If you lived in the Greater Houston area in September 2005, Hurricane Rita would give many of us personal experience of the importance of proper evacuation planning. And although many of us knew the concept of contraflow, it would be the first time many would experience it in person.
From Hurricane Rita, many of us learned that if you are not in an evacuation zone or if you do not live in a unsafe home, you are safer to stock up on supplies and remain in place. This would be reinforced in 2008, when Hurricane Ike preparations would be summed in with the phrase “hunker down”.
Know your Risk and Zone
The first thing you need to do is find out if you live in a storm surge hurricane evacuation zone or if you’re in a home or structure that would be unsafe during a hurricane. If you are, figure out where you’d go and how you’d get there if told to evacuate. You do not need to travel hundreds of miles. Identify someone, perhaps a friend or relative who doesn’t live in a zone or unsafe home, and work it out with them to use their home as your evacuation destination.
To find out if you are in an evacuation zone and your evacuation route, there are several links available.
Ready Harris (Interactive Map)
FLASH.Org Evacuation Information (Combined Source of Several Area Maps)
What to do, before you go.
Once you have determined you are in an evacuation, make sure you have a plan outlined of what to do before you evacuate. Where will you go? What supplies do will you need? How do you prepare your home before you leave? All these things take time so be sure you prepare well in advance, meaning before a storm is foretasted for your area. Here are some resources for what to pack when evacuating.
Texas DPS Hurricane Evacuation
FLASH.org Flood Evacuation Plan
FLASH.org Hurricane Evacuation Plans
Don’t Forget about Your Furry Friends!
From my experiences from the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Brazos River floods, one of the biggest “items” left behind are pets. Many times animals, which can include horses and other livestock in addition to domestic pets, remain in cages or tied up in what many people “think” is safe ground. This can be the 2nd floor or in one case I am aware of, the attic. Finding the highest ground on a piece of property is also not the best idea when expecting high volumes of rain.
Leaving animals behind is not the only issue that occurs during evacuations. During Hurricane Harvey, we saw many groups try to setup “pet-friendly” shelters, but remember that most local shelters do not permit them.
Visit some of these sites for information related to evacuating with pets, but during events you can call your local Office of Emergency Management and/or other disaster related hotlines to get information on shelters including any that allow pets.
American Red Cross Pet Disaster Preparedness
National Humane Society Make a Disaster Plan for Your Pets
Helping Friends and Family
Many of us in the Greater Houston area are not within an evacuation zone and live in Hurricane safe housing, so we wonder why we should worry about evacuation plans. Chances are we all know someone who is. We can help make sure our friends and/or family who may be in a zone has a plan in place. Based on our location, we can act as a “safe” place for them to evacuate to. This will help shorten the drive required for evacuations as well as give evacuees the ability to stay closer to home. Together we can continue to be #HoustonStrong this upcoming Hurricane Season.