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Preparing Your House for Evacuation

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There are several emergency scenarios where you may need to leave your house until danger passes. If you live in a hurricane or fire zone, this can happen frequently. Other scenarios are blackouts, biological attacks or floods (among others). In these situations we all like to imagine having a house to come back to – and it would be nice if our belongings were still there, too.

Requirements are interesting in hurricane or flood zones because the guidelines are meant not only to keep your stuff safe but also to keep others safe from your stuff. For example, if you’re evacuating due to high water concerns:

  • Lock all doors and windows
  • Turn off the electric and water supplies
  • Disconnect appliances
  • Put lawn and other chemicals above the flood line
  • Shut off and secure propane tanks
  • Bring outdoor lawn ornaments, trash cans, grills, toys, furniture and other loose objects inside so they don’t become floating hazards to others

Those in the path of wildfires have different rules:

  • Shut all windows and doors, leaving them unlocked
  • Remove flammable window shades, curtains and close metal shutters and move flammable furniture to the center of the room, away from windows and doors
  • Shut off gas at the meter. Turn off pilot lights.
  • Leave lights on so firefighters can identify your house under smoky conditions
  • Connect garden hoses to outside water valves or spigots for use by firefighters. Fill water buckets and place them around the house.
  • If you have a ladder, place it at the corner of the house for firefighters to quickly access your roof

For other situations, there are basic guidelines:

  • Move extra vehicles off the street so you don’t block emergency vehicles
  • Take your pets with you and transport livestock to a safe location
  • Lock all windows and doors and turn on outdoor security lights
  • Don’t stay behind in an evacuated area – you’ll risk your life and the lives of emergency responders
  • Disconnect propane tank
  • Make safety equipment obvious for firefighters (spigots, ladders, chain saws, hoses, etc.)
  • Prepare an “information note” to leave on the door detailing who you are and where you have gone
  • Remove combustible items from around the outside of the house
  • Turn off appliances, thermostats, fireplaces, stoves

Remember, if things look dicey you don’t have to wait for an order to evacuate. It’s better to be the first one out and at your safe location than caught in an evacuation rush. Also, remember that precautions are not only meant to keep you and your home as safe as possible, but they’ll help emergency personnel secure the area faster and more thoroughly.

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