Going through a hurricane with kids is HARD. Most of us here at Pint-Sized Cities have learned these lessons through multiple hurricane evacuations, and want to share our tips with you. Crossing our fingers we won't need these these hurricane evacuation survival tips this season.
1. PLAN: Don't wait until the last-minute. Have a plan, then have a backup plan for that plan and another one. Ask your self: Where are you going to go? What are you going to do? Where will you stay? Do you have family you can stay with for months if you need to?
2. Important Papers: Do you know where you birth certificate is? Insurance papers? If not find them and keep them in one file box that can be quickly packed into your car when it's time to leave.
3. Pictures, DVDs, Books and Computers: After Katrina I started making photo books because they are easier to pack and take with me. I also have most of my pictures backed up to cloud services like DropBox and on an external hard drive. Our computers are now laptops because they travel easier. Books are on e-readers, important books go with us, the rest go in plastic tubs up high enough that hopefully they will survive. DVDs and video games are now in one DVD case so it can be packed into the car easily and not take up much room.
4. Medical Needs: Make sure you have all prescriptions filled, get any medical files you need from the doctor, have all medical supplies you may need.
5. Food: If you're going to a hotel bring an indoor grill, air fryer, toaster and crock pot or stay at an extended stay place that has a kitchen. This way you can make quick and easy meals in your room and not have to spend money eating out. You can also bring the contents of your freezer so you can use them up and not have them go to waste. We also bought a small grill and grilled in the parking lot of the hotel during our Gustav evacuation.
Whatever food you leave behind in your freezer, place it in black garbage bags. This way when you have to clean it out, you can just tie up the bags and throw all the food away. Less mess and less time! Oh and less smelly too!
Put a penny on top of a cup of frozen water. When you come back and the penny is still on top then food is still good – if it at bottom of cup, then throw it out, your power was out awhile!
One more thing, think outside the box when going food shopping. Everyone will be at Walmart. So go to some place like Whole Foods. Sam's and Costco carry more due to being big warehouse stores, so they may not run out of things like water and batteries as quickly. Office Depot even carries water, paper goods and batteries. Don't forget a manual can opener.
6. Before You Leave: If you have a 2 story, bring important family treasures that you can't take with you to the 2nd story. Wrap them in plastic bags in case there is roof damage. Not a 2 story? Take unimportant stuff out of the tops of closets and replace with things that you want to save. Take replaceable dishes and glasses out of kitchen cabinets and use cabinets to store your more cherished belongings. Put everything in garbage bags that means anything to you.
Make sure your windows are boarded up with plywood or storm shutters. Duct tape does nothing to really protect your windows. Bring in and secure all your lawn furniture, outside toys, etc. This all can be missiles in high winds causing more damage.
Check the vehicles you are leaving behind for anything valuable that you may want to take with you or salvage. My husband lost years worth of tools he had bought for work and had to start over again because we didn't take his work truck with us when leaving for Katrina. Check your auto insurance, after Katrina, our insurance company gave us our rental reimbursement in one lump sum, this helped keep us a float while we were figuring out what our next step would be.
6. Leaving: Leave early! Don't wait until an official evacuation is called to leave. Also try to leave in the middle of the night. This way you won't be leaving with the rest of the city and won't have to sit in traffic for hours. This is especially true if you plan on going east through Mississippi and Alabama. Remember if we are under an evacuation, they most likely are too so get out before the entire gulf coast is headed in the same direction.
7. Coming Home: Don't rush home. Chances are you are coming home to no electric and no businesses being open. Not to mention the traffic of everyone coming back at the same time. If you can, wait a few extra days then come home.
If you sustained damage, if possible leave the kids with a loved one when you return home. It's overwhelming for us and may be too overwhelming for them. Also don't expect to get much done the first time you return. You will simply be processing what the heck just happened.
Stock up on gas, water, food, supplies and cash before you come home, chances are the only places open will only take cash and there will be no gas or stores available until the electric is restored.
Duct tape to tape your fridge shut and haul to curb (DON'T OPEN IT. NOTHING INSIDE IS WORTH IT!)
Don't throw away water logged pictures. Many can be salvaged. Wear clothes that are cool but can be thrown away. Bring an extra change of clothes with you for the ride home to where ever you are staying.
8.Your Mental Health: Your mental health is important too. I didn't realize how much Katrina affected me until we stayed for Isaac. I was a wreck and didn't sleep for days. My now 15 yr old didn't either and when he did, he had nightmares. Thank GOD we kept our power during the storm because that would have made it worse. Our family will now be leaving even for small storms. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.
When you do leave, don't want the news 24/7. Take a walk, take a bubble bath, go for a swim, read a good book. Anything to keep your mind off of what is going on at home. Take care of you, because if you don't you can't take care of anyone else.
9. The Kids: They are scared and worried too. One thing we do is treat evacuations like a mini vacation. We go somewhere that isn't going to be affected by the storm and we swim, visit local attractions, visit family and friends in the area. Basically anything to keep little minds off the storm.Netflix now lets you download straight to your device so you can watch offline. Make sure to dL the littles' “must have” shows and movies to help w long spans in car or hotel room. Pack dvd player, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, or HDMI cord to connect your laptop to the hotel room tv for the welcomed breaks from the news and weather. Each kid gets to pack a small plastic container of their favorite toys to take with us. We bring their pillows and blankets and loveys. This helps them feel more secure.
Make sure everyone brings headphones. You will be in close quarters for long periods of time between the car and hotel room.
If you are sheltering in place: buy playing cards and board games. Play flashlight tag in the house, or make shadow puppets. Get some portable chargers so they can charge their devices to keep them occupied. Anything to keep their little minds off of the weather outside. Someone on our Facebook page suggested getting glow sticks at night for kids instead of flashlights and candles. They are safer and the kids love them.
Our Partners over at Northshore Parent have some great posts geared to kids and hurricanes:
10. The Pets Do you have pets? Can you take them with you? Remember most shelters won't take pets because of public health reasons so if you evacuate to a shelter your pets won't be able to stay with you. FEMA suggest finding pet friendly hotels and boarding facilities at your evacuation destination. They also suggest finding a vet and microchipping your pet before you leave. Bring a crate for your pet to sleep in, I've read stories that hotels aren't letting animals stay if they aren't in a crate.
Here is some more information on how to protect your animals.
11. Insurance Find important insurance papers now. Make sure you take them with you. Read through your dock and even call your agent to check your coverage and what you need to do to make sure things are as easy as possible. Some policies will cover an evacuation under certain conditions, some will cover the contents of your freezer, and some will cover items in a storage unit. It's good to know this before the storm hits.
Before you leave, take videos and pictures of the contents in your house. Write down serial numbers for electronics etc. This will help a lot when it comes time to make a claim and replace lost items.
Do you have any evacuation tips? Share them with us.