Hurricane Florence: How to plan for a quick and safe evacuation

DLA Distribution Public Affairs

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The National Weather Service is forecasting that Hurricane Florence will bring a life-threatening storm surge and rainfall to portions of the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared Wednesday, September 12 as the last “good” evacuation day prior to the storm’s landfall.

It is crucial that residents and visitors in the areas that will be affected by the storm listen to and obey the instructions of local, state and tribal officials and evacuate if you live in one of these areas.

The below guidelines, from Ready.gov, discuss how to prepare for an evacuation and things to consider during an evacuation:

Preparing for Evacuation

•Plan how you will leave and where you will go.

     ◦Identify several places you could go in an emergency such as a friend’s home in another town or a motel.

     ◦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.

•Develop a family/household communication and re-unification plan so that you can maintain contact and take the best actions for each of you and re-unite if you are separated.

•Assemble supplies that are ready for evacuation, both a “go-bag” you can carry when you evacuate on foot or public transportation and supplies for traveling by longer distances if you have a personal vehicle.

•If you have a car:

     ◦Keep a full tank of gas in it, if possible. 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. Make arrangements with family, friends or your local government.

During an Evacuation

•A list of open shelters can be found during an active disaster in your local area by downloading the FEMA app.

•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.  Reminder: FEMA is advising today as the last “good” day to evacuate.

•Take your pets with you, but understand that only service animals may be permitted 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 for the storm, check with local officials both where you’re staying and back home before you travel.

•Residents returning to disaster-affected areas after significant events should expect and 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 away from your home and NEVER run a generator inside a home or garage, or connect it to your home's electrical system.

If you do not evacuate but you are in the storm’s path, please remember:

•Turn on your TV or radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

•Restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include food and water sufficient for at least three days, medications, a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.

•Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. Charge your cell phone now so you will have a full battery.  For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.

•Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks); and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building.

•Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready

•Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.

•Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Turn Around. Don’t Drown! Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away.

For more information on planning during an emergency, visit ready.gov.  For more information on Hurricane Florence, visit weather.gov.