What you need to know about evacuations during hurricane season

What you need to know about evacuations during hurricane season
Hurricane evacuation (Source: Flickr — nathalienation)

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Many kinds of emergencies can cause you to have to evacuate, including hurricanes and potential flooding that hurricanes can cause.

Sometimes, you may have advanced warning that an evacuation is necessary, giving you a day or two to prepare. While other times, there may be an immediate call for an evacuation, meaning you won’t have time to prep and will need to get to a safer location as quickly as possible.

That is why planning is so critical to making sure that you can evacuate quickly and safely no matter what the circumstances. Knowing where you live and the potential risk hurricanes pose on South Georgia is another vital part in being prepared.

Since forecasters are predicting an active hurricane season, there are things you can do now to be prepared to evacuate, whether you have an advanced warning or not.

Below are lists of things the Department of Homeland Security suggests you and your family should do to prepare before and evacuation and what you should do during and after an evacuation.

Before an evacuation:

  • Learn the types of disasters that are likely in your community and the local emergency, evacuation and shelter plans for each specific disaster.
  • Review important documents, make sure your insurance policies and personal documents like ID are up to date. Make copies and keep them in a secure password-protected digital space.
  • Plan how you will leave and where you will go if you are advised to evacuate.
  • Prepare your business by making sure your business has a continuity plan to continue operating when disaster strikes.
  • Help your neighborhood, check with neighbors, senior adults or those who may need additional help securing hurricane plans to see how you can be of assistance to others
  • Strengthen your home, declutter drains and gutters, bring in outside furniture and consider hurricane shutters.
  • Get tech ready, keep your cell phone charged when you know a hurricane is in the forecast and purchase backup charging devices to power electronics.
  • Check with local officials about what shelter spaces are available for this year, and don’t forget that if you have medical needs that require you to have access to electricity, be sure to ask if it will be available.
  • Those with disabilities, if you or anyone in your household is an individual with a disability, identify if you may need additional help during an emergency.
  • Coronavirus may have also altered your community’s plans, so be sure to know what is and is not available in your area in the event of an emergency weather situation.
  • If you evacuate to a community shelter, follow the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for protecting yourself and your family from possible coronavirus: people over 2-years-old should use a cloth facial covering while at these facilities.
  • Be prepared to take cleaning items with you, like cloth face coverings, soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes or general household cleaning supplies to disinfect surfaces.
  • Maintain at least six feet of space between you and people who aren’t in your immediate family.
  • Identify several places you could go in an emergency such as a friend’s home in another town or a motel. Choose destinations in different directions so that you have options during an emergency.
  • If needed, identify a place to stay that will accept pets. Most public shelters allow only service animals.
  • Be familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area.
  • Always follow the instructions of local officials and remember that your evacuation route may be on foot depending on the type of disaster.
  • Come up with a family/household plan to stay in touch in case you become separated; have a meeting place and update it depending on the circumstance.
  • If you do have to evacuate, be sure to have any and all necessary medications with you in case you don’t have time to refill them beforehand or pharmacies are closed during a weather emergency.
  • Assemble supplies that are ready for evacuation. Prepare a “go-bag” you can carry when you evacuate on foot or public transportation and supplies for traveling longer distances if you have a car.
  • If you have a car:
    • Keep a full tank of gas if an evacuation seems likely. Keep a half tank of gas in it at all times in case of an unexpected need to evacuate. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages. Plan to take one car per family to reduce congestion and delay.
    • Make sure you have a portable emergency kit in the car.
    • If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if needed. Decide with family, friends or your local emergency management office to see what resources may be available.

During an evacuation:

  • Download the FEMA app for a list of open shelters during an active disaster in your local area. You can also sign up for community alerts in your area and be aware of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA), which requires no-sign up.
  • Listen to a battery-powered radio and follow local evacuation instructions.
  • Take your emergency supply kit.
  • Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather.
  • Take your pets with you but understand that only service animals may be allowed in public shelters. Plan how you will care for your pets in an emergency now.
  • If time allows:
    • Call or email the out-of-state contact in your family communications plan. Tell them where you are going.
    • Secure your home by closing and locking doors and windows.
    • Unplug electrical equipment such as radios, televisions and small appliances. Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding. If there is damage to your home and you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity before leaving.
    • Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going.
    • Wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provides some protection such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and a hat.
    • Check with neighbors who may need a ride.
    • Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts, they may be blocked.
    • Be alert for road hazards such as washed-out roads or bridges and downed power lines. Do not drive into flooded areas.

After an evacuation:

  • If you evacuated because of a storm, check with local officials both where you’re staying and back home before you travel.
  • If you are returning to a disaster-affected area after significant events, prepare for disruptions to daily activities and remember that returning home before storm debris is cleared is dangerous.
  • Let friends and family know before you leave and when you arrive.
  • Charge devices and consider getting back-up batteries in case power-outages continue.
  • Fill up your gas tank and consider downloading a fuel app to check for outages along your route.
  • Bring supplies such as water and non-perishable food for the car ride.
  • Avoid downed power or utility lines, they may be live with deadly voltage. Stay away and report them immediately to your power or utility company.
  • Only use generators outside and away from your home and never run a generator inside a home or garage or connect it to your home’s electrical system.

While hurricanes typically come with advanced warning, preparing now could help keep you and your loved ones safe in the event of a disaster. So, have an evacuation plan in place now, that way, if a weather emergency does hit your area, you can get out quickly and safely.

You should also have EMA and local official contact numbers handy so you can stay informed about what’s available and if evacuations are being considered if a hurricane is expected to hit your area.

For more information on disaster and emergency preparedness, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Ready website.

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