What do you need to shelter in place or evacuate in an emergency?
In an emergency you have two options: shelter in place or evacuate. If you are monitoring state and local news, the recommendation for one or the other has been issued. But are you prepared for either option?
Shelter in Place
‘Shelter in Place’ is the term used to describe not evacuating your home. Each person and animal that is going to shelter in place needs a Ready Kit. The kit should have enough food, water, medication, clothes and other supplies for 72 hours. Here is a list of what it should include from FEMA: Shelter in Place Checklist and Pack a Go Bag.
Evacuation to a Shelter
Each person going to a shelter should have a Go Bag with enough supplies to last 7-10 days. Each Go Bag should be an insulated pack or small suitcase on wheels so you can evacuate quickly. Everything in it should be in plastic bags. The stock in it should be rotated every six months. Here are two example of what should be included: Fema Go Bag checklist
A word about shelters.
- They cannot take animals unless it is a service dog
- They have limited DME supplies like wheelchairs and oxygen
- If the shelter suddenly come into the path of the emergency, you will have to move again
- If your elder is frail or needs special DME equipment it may make more sense to evacuate to a safe zone. If you use a motorized wheelchair and your home or the shelter is flooded, the wheelchair can become inoperable.
Evacuate to a Safe Zone
A safe zone can be a hotel out of the emergency path, it can be family in another state. If you have a pet, make sure the hotel takes animals, otherwise you are better off evacuating to family or friends out of state. With the right planning, evacuation means you can bring all needed medical equipment, medicine, important documents and technology devices. A Go Bag is needed for each person and animal headed to a safe zone.
Note: If you are going to evacuate, you should shut off your utilities before leaving. Damaged pipes can contaminate water and you want to avoid a natural gas explosion. Shutting Utilities in an Emergency
My mother’s biggest concern is her dog, Bella. If you will evacuate with a pet make sure their Go Bag contains:
- Copies of rabies, license and microchip number
- Collar with tags and short leash
- Food, medication, and water
- Bowls for food and water
- Favorite toy or treat
- Recent photo
Also, check with your county to see if they have a County Animal Response Team. These groups usually open shelters or have trailers to house animals on the shelter site so owners can see their animals.
To be prepared for either option your Ready Kit and Go Bags should include:
- Money in small bills in a plastic bag
- Medications along with a list of them which includes strengths and your doctor’s contact information. Include a list of all allergies to drugs or food.
- Medical supplies including hearing aids, extra batteries and eyeglasses. It’s fine to use old prescriptions for eyeglasses.
- In a zip top waterproof bag, bring copies of documents including birth certificate, driver’s license social security and Medicare cards, health insurance and identification cards for everyone.
- A list of emergency contact numbers
- Recent photos of all family members
- Wires and cords for all your electronics
Technology can be a help in keeping your documents safe and in order.
If your possessions are destroyed, you need to be able to prove who you are, what you owned and establish credit. In addition to the documents mentioned above you need copies of:
- Power of attorney and will
- Marriage, adoption or naturalization certificates
- Proof of address
- Medical and immunization records
- Information about your credit and ATM cards
Hard copies can be sent to family members out of state. Pictures of documents can be kept on your phone and backed up to the cloud. The safest way to store personal documents is to encrypt them and store them on a cloud-based system. Here are four systems to evaluate: Cloud storage has the best security.
- Keeping your important documents safe in a disaster.
- How to protect your important documents during a natural disaster.
Who is your personal support network?
This may be the most important part of your emergency plan, the easiest to implement and the most overlooked.
- Your support network should include local and out of the area contacts
- Members of your network should have copies of all-important documents and know how to contact one another. Keep them informed of where you evacuate to or if you plan to shelter in place. As plans change let them know.
- If your family has picked a meeting place and time, let your support network know. Sometimes communication into a disaster area is easier than communications out or within the same area.
Your personal support network
Tips from an expert: Kelly Boyd, Access & Functional Needs Planner for the NJ Office of Emergency Management
- Use a big box pharmacy (e.g. CVS) for medications. If you evacuate to another area, you will be in their computer system.
- Keep your list of medication and dosages on your phone; be sure members of your support network have this list
- Be sure you have medication with you when evacuating
- Label durable medical equipment with a paint pen, shelters can be chaotic
- Keep an inventory of durable medical equipment in case it gets damaged or stolen and you need to make a claim with your insurance company
- Many phones have a camera feature that can be used as a magnifier so the user can read small print, which may be useful when filling out forms at a shelter or for individual assistance after a disaster
- There are many free phone apps, including ones created by the Red Cross, that offer valuable emergency preparedness tips and communication boards. Also, Be My Eyes is a great app for those who have visual impairments as it links to a sighted person who can help read materials via a feature that is like FaceTime.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.