Home Evacuations: Know What to Take, Where to Go

Aug. 31, 2010 - Having to leave home unexpectedly can rattle anyone’s cool, especially if the house you’re leaving is pummeled by wind, water or fire. But, by practicing a home evacuation, you and your family can understand what needs to be done in case of catastrophe — making the real thing a little easier to handle.

“In the event of a sudden emergency, you may have just minutes to gather your family and important papers and get out of your house, possibly for good,” says Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). “With preparation and practice, you stand the best chance of getting out with what you and your family need and ending up in a safe place.”

But how do you prepare for the unexpected? The Insurance Information Institute explains how.

Step 1: Know what you have

According to the I.I.I., the best first step is to create a home inventory. It will help ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your possessions. The I.I.I. updated their free software to make this step even easier. Erie Insurance also has a home inventory formPDF that you can print out and fill in.

Step 2: Pre-pack for an emergency

You may be forced from your home for several days or even weeks. Be sure to take essential items such as medicines as well as “comfort items” like your children’s favorite toys or books. The I.I.I. suggests having these items ready and packed beforehand, in case of emergency:

  • Medicines, prescriptions and a first aid kit
  • Bottled water
  • Clothing and bedding (sleeping bags, pillows)
  • Flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Special items for infants or elderly or disabled family members
  • Computer hard drive or laptop
  • Photographs
  • Pet food and other items for pets (litter boxes, leashes)

Step 3: Gather important documents

Keep important documents in a safe place that you can access easily. In the event of an evacuation take the following documents with you:

  • Insurance policies
  • Prescriptions
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Passports
  • Drivers licenses or personal identification
  • Social Security cards
  • Recent tax returns
  • Employment information
  • Wills, deeds and recent tax returns
  • Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
  • Bank, savings and retirement account numbers
  • Home inventory

Step 4: Plan where to go

Think about the best place your family can head in case 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.

Also, identify a specific place to meet in case your family members are separated before or during the evacuation. Ask an out-of-town friend or family member to act as a contact person that everyone in the family could call if needed.

For a video on what it’s like to leave quickly, see Ten-Minute Challenge. Or, listen to the audio file Everyone Should Have an Evacuation Plan.

For questions about your insurance policy and coverage, contact an ERIE Agent.

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