Disaster Evacuation Plan: 5 Things


Some catastrophic events come with a warning, others you may only have a matter of minutes to evacuate or you may have to evacuate in the immediate wake of a disaster. It is important to have a plan in place that you can execute without hesitation when the time comes.
Do you know what you would take? How about where you would go? This five-step plan below from the Insurance Information Institute can help get you and your family on the road to safety. *

Arrange your evacuation ahead of time.

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your evacuation. (You can store this and other vital information in the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s mobile app. It will change the way you prepare for emergencies. The SC Emergency Manager mobile app is downloadable from the App Store and Google Play.
  • Identify where you can go in the event of an evacuation. Try to have more than one option: the home of a friend or family member in another town, a hotel, or a shelter. Keep the phone numbers and addresses of these locations handy.
  • Map out your primary routes and backup routes to your evacuation destinations in case roads are blocked or impassable. Try to have a physical map of the area available in case GPS satellite transmissions are down or your devices run out of power.
  • Pre-arrange a designated place to meet in case your family members are separated before or during the evacuation. Make the location-specific, for example, “meet at the big clock in the middle of town square” not “meet at the town square”. 
  • Ask an out-of-town friend or family member to act as a contact person for your family.
  • Put all evacuation plans in writing along with pertinent addresses and phone numbers and give them to each member of the family. Note that many home printer inks are NOT waterproof, so take appropriate precautions to ensure legibility.
  • Listen to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio or local radio or TV stations for evacuation instructions. If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.

Plan what to take

Many families choose to have a “go bag” ready with some of these critical items. Consider packing the following for an evacuation. 

  • Prescriptions and other medicines
  • First aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries
  • Clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, pillows)
  • Special equipment for infants or elderly or disabled family members 
  • “Comfort items,” such as special toys for children
  • Computer hard drive and laptop
  • Cherished photographs
  • Pet food and other items for pets (litter boxes, leashes)
  • Important documents
  • Items for your pets

Create a home inventory

Making a home inventory and having it handy will be useful if you need to apply for disaster aid and will also:

  • Help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions.
  • Speed the insurance claims process, if necessary
  • Substantiate any losses for income tax purposes.

Learn more about creating a home inventory here.

Gather important documents

Keep the following important documents in a safe place that you can easily access and take with you in the event of an evacuation; and while for most of these you’ll need an original, it’s a good idea to make digital copies and keep them with you on a thumb drive, as well:

  • Prescriptions
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Passports
  • Drivers license or personal identification
  • Social Security cards
  • Insurance policies — homeowners, auto, life, and any others
  • Recent tax returns
  • Employment information
  • Wills and deeds
  • Stocks, bonds, and other negotiable certificates
  • Financial information such as bank, savings, and retirement account numbers and recent tax returns
  • Home inventory

Take the 10-minute evacuation challenge

To ensure that you and your family are fully prepared for a sudden evacuation, do a real-time test. Give yourself just 10 minutes to get your family and belongings into the car and on the road to safety. By planning ahead and practicing, you should be able to gather your family members and pets, along with the most important items they will need, calmly and efficiently, with a minimum of stress and confusion.
*Credit for content goes to III, FEMA, SCEMD, and resources at the SCDOI.