How Do I Know
I was 3 when Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina, living in Myrtle Beach, we had to evacuate. Hurricane Matthew last year forced us to evacuate when it was projected to be a direct hit as a Category 4.
Luckily, we did not see the devastation as it downgraded and skirted more north.
However, I did stay through Hurricane Bertha, Hurricane Gaston, Hurricane Ida, Hurricane Fran, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Sandy (which hit us on the southern end in Maryland).
I learned several key things through going through those storms that I want to share.
Search and Rescue
My husband conducted search and rescue for 8 years prior to us coming to a security unit. I know how hard that was on him after back to back missions, so I cannot imagine how days of continuous rescues would be after watching the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Search and rescue during city wide emergencies takes the community coming together.
I was so touched and thankful for the residents of Texas at how they came together to help their neighbors.
Complete strangers, such as the Cajun Navy, came with their boats ready to step in and help local officials.
Millions around the country donated, and emergency personnel including police, fire rescue, National Guard, and the Coast Guard worked around the clock.
However, as tirelessly as they worked, there was loss of life, and I want to help lower those chances!
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Planning for an Emergency
Emergencies are not always forecasted. You cannot plan for tornadoes, flash floods, or earthquakes.
However, these events can wreak havoc on homes and families. Some people like to be spontaneous, but in this case, it’s important to have a plan for the “what-if.”
I have a PCS (permanent change of station, for my non-military people) Notebook that has every important document I need when we move.
This serves a dual purpose because when we evacuate for storms (which can be at least once a year), I throw that notebook in my car. Want to know what I think should be in your PCS/evacuation notebook (or want a sneak-peek into mine)? If so, enter you email below and I will immediately send you the pdf.
Home Emergency Supplies
Whether it be a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or minor flood, these items will help if you have them on-hand.
Water is usually a commodity that people do not hoard as they are drinking it. However, having a case of water (about $2.50 for 32 bottles at Wal-Mart) can help when you are in a bind and the water is off.
However, batteries for flashlights, a first-aid kit or makeshift one (band-aids, gauze, Tylenol or Motrin, ace bandage, etc.), and cash are important.
Why cash? Because when power goes out, systems go down – and you may need that cash handy.
IF you have a rainy-day fund – I suggest at least $250. This can help if you need to get gas, food, or if you have to leave because it is so bad.
Take photos of the things in your home (all expensive things especially) and the outside of your home (as proof for your insurance company). I have this on my portable hard drive to take if we evacuate.
Keep reading for what steps you need to take when a storm is projected to come.
Do you remember seeing the images of TONS of stranded motorists in Atlanta in 2014?
Let me remind you (compliments of CNN)…
Drivers were in stand still traffic, the roads became a skating rink, and cars started to become stranded.
In the winter, you want to includes these things in case you are caught in a freak storm like this.
Be sure to have in your car:
- Blanket and jacket/sweather (to provide warmth when you have to turn off the engine to save gas)
- Non-perishable food (some sort of food supply to hold you over until traffic moves, ice melts, or help comes)
- Few bottles of water
- Pair of socks and mittens/gloves (again sustained warmth)
All of these things together can be in your trunk or behind a seat and is worth it if you find yourself in this predicament.
When the Storm is Coming
To evacuate or to “shelter in place,” that is the question.
When a hurricane or tropical storm is headed towards you, you have an important decision to make. Only you can make that decision for you and your family; however, let some factors guide you.
- Do you have small children? If yes, you may want to consider leaving as losing electricity can alter their routine. If you have ever changed bed-time, you know what I mean.
- Are they calling for floods? Unfortunately, southern Texas just saw what torrential rain did to their region – devastating losses for both property and life. Are you prepared to get on your roof with pets and kids until you can be saved?
- Do you have a physical ailment – such as a debilitating disease, wheel-chair bound, or even pregnancy that would make leaving after the storm with unknown circumstances much harder?
- Is your home classified as “unsafe” – most pre-fabricated homes or beach homes may not withstand high winds or storm surge.
- Are you ready to “rough” it? When Matthew hit here, while we did not get a lot of damage – the public water source was unable to handle the back-up of water flow. Many homes got pretty stinky with back-up.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
You made the decision to “shelter in place.” So where do you start?
- High winds? Start boarding up those windows (not taping, as this can make it worse)- you don’t want to be in your home with a Category 2+ storm with your windows busting, and debris and glass going everywhere. Go to your nearest home improvement store.
- Stock up on water (at least a gallon per person a day or about a case or two per person).
- Non-perishable foods – foods that do not need refrigeration or power to cook.
- Fill up the washing machine and bathtub for clean water for toilets (know your plumbing – basement toilets are not always the place to go).
- Put water in Ziplock bags (quart size are best), Tupperware, cups, and clean trash cans. Freeze whatever water you can fit in your freezer – place some in fridge if electricity goes out.
- Eat perishable food first from fridge when electricity goes out – fruit, veggies, yogurts, sandwich fixings, etc.
- Batteries, batteries, batteries – did I say that before?
- If you haven’t already – take photos of everything you do not have a receipt for.
- Sandbags – put them by your front door, back door, side door, wherever you have a door, and garage.
- Bring all lawn furniture inside – you do not want your lawn chairs and umbrella destroying a fence, etc.
- Portable generators – IF you chose to purchase one – KNOW HOW TO USE IT – carbon monoxide poisoning is FATAL.
- Propane – after the storm, you can cook on your grill if you still do not have electricity (bring inside, but don’t use during the storm).
- Full tank of gas in your car (gas prices may soar after the storm).
- Consider a CB radio as alternate communication.
- Freeze a cup of water. Place a quarter on top of it. If you leave for any reason for an extended period, this will help you know how long you lost power. If the quarter is frozen inside the water (an no longer on top), you may want to consider restocking your fridge and freezer.
- If you lose power, please strongly think about whether or not you can pay for the groceries without your insurance’s help. Yes, they will help you if you make a claim. However, this could cause problems down the road if you have to change your coverage. Try to only make BIG claims.
This is the choice many make or are told to make (if the military requires it).
Many commands or units decide before cities to mandatory evacuate families while the member deploys out with government assets.
If you find yourself in this position, have a plan and prepare to be flexible.
Sometimes one of the hardest decisions is to leave all of your stuff behind; however, it could also be the one thing that saves your life. Here are some tips:
- Get your PCS/Evacuation notebook that you downloaded from up above – this is one of the most important things.
- Search for a hotel inland (look at the projected path to determine a distance away from the storm).
- Military members have an evacuation location. While you do not necessarily have to go to that location, your entitlement is based on that location (keep this in mind, or look up hotels to get an average price point).
- Be prepared for roads to be insane – pack a car charger or GPS to travel back roads.
- Take water, snacks, travel games (small puzzles, coloring books, iPad, books) for the kids, and wear comfy clothes.
- Keep ALL receipts.
- Fill up your tank (if you haven’t already) before you get on the interstate.
- Pull out cash (if you can).
- Before you leave, pack whatever valuables that cannot be replaced (jewelry pieces, small keepsakes or family heirlooms), a portable hard drive or SD card, and enough clothes for a week.
- Have contact information for your ombudsman or family members.
If you are military, read this article (I am actually quoted in it) from Military.com on entitlement information (or how to get paid for leaving).
Have you had to evacuate? Tell us your experience in the comments below, and be sure to download my PCS notebook!
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About the Author
Kelsey Ramirez is a Real Estate Broker in western Washington. She is also a veteran elementary school teacher, military wife, and mom to two daughters. She is the founder of The Military Move, a military-based website to help families in the PCS process. Kelsey loves to travel, write, and create amazing content. She has her Masters in Technology, which she uses to learn all new things digital.
With three decades of military support, Kelsey’s mission is to help new and existing military families in their unique adventures through all military topics including PCSing, budgeting, school choice and rights, housing, and especially just being a military spouse.