It only takes 5 steps to prepare your family for an emergency evacuation

As much as we love our homes, the walls around us are not nearly as important as the people within them. Sometimes, natural disasters mean the place where we feel safest isn't safe anymore, and families are forced evacuate their homes at a moment's notice.

As those who fled the California wildfires know all too well, getting your children to safety when minutes and seconds count is incredibly hard, and when you have to leave with only the clothes on your back the days to come can feel even harder.

But there is something we can all do—today—that will help keep our kids safe if a disaster strikes tomorrow, next month or a year from now. Whether the threat comes from a wildfire, a hurricane, a landslide or a flood, whether or not we have an emergency plan is the one thing parents can control in an uncontrollable situation.

Unfortunately, many families don't have a disaster plan, and don't know what they would do if they had to flee their home. According to a recent survey by Farmers Insurance, 60% of American households don't have a disaster plan, but 70% of those surveyed have experienced a natural disaster as an adult.

Millennials are the most likely to have an emergency plan, the survey found, and as the images out of California continue to underscore the importance of this issue, more millennials may want to get prepared. Right now, 44% of millennials Farmers surveyed said they have an emergency plan and 49% have an emergency kit.

If you are among the half who don't have a plan, don't worry. It's easy to make one and it could make things a lot easier—and safer—for your family should you ever need it.

Here are five steps to make sure your family is ready to leave home should you need to:

1. Pack ahead of time

The Red Cross, FEMA and CAL Fire all recommend packing emergency evacuation kits to make leaving home in the event of an impending hurricane, wildfire, flood or other disasters safer and less stressful.

Emergency planners recommend taking a three day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person in a tote or wheeled tub that can be easily lifted into your vehicle.

You can also pre-pack a backpack or small bag for each member of the family, with changes of clothes, extra diapers or pull-ups for young children and toiletries, hygiene products and extra contact lenses or glasses for older family members.

Along with the personal belongings and food and water, a pre-packed evacuation kit should also contain the following items:

  • Prescriptions or special medications
  • An extra set of car keys
  • Credit cards and cash (in case ATMs don't work)
  • A fully-stocked first aid kit
  • Flashlights
  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Sanitation supplies
  • Pet food, crates, collars and leashes if you have animals in your family
  • Copies of important documents
  • Mobile phone, chargers and extra battery

If you don't want to keep your important documents and prescriptions in your emergency kit, consider storing them in a place where you will be able to grab them easily in the event of an evacuation.

2. Plan to reunite

Sometimes natural disasters and evacuations happen in the middle of the day, when parents are at work and kids are at school. This can be very stressful for families, but FEMA suggests discussing this possibility with children so that they are prepared.

Let kids know that in the event of a natural disaster during the school day they need to follow their teacher's instructions and that they may be picked up by an emergency contact, like grandma or a trusted neighbor, instead of you. Plan for a scenario where your family is not able to go home, but let your kids know that you or another adult will meet them wherever they are evacuated to from the school, like a designated emergency shelter or the home of a family member in another city.

Adults in the family also need to talk about these things beforehand as communications systems can go down in natural disasters. Let your partner or co-parent know that if your community is evacuated you'll be heading for your sister's house in the next state, or whatever designated location your family has decided on.

3. Designate an out-of-town contact

Plan to have a family member or friend who lives far enough away that they will not be impacted by the same event be your family's out-of-town contact.

Make sure your children know who this person is and have their contact information. Put it in their emergency bags and school backpacks and teach them the phone numbers and email addresses of the contact.

This person should ideally be someone you trust, who could advocate for you and take you in if needed.

4. Research accommodations out of your area

If your out-of-town contact is a few states away you could have a long drive ahead of you. Get to know the hotels on the route you would take to get to your family member or friend's place, or that you could stay in if they were unavailable.

If you have pets the Red Cross recommends keeping a list of pet-friendly hotels/motels and animal shelters along your evacuation routes in your phone.

5. Know your routes

If you're asked to evacuate, it's best to do so as soon as possible, as traffic can quickly become congested when entire communities need to go. A couple times a year practice leaving your community as you would in an emergency (bring the kit and everything) and plan some alternative routes in case your usual route becomes blocked.

Program routes into your GPS and stash a paper map in the car just in case.

In the event of a disaster, don't try to take shortcuts or drive on closed roads.

We can't control what happens in a disaster, but we can prepare for them. The one shortcut we can take is packing and planning now.

Your family may never need your emergency kit, but you'll be so thankful for it if you do.

You might also like:

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

Keep reading Show less

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Meri Meri: Decor and gifts that bring the wonder of childhood to life

We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play