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There are seasonal disasters that sometimes require evacuation.  They generally provide some advance warning.  Hours, at least, and sometimes days. If you know you live in an area where evacuation is a possibility, or you have enough advance warning, you can make evacuation an easier process. I'm not saying it will be easy, only that it will be easier.

The two most common reasons to evacuate in the US are floods and wildfires.

Flooding can be caused by storms, either local or upriver. Hurricanes are a common cause of flooding, but not the only cause.  If it's a hurricane or an up river storm, you'll generally have enough warning to plan, pack, and evacuate.  Even if you don't think you'll need to evacuate, it's still a good idea to e prepared just in case.

If you live in flood plains and flood zones, pay attention to the weather up above that will send the flooding down your way.When the rainy season hits or hurricane season, make a few preparations, and then relax until or if an evacuation is declared. If you're in a flood plain and might get flooded quickly (a bursting dam, for example, or a rapidly rising river) and might only have an hour a three to prepare or evacuate, having made advance preparations can be a real time saver.

Some things you can do to prepare for flooding:

Collect waterproof containers.  Pack those items you would seriously regret losing that can't be replaced. Heirloom items, original art, ephemeral memorabilia like scrapbooks or memory boxes, collections, that sort of thing.  I know, you like having them on display, but flood season isn't a year round event. If you want to keep these items and you live where flooding has occurred in the recent past - in a dam's flood plain, near a river or lake that have overflowed before, if your streets are prone to flooding and you've had standing water near or even up to your front door - pack them just to be sure you'll still have them when flood season is over.

Make sure one container has copies of all your important documents in it.  Make sure each container has valid contact information for you in it so if it does get washed away in a flood, it might have a better chance of being restored to you. Just in case, make sure you back those documents up digitally, and send copies to be stored safely elsewhere.

You could, since they are in waterproof containers, leave them downstairs, but the higher you can get them, the drier and safer they'll be.

Stash food, water, life vests, rope, and an axe in your attic so if flood waters drive you up, you can get out, and have food and water while waiting for rescue.

Make sure a sturdy ladder is available to let you into your attic space.

Digitize all your photos.  Yep.  All of them. Store these digital copies on a flash drive.  Back them up in the cloud. Make extra flash drives for family members. I know I regret that my ex has all my children's baby pictures - and he hasn't digitized them so I don't have any pictures from their early lives.  And I don't have my mother's photo albums because my sister kept all of them, also not digitized. All my pictures are digitized, backed up, and given to my kids. I will never lose those pictures and my descendants will also be able to enjoy them.

If there's time and you haven't done so recently, photographically document everything you own. Take pictures of each wall of each room, of what's in closets and drawers and shelves. This can be used in insurance claims to replace much of what you might lose.

If flood is imminent, but you've got a day or two to prepare, consider hauling things that will be damaged by flood water as high as possible.  Flood water is not clean water, it's nasty shit - filled with overflowing sewage, chemicals, and who knows what effluvia.  Pack what you can into waterproof containers, haul what you can out of reach of the flood waters, and let go of the rest. If it only floods a foot or two in your house, the lack of fabric items to absorb the wet and mold will speed your clean up when you return. Anything that can be damaged by water should be hauled as high as possible, paced in the top of closets, on the tops of shelves, up in the 2nd floor (if you have one), up in the attic or roof crawl space, preferably inside of waterproof containers.

Your goal here is to reduce damage as much as possible and save what you can from the flood waters.

And remember, stuff can often be replaced.  Don't get so attached to things that you forget to take of the living. I'll get into that a bit more after we go over some things about evacuating from fires because the evacuation process is pretty similar for both.

Now, fires are (obviously!) different from floods.  A lot of things can be retrieved from floods and restored. That's not the case with fires.  Fires eat things. Eat them up and turn them into ashes. Smoke damage can be (sometimes) cleaned up and items with smoke damage can sometimes be restored.

Instead of waterproof containers, you want fireproof containers.  Store your essential documents in a fireproof safe.  Back them up digitally and have duplicate copies stored elsewhere. Yeah, yeah, I like redundancy.

Digitize your photos. One of the things so many people regret losing in a fire are photos. Digitizing them means you may lose copies of your photos, but not the photos themselves. Photo-document your home if you haven't done so recently I highly recommend a bi-annual photo-inventory - once after a major gift-giving holiday, once at the midpoint of the year - and anytime you significantly add or change your home.

I'm not talking about fireproofing your home here, this is an evacuation diary, so we'll talk about prepping your home for evacuation from a wild fire. You will likely have days to prepare.  You will be facing smoke damage even if you don't have to evacuate.  As soon as wildfires crop up in your area, pack away those things that are precious to you that would suffer in smoke damage. A fireproof container is good.

Fire doesn't generally retreat below ground if there is nothing for it to eat.  Burying things you want to save but can't carry off with you might be a viable way to save them. Pack them into waterproof containers, then cache them. Bury them deep - wildfires may not burn below ground, but they are still hot and if your things are too close to the surface, they might combust within the container. Dig deep if you use this method to save precious things.

Accept that anything left inside your house will be damaged, if not by smoke, then devoured by flames. If you accept it before you evacuate, the return won't be quite so devastating.

A year or two ago there was a meme going around on Live Journal (or was it FaceBook?) with people posting photos of the one item they'd grab if they had to evacuate in a fire. I don't think they were serious because very few of the displayed items would have done them a single iota of good.

That you may only have limited space to carry off things you'll need for survival in an evacuation, whether flood or fire, is a good reason to have the essentials already packed and ready to go.

If you've got a few days and can travel back to the area to be evacuated, you can obviously haul more things away, but your first trip should contain the essentials and the second and subsequent trips can be for the extras.

What are the essentials?

Important documents.  You have copies already secured in fire and/or flood proof containers, but you should take copies with you in case those become inaccessible. Insurance papers, marriage license, divorce papers, birth certificates, passports, licenses, deeds, stocks and bonds, and other papers you need. Digitize them and have flashdrives of them stored far away, too. Redundancy will be your friend here.

Cash. What if all the ATMs you can get to are flooded out (like they were in the Katrina/Rita hurricanes) and all your money was locked up where you couldn't access it. I recommend a minimum of $100 per person, and I'd be more comfortable with $500 0 $1,000 per person.  If you've got time, clean out as much of your savings account and bank accounts as you can and secure that money. After the disaster is over, you can refill your bank accounts with what's left over.

ID/Keys/Cell phone. Lock everything up when you leave and take all the keys and lock codes with you. Your ID should already be in your wallet - credit cards, debit cards, driver's license, state ID card, work ID card, gift cards, valued customer cards, etc. A cell phone will let you stay in touch.  Don't forget the chargers! You'll want a car charger as well as a wall charger, and if you have a handy dandy solar charger, that's cool. All of this should already be in your daily carry bag (purse, briefcase, whatever you want to call it).

A main go-bag. If you live alone, this will just have things in it for you, but if you have parents, children, housemates, pets, you'll also have some basic things for each of them in this bag. It will have things like spare clothes and shoes, meds, toiletries, food, water, entertainment, first aid kit, more cash, copies of everyone's ID, emergency contact information, maps and directions to places where you can evacuate, copies of vet records, flash drive backups of documents and photos.

Go-bags for every member of your household. Like the main go-bag, but tailored for each person. Clothes, shoes, toiletries, meds, first aid kit, food, water, entertainment, something sentimental/precious to the person, emergency contact information, emergency cell phone (a pay n go one for each person, with refillable minutes on it), cash.

Pet go bags. If you have pets, be prepared to evacuate them, too.  A list of pet friendly hotels is important, with directions, phone numbers, and a map.  Pack halters, leashes, collars, pet sweaters, food, water, toys, treats, bedding.  If the pet is small enough, a pet carrier can double as a crate, larger pets will need a crate. A folding crate takes up less space.  For aquarium/terrarium pets, make sure you have what they need. Fish are more likely to die when stressed and may not survive an evacuation but they are far more likely to survive an evacuation than a flood or fire.

If you've got room for it, bedding for the people, a tent (in case the hotels are filled and you have pets so can't go to a shelter), some way to cook food, an ice chest of as much food as you have in your refrigerator/freezer as you can pack, as much of your pantry foods as will fit, essential and irreplaceable heirlooms, laptops, computers, cameras, e-readers, iPod/MP3 players, tablets, pen and paper, decks of cards, dice, gameboys, board games, etc.

If you've got time and the money and the Post Office/FedEx/UPS/train station is still open and working, consider boxing up and shipping some of your more precious items to friends living far away or even to yourself.  If it can't be delivered, it will be held for delivery until the disaster is over.  Be sure to insure it.

If you have to evacuate, chances are pretty high you will return to a damaged home, a missing home, or possibly even a home that's been looted.  Let go of everything you leave behind.  If it's all still there when you return, celebrate.  If it's not there anymore, start working on rebuilding.

Once you evacuate, it's a waiting game.  You have to wait for flood waters to rise and recede.  You have to wait for the wildfire to be put out or die out and cool off.

In the meantime, you're stuck in a hotel, a shelter, a motel, or even an airport (remember all the people who were stranded because of the Icelandic volcano?).

Chances are your work is closed and you can't even go to work.  That's where all those entertainments come in. You've got cellphone, food, games, and maybe a computer.  Use these things.  Talk to people.  If you're in a hotel, don't hole up in your room, go down to the lobby to talk to others who are also stranded like you.  In an airport, don't hesitate to talk to the other people who are also stranded. Ditto for a shelter.

Journal your experience.  Take pictures. Turn it into an adventure while it's happening. Make good memories so when you're slogging through the flooded house shoveling silt and debris out or sorting and piling up the charred remains of your home or struggling to get the smell of smoke out of your antique curtains, you'll have those good memories and new friends to commiserate with, too.

Evacuation is hard, but it doesn't have to be all bad.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for the comprehensive post. (20+ / 0-)

    I just diaried this portion:

    If there's time and you haven't done so recently, photographically document everything you own. Take pictures of each wall of each room, of what's in closets and drawers and shelves. This can be used in insurance claims to replace much of what you might lose.
    Please see Before Disaster Strikes: Inventory Your Stuff!

    Tell the people you love that you love them when you can. You don't always get another chance.

    by Melanie in IA on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 11:52:13 AM PDT

    •  Thank you both (5+ / 0-)

      for calling attention to this topic -- it's hard to overstress the importance of disaster preparedness.  This is excellent advice for everyone, not just those in the wake of a large-scale fire disaster:

      Accept that anything left inside your house will be damaged, if not by smoke, then devoured by flames. If you accept it before you evacuate, the return won't be quite so devastating.
      There is no such thing as a small fire.  Once a house fills with smoke, the damage is swift and heavy even if the area of combustion is limited to a single room and the structure remains standing.  And the vast majority of house fires strike without warning.  You won't even get a couple of hours to evacuate ... you'll have thirty seconds.  Here's the diary I did on the experience.

      My heart is heavy and sad tonight, watching the devastation in and around Colorado Springs.  Vibes of peace and strength  to the many people and critters in need of refuge tonight.

      "as long as there last name is not obozo, i am voting for them." -- some wingnut blogger

      by SteelerGrrl on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 03:56:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks. Read it. Rec'ed it. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FindingMyVoice, SteelerGrrl, Noddy

        I assume by now you and your home are pretty well recovered from your fire? Pretty scary stuff. Thanks again.

        Tell the people you love that you love them when you can. You don't always get another chance.

        by Melanie in IA on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 04:48:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, and thanks for asking... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Melanie in IA, entrelac

          I did a double-take realizing I wrote that in Aug. 2011.  Time flies!

          Our insurance company treated us horribly and a month later we retained an attorney to negotiate the final settlement with their @$&# adjustor.   We ended up with just enough to hire a few well-vetted subs and passed full Certificate of Occupancy inspections in Dec. 2011.

          Everything is now 100% functional.  We replaced our 80's appliances with energy efficient models and every month I am stunned by my electric bill.  It's dropped like a rock.  Tankless hot water heaters rule!

          Still working on some cosmetic touches ... I am doing a custom backsplash over the stove and a labyrinth mosaic in the front entryway.  I still feel like the Queen of Sheba sometimes, waking up in a king-size bed with central air, hot shower, and fresh coffee in a kitchen that has not been raided by hippie gnomes overnight ;-)

          "as long as there last name is not obozo, i am voting for them." -- some wingnut blogger

          by SteelerGrrl on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 06:31:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  This is an excellent diary, Noddy (11+ / 0-)

    I lived near the Pentagon when the plane struck on 9/11 and the recommendation after that was to have a go bag packed and near the door.  I did there, but have moved back to the midwest so stopped the practice.  Handicapped -- live in housing for that where we have fire alarms go off for false alarms and everything under the sun -- this week we had 3, one legitimate for a burning microwave.  I do have the thumb drives and always stick them in my purse in an emergency,  This is tornado country and know it would be better for me to be more prepared.

    You've inspired me to get my act together.

    I always love your diaries.  I like being as independent as possible and you always have great information to make that even more possible.  You're the real thing, Noddy.  Thanks!

    A lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost. ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

    by ParkRanger on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 12:02:22 PM PDT

  •  Great advice as Hurricane & Fire Season (10+ / 0-)

    gets under way.

  •  Great info, Noddy (8+ / 0-)

    One thing that I'd add to the essentials if you've got it: a laptop.

    After Katrina, with so much communications infrastructure down, the most reliable way we had of communicating with friends and family to let them know we were ok was via email. What evolved into the Internet started out years ago as a DARPA project to build a communications network that would survive a nuclear war and in our case it certainly worked. A Starbucks or other location with wireless access and you're good to go.

    Not only does that laptop let you communicate with others, it becomes your primary source of information. Again, after Katrina we found the TV (after the power came back) was pretty much useless for detailed information. The news shows were good for getting a general feeling of what was going on but for real information it was the internet, Google Maps, etc.

    •  Laptops are on the list (6+ / 0-)

      but hidden among a lot of other things.  I bolded it:

      If you've got room for it, bedding for the people, a tent (in case the hotels are filled and you have pets so can't go to a shelter), some way to cook food, an ice chest of as much food as you have in your refrigerator/freezer as you can pack, as much of your pantry foods as will fit, essential and irreplaceable heirlooms, laptops, computers, cameras, e-readers, iPod/MP3 players, tablets, pen and paper, decks of cards, dice, gameboys, board games, etc.

      All knowledge is worth having.

      by Noddy on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 12:34:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  After the batteries run out ... (5+ / 0-)
        laptops, computers, cameras, e-readers, iPod/MP3 players, tablets, pen and paper, decks of cards, dice, gameboys, board games, etc.
        Take one board game you'd play every day if there weren't so many electronic distractions. Plus, take another that you don't expect anyone else at the shelter to also have.

        It could be a while, and charging locations might be few and crowded. So, ration the computer or phone uptime for an occasional update to one out of state relative.

        Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

        by chimpy on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 01:35:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This looks to be a search for pet-friendly hotels (5+ / 0-)
  •  A couple of other things (11+ / 0-)

    Don't wait until the last minute to determine where you will go if you need to evacuate.  Part of the problem during Katrina was families wound up in different places as a result of the evacuation.  My family now has a planned meetup point in Goergia should we need to get out of New Orleans quickly before a hurricane.  We don't need to discuss anything, we don't need to follow each other or take the same route - we know to go there.

    Don't plan on being able to call anyone on your cell during an evacuation.  During Katrina, the cell voice networks were overloaded for days.  The only way to "communicate" in real time was by using text messages.  Make sure you know how to use your phone's text messaging application.

    I haven't been here long enough to be considered a Kossack, does that mean that I'm just a sack?

    by Hey338Too on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 12:56:37 PM PDT

  •  Gas up your car (7+ / 0-)

    I always laugh at the evacuation route signs around town.  In the event of emergency, they will be parking lots.  They're bad enough during normal daily traffic, I can't imagine what they'd be like in a crisis.  

    Our evacuation plan involves grabbing our fireproof box, go-backpacks, hitching the pet trailer on one of our bikes and load the other bike with tent, sleeping bags, and other essentials, then biking to safety.  

    Another hint is if you have any valuable things (like furniture or artwork) in the house that may be lost, stolen, or destroyed take pictures now so that you will have "before" pictures that may help with any insurance claims.

    We do not forgive. We do not forget. The whole world is watching.

    by Tracker on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 01:43:15 PM PDT

  •  Great diary. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noddy

    An election is coming. Universal peace is declared and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry. ~ T.S. Eliot

    by furriner on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 03:46:48 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the very informative post (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noddy

    Unfortunately those who think beyond their next trendy TV show or their pop culture high are far and few between.   Urban dwellers are most vulnerable and are probably the least prepared.  

    Most Americans are clueless to the idea that preparation for survival may not only save their possessions but save their lives and their family and pets.   They view such preparation as similar to the discomfort of preparing a will, and they'd rather do nothing than face something that in the end will give them peace of mind.  

    They spend too much time being mastered by the media manipulators than mastering their own lives.  

    Instead of being productive we'll waste our time arguing and discussing the cookie cutter policies that self define politics,   but have nothing to do with saving or potentially improving our lives.     I wager here and now there are a fair number of progressives who subscribe to the belief that those who waste their time being prepared are right wingers.    This isn't being confrontational,   this is reality as I have relatives who think that way.  

    The problem in America is we allow partisans and Parties to define how we should all think,   instead of allowing common sense to do our thinking.  

    Victims of bigotry are the poorest, least influential members of society.......never the wealthiest, most educated, most overrepresented in high levels, and most influential. Bigotry hurts the least influential. To claim or say otherwise is absurd.

    by dailykozzer on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 03:49:55 PM PDT

    •  Maybe not as unprepared (0+ / 0-)

      as you might think.

      I've been teaching and speaking on practical and urban survival for nearly 20 years, to formal audiences and informally to people I meet in lines and parks and when I hand out sandwiches. I think many more people may not have the "stuff" together, but they are getting the skills and knowledge.  

      I think that's more important than the "stuff", even if many of my diaries focus on "stuff".

      All knowledge is worth having.

      by Noddy on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 06:30:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Valuable recommendations throughout! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noddy

    thank you, Noddy! Awesome job!

    "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

    by BeninSC on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 09:30:24 PM PDT

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