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Before You Leave

The most important thing to do before you leave is check on your neighbors. Make sure everyone has plans for sheltering or evacuating. Let friends know where you are going, find out where they will be, and get contact numbers.

Get the children in the house and let them start to help with packing and preparing. Having work to do, like packing their clothes and toys, can keep children calm and help you get ready faster. Bring in your pets. Put them on a leash or in a carrier if you are taking them with you. This way they will not be under foot and will be there when you are ready to leave.

Start outside and secure your property as much as possible. Bring in lawn furniture, awnings, garden tools, etc. Donít leave anything out that can blow around, leak chemicals or burn. If you are evacuating before a hurricane, board up windows. If you are evacuating because of fire, rake the yard free of dead leaves, grass, plants and anything else that can bring the fire to your house.

Turn off propane gas tanks. These are a frequent source of fire. If they float or shift, they are less likely to explode or burn if they have been shut off. Do not turn off natural gas service unless you have been instructed to do so by disaster officials. You must not turn natural gas back on yourself, so you may have to wait a long time to get service back.

Shut off the water to the house. The main shut off may be outside or inside. Know where it is and how to turn the water on and off. If water service is not interrupted, it is no problem to turn the water back on when you return. If the city water is contaminated, having your house water shut off will preserve some fresh water in the house and keep your pipes from being contaminated.

Inside, turn off the electricity at the main breaker box. Start by throwing the individual breakers. Once all of these are disconnected, then throw the main breaker. Unplug major appliances and electronics, including the refrigerator, television, computer and clothes dryer. Unplug everything that can be hurt by power surges or brownouts.

Empty the refrigerator and leave the door open. Rotten food can ruin a refrigerator with its smell. Double bag all trash and garbage. If you have a dumpster available, put the trash in it. If not, put it in the garage or a storage area where the smell is least likely to spread through the house.

Once you have packed what you need to take and secured the house inside and out, check on your neighbors one more time. If everyone is OK, then load the family and evacuate.