If You Go: Tips for Evacuation Routes
Many times evacuations are ordered at the last minute, leaving little to no time to prepare. As part of your emergency plan, you and your family should have several evacuation routes and options that can help get you out of harm's way regardless of the potential hazard. Below is a list of tips to help you determine what evacuation route(s) suits you best.
Determine Your Evacuation Options
One of the most important decisions made during an emergency situation is whether to evacuate or stay in your home or current location. Determining factors such as your unique circumstances and the nature of the emergency should be carefully evaluated before either option is decided upon. As a person with disabilities/special needs or a caregiver of individuals with special needs, your disaster plan should consider and have options for both situations.
If an evacuation is ordered make sure you have several options and different locations you can seek refuge. Your evacuation options should include a number of different places you could stay that are located throughout the region and even out of state. Should a natural disaster suddenly turn for the worst, putting one of your evacuation options in harm's way, you could still have a safe place to go. Be sure to make a list of general population shelters, homes of friends, family or even a private caregiver whose facility you could use in case of an mandatory evacuation. Reach out to family or friends who are unlikely to be evacuated from their homes and obtain their commitment to share their homes with you. This list should also include the emergency contact numbers and addresses for all your evacuation options for easy reference when you need the information most.
Personal Assessment - Will You Need Special Assistance?
As part of your emergency preparation, all Floridians with disabilities/special needs should consider conducting a personal assessment of their daily activities to determine if special assistance to evacuate their homes is necessary. Do you need assistance leaving your home or office? Will you be able to evacuate independently without relying on an auditory alert? Are there other options for you to leave your home or office if the elevator no longer is in service? Would you be able to relocate if your mobility aid suddenly malfunctions?
If you are uncertain about answers to any of these questions, it is vital you call your local emergency management office and see if you are eligible to sign-up for the special needs registry. Preregistration to this service is invaluable. Do not wait until a disaster is imminent to find out what your options are - even if you think you would only use it as a last resort.
If you are not capable of driving yourself, it is necessary that you make arrangements for transportation well in advance of a disaster situation. If family, friends, neighbors or other caregivers agree to transport you, make sure they can accommodate any supplies you might need to take with you. For a complete list of supplies and how to build your own Emergency Kit, click here. (hyperlink to Emergency Kit page)
Map Your Evacuation Routes
Once you have determined your geographically varied evacuation locations, map out how you or your agreed transporter could get to each location. Keep in mind all of the obstacles that might come along with travel during an emergency such as traffic, weather conditions, road closures, down power lines and other obstructions. While you cannot predict where these incidents or travel hazards might occur, your evacuation routes should provide several other options should your evacuation be jeopardized.
Become Familiar with Your Evacuation Routes
Having the confidence that you know exactly where you are going under times of immense confusion and stress will make your evacuation process not only more safe, but more comfortable. By familiarizing yourself with all of your different routes for each evacuation location, you will know exactly what to do when an emergency strikes. Take a trial road trip to each location and make sure you understand the slight nuances of each excursion. Pay close attention to your exits, locations of gas stations and rest stops along the way. It may even prove useful to write down the mile markers of these landmarks. Remember, emergencies can be unpredictable so make sure your evacuation routes are flexible enough to handle any change of plans.
Share Your Evacuation Plans
Whether it be a family member, friend, caregiver or doctor, make sure several people are aware of your evacuation plans should an emergency happen. Give these plans to your Personal Support network and those who would be assisting you or concerned for your safety.