacuation (this may be obvious with a fire, but not so obvious with a gas leak), ensuring everyone is out of the house, ensuring 9-1-1 is called (he/she may want to designate this to another person), and turning off the main gas valve (if it is outside and safely accessible)).
And finally, determine a designated meeting location outside the home, but close by (i.e. the mailbox, or a neighbor’s driveway). This is very important because in the panic of the moment, if people do not know where to go they are likely to just wander around. If someone appears to be missing, someone else may try to go back inside the home to find them (endangering their life), when really the ‘missing person’ is over at another neighbor’s home or in the back yard. So make sure everyone knows where to meet!

Things to Consider: Please remember that if you have small children or family members with special needs, you will want to be sure there is a way to get them out safely as well. (For me, that includes making a plan to go break windows from the outside if I cannot access the nursery from the inside!) If you are exiting out a window with children, always get the children out first, since they may panic and not follow if they are too scared. Also note that if you have a second story in your home, you will need to make plans for how to safely exit should the stairs be inaccessible. The best recommendation is to have a rope/escape ladder available in each room (and know how to use it!). It is not recommended to jump from a second story, however you can hang from the window sill and then drop for a much lower chance of serious injury. Also consider if there are awnings or patio covers accessible to get onto which can either be used to sit and wait on, or will generally make for a shorter drop.

You should also instruct family members what to do if they need to escape through a burning house:
1) Crawl low under the smoke
2) Feel doors before opening them. Do not open if they are hot as fire could be right on the other side. Exit through the alternate route instead.
3) If you are not able to leave a room, seal doors and vents as best as possible with duct tape, towels, clothes, whatever is available to help prevent smoke from entering the room until a rescue can be made. Wave a flashlight or cloth out a window to let rescuers know where you are.

Now please don’t just read this and think “Hm, that sounds good,” and then not give it another thought. Knowledge is power, but your whole family needs to know this! Take a night (Monday night sound good?) to sit down with your family and get this done! Once you have it all mapped out… PRACTICE! Panic is a powerful emotion and unless you have practiced this and practiced some more, panic will overpower your knowledge and you may not have the successful evacuation you hope for. Remember, all you need is three things: 1) a map of your home with exit routes, 2) a chain of command (with determined responsibilities), and 3) a designated meeting location. I’ll be doing my evacuation plan this week as well, and I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out. ๐Ÿ™‚

Okay, so there you have it. Everyone out in 5 seconds! Ready, Go!

Resources and Additional Sites With Great Fire Safety/Evacuation Information:
Home Fire Escape Plan
How To Create A Home Fire Evacuation Plan
Home Evacuation Planning and Practice
What Should I Do If I Suspect A Gas Leak?

Photo c/o Simona Balint