Prepare Every Needful Thing

"If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear"

Emergency and Disaster Response–July 2015

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Home Evacuation Plans—Part One: The 60-Second Plan


(This evacuation series is being re-run from 2013.)

In planning for home evacuation, we will deal with four general timeframes based on the type of emergency leading to the evacuation.  Each will require a different approach and mind-set.  They can be divided up as follows:

  1. 60-second evacuation: house fire or other fast-moving catastrophe—requires you to leave your house with just the first thing(s) you can grab and a pair of shoes.
  2. 1-hour evacuation: approaching wildfire or slower-moving catastrophe—you have a little more time to secure your home and gather belongings.
  3. 12-hour evacuation: Approaching danger, such as a hurricane—more time to secure and gather.
  4. 72-hour evacuation: Slow-moving disaster, think weather systems again—time to make purchases, harden your home against weather or ill-intentioned humans, secure or hide belongings to be left behind, map out evacuation routes , etc.

Over the next couple of months, we will discuss how to plan for each of these.

60-Second Plan

This will fall into the same basic pattern for everyone and it will need to be memorized so that you act automatically.  In the case of a significant house fire, you will have less than two minutes to safely evacuate (click here for video illustration—note the time between the sounding of the smoke alarm and the complete destruction of the room) and this is not enough time to think things through and make decisions.  Have every household member who is able, memorize the steps in bold and then drill regularly.  If you have small children, quarterly drills are recommended as little ones will often panic and hide in a crisis situation.

  1.  Sound the Alarm.  Use any possible means to get everyone’s attention as quickly as possible.  Make sure that you have a smoke alarm in every bedroom and on every floor.
  2. Communicate.  Decide how you will alert the members of your household to danger.  Describe the emergency and give directions in as few words as possible, such as “Fire! Get out!” or “Earthquake! Mail box (see #7)!” and repeat until everyone has heard and followed directions.
  3. Are Children (or physically disabled) in Danger?
    YES – Rescue & Escape
    NO – Continue
  4. Can you safely retrieve your 72-hr (backpack) Kit?
    NO – Escape
    YES – 72-hr Kit Mantra
  5. 72-hr Kit Mantra (acronym B.A.G.S.):
    BAG—this is your 72-hour backpack kit or other emergency pack *
    ASSETS—items of monetary or sentimental value only if easy to grab
    GUN—if you have one, to protect your family and life-sustaining belongings
    SHOES—protect your feet from injury
  6. ESCAPE!  Draw a simple map of your dwelling and determine 2 exits to every room.  Purchase equipment, such as fire escape ladders, and trim (or plant!) surrounding shrubbery to make window escapes as safe as possible.  Make sure that these exits are always accessible and not blocked by furniture or other items.
  7. Meet up. Establish a safe meeting place, out of the way of potential emergency vehicles, but close enough for everyone to reach quickly so you can be sure that everyone got out.

*See the 72-hour Kit segment in this month’s newsletter for instructions on assembling an appropriate kit for a 60-second evacuation.


(I have drawn HEAVILY on the ideas and recommendations of a Hurricane Katrina survivor for the sections on evacuation.  Unfortunately, although his website is an absolute wealth of knowledge, his language is very crude and I don’t feel great about linking directly to it.  However, wanting to give credit where credit is due, if you would like to visit his site, run a search on “the place with no name Katrina” and it should be your top result.)

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