"Get Out of Town" List
Preparation is the key to a successful hurricane evacuation. The first priority must be to save your life and the lives of your family. Only after that is assured should you worry about your property. Remember that when the first hint of hurricane warnings are in the air, time will be worth more than all of your worldly goods—the roads will be clogged with thousands, if not millions, of other frantic evacuees. So before the first siren sounds, most of the preparation work should be completed so they are not done in a panic mode. Here are some suggestions:
| ||Throughout the hurricane season, keep the car, or cars, in good running order and the gas tank at least half full.|
| ||Agree upon an evacuation route and end meeting spot for the whole family in case you get separated by evacuating from two locations or with two vehicles.|
| ||Prepare the boat well in advance as you may not have a chance to get to the marina when the evacuation notice rolls in. Double up the docklines, remove canvas and sails, close the seacocks, keep the batteries fully charged, check the bilge pumps regularly, shut down the propane system, add chafe gear on all lines, and remove all valuables and ownership papers to a safe place. Take pictures of the boat lashed into its slip for insurance purposes—date stamped if possible. If you do have time for a quick run to the marina before leaving the area, pull in the dock cord and give everything a once over.|
| ||While the camera or video-recorder is out, shoot the house and cars, including four views of each room of the house and individual shots of any item of special value.|
| ||Buy a portable fireproof and waterproof safe with a lock. Gather all insurance policies, bank and investment papers, IRS forms, wills, birth certificates, mortgages, loan or lease papers, car titles and registrations, passports, copies of driver's and other licenses, health records for everyone including the pets, extra credit cards, and any other special papers. Put them in the safe with a little extra cash, and top the pile off with the pictures of the boat and house. If you have a computer, keep it backed up and put the disk in the box too.|
| ||Identify all the irreplaceable items you own—family photo albums, pictures, custom artwork, and grandma's needlepoint cannot be duplicated. Make a list of them, gather these items into one central location, and have a box or crate ready to load them up.|
| ||Keep your everyday valuables in a briefcase or bag at all times. Eyeglasses, prescription drugs, wallets, checkbooks, address book, spare keys, cell phone and the like should be ready to grab with one hand.|
| ||Prioritize other personal property. Remember here that you may be in for the flight of your life and that most of your possessions can be replaced—so take only what would be inconvenient to replace if your city is a total loss. Forget the cameras, but take a coin collection if there is room in the car.|
| ||Build an "Abandon Town" kit. This should include: |
| ||AM/FM radio, weather radio, and extra batteries for each|
| ||Flashlight(s) and spare batteries|
| ||Canned, boxed, or other non- or semi-perishable food—enough for the household for at least a week. A few gallon jugs of water are a good idea.|
| ||Can opener, utensils, and cups, paper towels and plates.|
| ||Pet food and pet supplies if you have an animal.|
| ||Miscellaneous tools—roll of duct tape, hank of light line, and a Leatherman tool or Swiss army knife.|
Now, when the warnings go up you only have a few minutes of work before turning the key in the car. First bring any loose outside items like trash cans, bicycles, plants, and kid's toys into the house—lawn furniture can be thrown into a swimming pool if you have one. Grab your valuables safe, the heirloom crate, the briefcase, and the Abandon Town box and throw them in the trunk. Pack a duffel of casual and work clothes, extra shoes, and foul weather gear and put that in the car. If there's room, add a few pillows and blankets, as you may end up in a public shelter.
Take a quick walk through the house, shut off all circuit breakers except the A/C and refrigerator, shut down the natural gas and water mains, and make sure that all windows, drapes, and blinds are closed. On this last policing, grab any small valuables that will still fit into the car. Then drive away from the coast as fast as traffic will allow.
Resign yourself to the fact that this is either a practice exercise and that you'll return tomorrow to undo all this work with no damage, or that you'll never see your possessions again. Or perhaps the worst scenario—that you'll have major damage just shy of being totaled and have years of rebuilding work ahead of you.