Make sure your family has shelter options

Suppose the Emergency Management office has issued a mandatory evacuation order for your area. Your family and loved ones are all present. Where are you going to go? What do you need to take with you? Can Fluffy and Fido go, too? If you have been working on your family safety plan, those questions will have already been answered. All you have to do is load up and head to safer ground.

Most people go to family out of the immediate danger area. If you don’t have that option things become more complicated. When I lived in Mississippi, every time I headed away from an incoming hurricane it was a major trial. I never had the extra money for gas or motel rooms. To top it all off the banks were closed and the debit card didn’t always work. The main roads were bumper to bumper. Gas along the way became scarce. A trip that should only take an hour became a three-hour tour like Gilligan’s Island. So how do you make this ordeal easier?

There are a couple of options available if you can’t go to family or friends. Leaving the area is one, going to a shelter is another.

Let’s discuss a shelter situation first. You will be camping indoors basically. Each family member will need blankets and a pillow. If you have cots or an air mattress take it. Think ahead to the little things that can make life bearable. Water, nonperishable snack foods and soda are good to have. Battery operated light, a radio or TV will help you stay informed. Remember to bring extra batteries. If you need prescription medications, have at least 10 days’ worth. If you need a walker, wheel chair or cane, take them. Make sure you have enough diapers and formula and other baby “stuff” you may need. Important paperwork like birth certificates and insurance paperwork can save you time and money after the fact. Books and games the family enjoys will help keep them occupied. Keep in mind that the shelter will not be responsible for your personal valuables. I have learned that toilet paper is king. I never leave home without it.

Can Fido and Fluffy go with you to the shelter? Not all shelters will accept pets. In this area, Camp Pioneer’s Red Cross shelter has a separate area that can accept kenneled cats and dogs. You will be responsible for providing food and caring for your pet. Make sure that you bring the appropriate health documentation. Please contact the Red Cross in advance to insure they have space for your pet.

Leaving the area is the second option. It is wise to have a destination in mind before you leave. Call ahead and make reservations for your motel room. If you are traveling with pets make sure they are welcome. Not having a destination and room reservation prior to leaving will generally mean a much longer distance driven. All of the other people creating the gridlock on the highway will need a place to stay as well.

If you have ice chests take them with you. You will want to fill them with ice on your way home. If you have a portable generator, make sure you take your gas “cans” with you as well. It is mandatory to take cash with you to cover your needs when you return home.

Once again, your bank cards may not work if the banks in the area have no electricity. Another thought is to make sure all of your laundry is clean before you return home. Clean clothes can become a real issue. It seems to be small issues that offer the most frustration.

When I closed and locked my door for the last time prior to Katrina, I “knew” that my life as I had known it was gone. I took family pictures, important paperwork and my work uniforms. At the end of the day I had family pictures, important paperwork and my work uniforms.

I wish that I had made a plan prior to the evacuation. If that had been the case I might have started the next phase with more. Remember, a wildfire or mudslide could put you in the same position. Once again. make a family safety plan, think ahead.

The Office of Emergency Management will have additional information available at the Hooked On Fishing Not On Drugs event at the Elkins High School gym Saturday and Sunday. Please stop by to see us. If we can help you in any way, I can be reached at