Evacuation Do’s and Dont’s

For those of you who are like me you never expect something so catastrophic to happen to you… until it does and there’s way too much info everywhere that in the end you only end up missing mostly everything?

Well for those who have missed my posts on IG last year, my family had to evacuate numerous times because of the fires near our home on the west coast along with the hazardous air quality that became unbreathable.

With the situation we were in, I literally only had a few hours notice of the need to evacuate because of how fast the fires were spreading near our home. While we did see days in advance that we were a few miles away from the fires however the evacuation notifications came to us before we were even prepared for it.

Our skies started off smoky.

So because I feel that I’m now slightly an expert in this area since well… I’ve had to evacuate twice and all… I would love to share a few do’s and dont’s when it comes to evacuating. You can either take some of these pointers for future reference if it happens to you or have a good laugh reading what was missed and how we dealt with the situation… because if you can’t laugh at yourself for what you’ve done wrong then I feel like you can’t really move on and progress.

The next day this is all we could see outside. It was incredibly eerie.

Let’s start with the Do’s:

1. Do have a plan of where your family will need to meet in case you are not together. Be VERY specific on the location and what to do if one doesn’t show up in the allotted time.

In our case when we had to evacuate, my husband and I were driving separate cars with the notion of dropping off my husband’s car miles away from the fires while using my car to travel. We were supposed to meet at his mom’s house while I was going to get gas first (yes I’m one of those that likes to fill up my car when it is completely on empty), and the gas station was near my mother-in-law’s home. With so many cars on the road while we were all evacuating our city, people were driving like maniacs and multiple times almost crashed into us trying to get away but this also resulted in me losing sight of my husband’s car. I got gas and went to my mother-in-law’s house and waited where we agreed to meet. 20 minutes I waited and NOTHING.

Mind you during a hectic time like this the 20 minutes felt like an eternity and the tears started rolling down my face because my mind was already playing the my-husband-is-lying-on-the-side-of-road scenario since I didn’t know where he was and couldn’t get ahold of him.. (more on why later). I did stay somewhat composed since my daughter was in the car with me. My husband finally showed up and said he thought we were meeting up at the gas station. 🤦🏽‍♀️ I was literally just seconds away from leaving with anxiety through the roof if he wasn’t going to show up. And after sharing my stresses to my husband, off we went.

2. Pack only the necessities needed for the evacuation – clothes for one week, toiletries/hygiene care to last a week, family keepsakes, money, passports/important documents.

Map of where the fires were that were so close to our home.
This was our reality; evacuating. Still remember feeling as if we were in some kind of scary movie.

With us getting a couple hours notice that we should evacuate, and the fires were only a few miles away from our home, panic crept in. While even trying to keep a level head there were sooo many things going through our mind like:

“Where should we go that is safe in the event the fires keep spreading?”

“Should we drive only a couple hours away so we can return to our home if we need to or drive a state away to ensure our safety but worry about our home?”

“If our house burns down what items should we take?”

“If the house doesn’t burn down what items should we feel safe leaving behind?”

“What if the looters get our items we leave behind?”

And on and on our heads swam with too many questions without really fully knowing what to do. Without dealing with something like this before or even having enough time to prepare for something like this we did what any normal person would do; we packed a lot of things into our car. I mean have you ever gone on a trip thinking you’ll wear this cute outfit and those cute shoes but never do? Yep that’s what our bags pretty much consisted of. And we even brought a couple days worth of food without considering that where we would go more than likely would have fast food restaurants even during these pandemic times.

We definitely overpacked.

3. Have a plan ready for where your pets will go in case you need to evacuate; whether to a friend who is staying behind or to take them with you.

Even our kitty was making sure we were not leaving him behind.

Without really knowing whether we would return home in a couple days or knowing who to leave our kitty with since we weren’t really prepared for evacuation we ended up taking our kitty with us. We grabbed his litter box, food, and cat carrier. When we chose to go to a city that seemed safe at the time we didn’t realize how much stress our kitty was going to deal with while sitting in the cat carrier. The 90 mile drive to The Dalles was stressful with hearing our kitty meowing away half the time. And the 90 mile back home really wasn’t that fun either for him. So with all that’s happened I suggest having a friend ready where you can drop off your kitty at who is quite far from the fires or at least being more prepared such as having calming treats, a bigger cat carrier, or even an anti-anxiety jacket for your kitty would help significantly.

While waiting in stand-still traffic.

Now the don’ts:

1. Don’t forget to charge your phone before evacuating or at least have a phone charger in your car.

In our case after reading the first point of the Dos, I mentioned we will come back to on why I couldn’t reach my husband when I lost sight of his car when we were evacuating. Well… it’s because his phone died pretty much as soon as we got out on the road AND he forgot his phone charger at home. 😔 Mind you though since then, he always has a phone charger in his car. Because things are so unexpected when it comes to evacuating it is so vital to be prepared such as it was with us when the manic drivers distanced us apart.

Right before me and my husband were separated; right around the time he called me to tell me his phone was dying and he didn’t have a charger.

2. Don’t separate from your family; especially from your immediate family.

This one seems to be an obvious one but truthfully during such high stressful situations things are said or done with thoughts that may benefit the person only. In our instance we had left our city, due to being told we needed to evacuate, to a city that was 90 miles away from where we lived. With the thought that it was definitely far enough from the fires and evacuation notices but not so far away if we had to return back home within a couple hours. And for a day it was glorious, we had escaped the toxic air and we could breathe again.

45 minutes into our drive away from our home we finally saw blue skies. It was beautiful!
Our tired faces after completing our drive.

Until the next morning we awakened to the smell of hazardous smoke again realizing that the smoke came through the valley and followed us all the way there.

After escaping to The Dalles we ended up waking to worse air quality than our home that we left 90 miles away.
Air quality at home but was worse at The Dalles.

Now in the process of deciding on heading to another city that had better air quality, my husband received an email from his children’s mother inviting only himself to stay with her and her family over the weekend due to the fires and evacuations. Leaving for me to wonder what would happen to me and my daughter if he had considered going there. But without hesitation my husband politely declined the invitation and chose to keep me and our daughter safe during this scary and stressful time.

And I encourage the same to others; to always stick together with your family and you’ll get through it stronger than ever before.

Staying together boosted our moral.

Ultimately in our case it all eventually worked out. We ended up driving to Lincoln Beach for better air quality and experienced a fog-like look like never before.

Literally felt like we were in the middle of the movie Mist.

While the air quality was not the best at the beach it was still better than the air quality in our city which was still hazardous. After staying away for a couple days in hopes that the air quality would get better… it did enough for us to finally return home. With home-made air purifiers (since we didn’t have one at the time, which I have bought a good one since) going at full blast we finally made it through this catastrophic event in 2020.

Home-made air purifiers working hard while closing off the windows and doors.

By now I hope some of our mishaps has left you laughing with full ideas of what to do and what not to do if you’ll ever need to evacuate. And if there’s anything to come away with all that’s happened I am so thankful that our family was safe through it all and stronger together than ever before.

After our ordeal we definitely got stronger and even had some memorable moments. 😂

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