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˜‰


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