Is your family prepared for an evacuation?

Disasters can happen anywhere and at anytime. If you need to evacuate your home, you may have minutes to gather your family and leave – not knowing when you’ll be back. Planning will help minimize the worries, concerns and even save lives in some situations. Knowing you have an emergency preparedness plan will give you and your family peace of mind. 

6 steps to create an effective evacuation plan

1. Draw a floor plan of your home and identify safe exits

  • Draw up a detailed floor plan of each level of your home. 
    • Identify all possible exits from each room. These can include doors and windows (at least two per room). 
    • Be sure to plan ahead to determine how to evacuate babies, children and any elderly or disabled relatives. 
  • Designate a main and alternate exit route. 

2. 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 and backup routes in case roads are blocked. 
    • 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. 

3. Pack a “Go bag”

In the event of an emergency evacuation, a "Go bag" is a bag that contains survival supplies

Remember to check these items or replace them by having a calendar entry every six months as part of your emergency preparedness plan.  Add this check to your carbon monoxide and fire alarm battery change or maybe when the daylight savings time comes into effect.  Here are some items to consider:

  • Prescriptions and other medicines
  • First aid kit
  • Female hygiene items
  • 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) 

4. Put together a home inventory list

This is helpful if you need to apply for insurance support. Ensure someone has a copy of your evacuation plan and inventory list. Here are the benefits of doing this:

  • Helps ensure that you have purchased enough insurance to replace your personal possessions.
    • If possible, keep a file on a cloud service with photos and description of item such as age, cost, material, significance to you, etc.  
  • Speed the insurance claims process, if necessary.
  • Substantiate any losses for income tax purposes.

5. Keep important documents and information in a safe place

Consider keeping important documents and information (including photocopies) in a safe place such as a fire and waterproof safe or uploaded to an encrypted cloud service. Another option is to save them on an encrypted flash drive within your “go bag” or friend’s residence. 

Here are some of the important documents and information to have on hand or saved: 

  • Prescriptions
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Passports
  • Driver’s licence 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

6. Test your evacuation plan

To ensure you and your family are fully prepared for a sudden evacuation, do a safety drill to simulate an emergency. Give yourself 10 minutes to get your family and belongings into the car and on the road to safety. All family members should take part and understand the plan properly. Each parent could be responsible for one child, so for example, if you have two children, you could be responsible for the youngest, and your spouse, the eldest. You could also delegate one family member to take care of any pets. 

By planning ahead for emergencies 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.

Time to start drawing that plan!

The content in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as specific professional or expert advice. Aviva Canada accepts no responsibility for action taken as a result of reliance on any information contained in this article.

Copyright in the whole and every part of this site belongs to Aviva Canada Inc., unless otherwise indicated, and may not be used, sold, licensed, copied or reproduced in whole or in part in any manner or form or in or on any media to any person without the prior written consent of Aviva Canada Inc.