If evacuation is necessary for an approaching hurricane, or any type of natural or man-made emergency, the key is that you and your family respond quickly and responsibly. Hurricanes are closely tracked by the media for as long as a week before reaching Massachusetts, therefore usually there is a day or two to prepare for an evacuation. However, there may be incidents such as a hazards materials spill, a major fire, or other emergencies that may require evacuation with no notice. Since evacuations often have short or no notice, planning ahead is essential.
Being Alerted of an Evacuation
Most evacuations are decided upon locally and as such the primary ways of hearing about an evacuation are from local public safety officials. In addition, the media and state or other government agencies may assist in disseminating evacuation information. Information may be by one more methods, so learn what methods are utilized in your community. They could include:
- Local notification systems such as “Reverse 9-1-1 type” systems. These systems usually require opt-in/registration in advance, so check with your local public safety officials about which system they use and how to register.
- Local notifications from public safety vehicles public address announcements or door to door notifications.
- Outdoor sirens.
- Commercial media.
- MEMA’s Massachusetts Alerts smartphone app
- MEMA’s Twitter or Facebook accounts or the social media accounts of a public safety agency in your community.
- The Emergency Alert System (EAS) via radio and television.
- Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
- All Hazards National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio.
- U.S. Coast Guard Marine Broadcast
- A message on Teletypewriters (TTY).
Planning for Evacuation
- Talk to your local emergency management director about the risks in your community and neighborhood. Learn proposed evacuation routes and locations of public shelters. In addition, if you or a family member requires special assistance to evacuate ask about special assistance programs or registries.
- Specifically for hurricanes, citizens in coastal community can view the Hurricane Inundation Maps for their community to determine risk of potential inundation for personal and family planning and preparedness. Those who live or work in inundation areas should plan for and be prepared to evacuate during a hurricane and should listen to local public safety officials and weather forecasts before and during a hurricane for evacuation information.
- Make a Family Emergency Plan of what you would do if asked to evacuate. Consider where you would go, how you would get there, what you would bring. In your planning, consider different scales of evacuation – neighborhood, town, county, etc.
- If you undergo routine medical treatments or receive home health services, work with your service provider in advance to understand their emergency plan and to find backup providers that you might use in an emergency.
- If you do not have personal transportation or a way to evacuate, make arrangements with family, friends or your local government.
- Keep your car fueled if evacuation seems likely. Gas stations may be closed during an emergency, or unable to pump gas during power outages.
- Assemble an Emergency Kit . Realize that if you have to evacuate you might not be able to bring your entire kit with you, so have the key items you might need in a portable “Go Bag” to take with you.
- Know how to shut off your home’s electricity, gas and water supplies at main switches and valves.
- Make a plan in advance of what you would do with your pets if you have to evacuate. While service animals will be allowed inside shelters household pets are not allowed in all shelters. Consider additional options for your pet, such as staying with relatives or friends, a kennel, or pet friendly hotels. Have pet supplies, medicines, carriers and tags for your pet. See MEMA’s Pets and Animals in Emergencies webpage. Remember: “If you go, they go!”
- If you require accessible transportation to evacuate an area, identify resources both public and private.
If you are asked to evacuate
- Gather all persons and pets in the house together.
- Household members outside the area may be advised not to return during an evacuation. They may be directed to a shelter or reception center where you can join them.
- Take only essential items with you (consider your needs and the needs of your family members when deciding what items to take).
- Do not call your 9-1-1 unless you have an emergency. Call 2-1-1 for information or questions.
- Stay tuned to your Emergency Alert System radio station or other news media to get updated information.
- If you need a ride or assistance, contact friends, family, neighbors, or others who can assist you. If you are unable to obtain assistance, listen to your radio or TV for information on provisions being made to assist those who need assistance in evacuating. If necessary, contact your local emergency management office to let them know who you are, where you live, and what kind of assistance you need. Do not wait until the last minute to call for assistance as local authorities may be unable to assist you.
- If designated evacuation routes are established, follow the routes - other routes might be blocked and expect traffic.
If you have enough time before you leave
- Elevate valuable items to higher points within your home in case of flooding.
- Move all loose outdoor items, which could become missiles, indoors. (lawn furniture, hanging plants, trashcans, awnings, toys, etc).
- Secure any outside items which could damage property during a storm (lawn furniture, trashcans, plants, awnings, toys, bicycles, grills, propane tanks, etc.).
- Tell the contacts in your family communications plan where you are going.
- Close and lock windows and doors.
- Turn off lights and appliances. Unplug sensitive electrical equipment such as radios, televisions, computers and small appliances.
- Turn off water, electricity, and gas (if instructed to do so).
- If a hard freeze is likely during your absence, take actions needed to prevent damage to water pipes, such as turning off the water main, draining faucets, turning off inside valves for external faucets and opening outside faucets to drain.
- Check with neighbors to see if they need assistance. Offer to share transportation.
- If you have livestock, shelter them. Leave them at least a three-day supply of stored feed and water that has been protected from possible contamination.
What to take with you
Think of essential items (consider your needs and the needs of your family members when deciding what items to take). Remember you may be away from home for a few hours to a few days.
- Clothing for several days.
- Personal hygiene items (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.)
- Prescription medicines, medical equipment, assistive devices/aids and important medical records.
- Cell phone and charger.
- Identification and important papers.
- Checkbook, credit card and cash.
- Baby supplies.
- Food and water for your trip.
- Blankets, pillows, and towels (particularly if headed to a public shelter).
- Contact information of friends/family/ physicians/service providers, and your insurance agency.
- A map and/or GPS device (you may end up far from home and detours are common).
- An emergency kit for your vehicle
- Your pet(s) and pet essential pet supplies.
- Any other items or information unique to your needs as emergency shelters might not have the items you need.