Diane Sasser, Tucker, Jeanette A.
It is critical that you begin preparing to evacuate as soon as you become aware that a flood or other disaster may be approaching. Choosing to wait for an evacuation order to be issued before beginning preparation may be too late. Instead, plan for the worst and hope that it never happens. Vital preparation steps include developing an evacuation plan, preparing an emergency supply kit and preparing your home for the impending disaster.
Should you evacuate? Compare the ground elevation of your property to predicted flood crest and levee elevations. The LSU AgCenter has two mapping services/sites that ANYONE can use to find ground elevation at ANY spot in Louisiana. Also, monitor information available through TV, radio or the Internet for information or official instructions as they become available. If you are specifically told to evacuate, do so as soon as possible.
Make a plan. Plan for an evacuation before the need arises. Identify places where your family will meet if separated, both within and outside of your neighborhood.
Also identify an out-of-town contact for all family members to call, text, or e-mail if separated. Out-of-town contacts may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members as it may be easier to make a long-distance call than to call across town. Make certain that all family members know the phone number or carry a card in their wallet listing vital contact numbers. Provide each family member a cell phone, coins, or a pre-paid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that emergency contact in your phone as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency).
Identify several destinations in different directions so you will have options when evaluating where to evacuate. Evacuation choices may include a public shelter, a friend or relative’s home or a hotel room. If a public shelter is your destination, identify its location in advance. If there are multiple sites, know all of the locations as accommodations at specific sites may be limited.
Keep your vehicle’s tank filled, as gas may not be available. Include a map that will enable you to take unfamiliar routes if necessary. Be prepared to follow designated evacuation routes and avoid any roads or shortcuts that are not recommended. Avoid flooded roads and watch for washed-out bridges. Plan to take only one vehicle per household to keep family members together and reduce the number of cars on your evacuation route. Move other vehicles to a safe place before leaving. Plan to evacuate early to beat the highway crowds.
For a step-by-step plan and an interactive emergency contact sheet, go to the Ready America Program’s “Make a Plan” page and complete their online emergency information guide. You will be able to print several copies to give to each family member to take with them should you evacuate.
Be sure to make plans for your pets as shelters and many hotels do not allow pets. Plan your evacuation and leave in plenty of time. Do not wait until the last minute to evacuate. When rescue officials come to your door, they may not allow you to take your pets with you. Remember emergency responders are trained and required to save human lives, not animals. They may be taking physical and legal risks if they stop to help your animals.
Consider fostering your pets with friends, family members, veterinarians, or boarding kennels in a safe area. Pet-friendly hotels or facilities offering emergency pet sheltering may be located through websites such as www.petswelcome.com, www.travelpets.com, www.dogfriendly.com, or www.pettravel.com. But if you end up at a hotel with a “no pets” policy, ask the manager if the hotel can waive the policy during the disaster. Be sure to take precautions to provide proof of vaccinations, identify your pet and transport safely.
Prepare an emergency supply kit. You and your family will likely need supplies to “tide you over” for a few days while you are away from your home. This means having sufficient food, water, clothing and other supplies in sufficient quantities to last for at least three days. Plan on one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation. Select non-perishable foods that do not have to be heated or cooked. Include sufficient personal items, communication tools, emergency supplies, tools, utensils and other critical items to address family needs.
Taking the time prior to an emergency to prepare and organize important papers and documents will save you from unwanted stress and chaos. Prepare a “Grab and Go” box containing copies of important documents, financial records, account information, emergency contact information, prescriptions and other vital documents. Remember to back up electronic computer files and store on a portable storage device that can be included. Store the box in a secure, easily accessible location so that it can be grabbed at a moment’s notice if you need to evacuate. Keep the box with you at all times. Include cash or traveler’s checks for several days’ living expenses.
Traveling with very young children can be very stressful even under the best of circumstances. Be sure to supply young children (and older ones as well) with portable games, toys, favorite items that will travel well (and take up a minimal amount of space) and keep them entertained.
Make certain that your vehicle is equipped with a roadside emergency kit. Basic automobile repair items can make a difference between getting out before flood waters rise and being stuck for a long period of time.
Prepare your home. Flood insurance provides limited coverage for expenses that you incur trying to protect insured property from flood damage. You may be reimbursed up to $1,000 for preventative measures taken such as sandbags, supplies and labor; or, to remove insured property to a location other than the insured location outside the flood hazard area. Note that property must be stored in a fully enclosed building and that coverage for stored property will be for 45 consecutive days from the date you begin to move it there. Be certain to keep all receipts and submit them to your claims adjuster. Reasonable expenses include the value of your work, at the Federal minimum wage, performed by you or a member of your household.
Protect your property before leaving. Precautions include:
For additional tips, see the LSU AgCenter’s following important documents:
Preparing Your Home for a Flood
Preparing Your Family for a Flood
Preparing Your Evacuation "Grab and Go" Box (also available in Spanish)