Saturday, August 27, 2011


This was posted to a Dobe email list by Marie-Alice Rousselle ( with permission to cross-post. VZ

I’m a Katrina survivor, living in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans.  Because of my Dobes, I’ve been evacuating for hurricanes since Andrew.  I had evacuated 6 times before Katrina.  I’ve developed a system, and thought I should share some ideas.

I didn’t flood after Katrina, but did not learn that for a week after Katrina.  That first week, I did not know if I had a home to return to.  And I was not able to return home to live for 3 weeks.   Jefferson Parish was barricaded for the first week, then we were only allowed to ‘look and leave’ (clean up fridges, secure property) between 10am and 4pm for 4 days, before the parish was on lockout for another two weeks.  Even then, only 1 grocery was open in Metairie for a couple of more weeks; no drug stores, only 1 or 2 gas stations for over a week after the return.  Luckily, few residents returned to live for the first 4 or 5 weeks, so lines were relatively short.

Down here, our big threat is hurricanes.  In other parts of the country, the threat may be flooding, blizzards, tornados, earthquakes or wildfires.  With hurricanes, we do have the advantage of usually at least 3 or 4 days warning, even a week or so of warning, while the other threats don’t usually provide such luxury.

Decide where you will go if the authorities declare an evacuation.  But don’t wait for an order of mandatory, or even voluntary, evacuation.  With dogs, we have to get out early – shelters don’t take animals, although since Katrina authorities have recognized the necessity of providing for pets.  (Many of those who died in New Orleans during Katrina had stayed behind because of difficulty of evacuating with pets).  There is now recognition of the need to consider pets, but this may mean a separate evacuation of pets to an animal shelter – not to the same shelter you may be forced to seek if you wait until l the last minute.

Don’t wait until the last minute if you suspect an evacuation will be necessary.  You don’t want to evacuate at 5 mph in gridlocked traffic.  If an evacuation is even considered, get out early!  Gas up your vehicle well in advance of an evacuation.  Don’t wait until the last minute or you might end up sitting in a gas line for hours.

Plan a destination.  If you live on a coast and will be fleeing a hurricane, identify locations far enough inland to stay safe.  For example, I always evacuate at least 3 hours north from the New Orleans area.  It may be necessary to consider a destination to the northeast or the northwest, depending on the forcast track.  Make hotel/motel reservations early enough.  If staying with friends or family, make those plans well in advance.

Start your Evacuation Things-to-take List.  Don’t wait until you are on the way out of the house to decide what to take.

Plan ahead for your immediate needs.  Clothing, medications (both prescription and over-the-counter), personal care items, ‘comfort’ items (a favorite robe or pillow can mean a lot during a lengthy evacuation).   Consider getting hardcopy prescriptions for all meds you take.  If you evacuate out of state, pharmacies may not be able to fill those prescriptions, but you should be able to get a doctor in the evacuation area to write prescriptions based on the hardcopies you carry.  I also keep a hardcopy of my latest prescription for eyeglasses in my evacuation kit.  Add to list.

Consider vital records.  You may want to keep a ‘grab at the last minute’ emergency file with these items.  Things such as: insurance policies (home, car, flood, fire, earthquake, etc), your health insurance cards, copies of house deeds or mortgage papers and car registration.  I always take the latest copy of all bills, such as utilities, credit cards, etc.  These were useful during the 3 weeks we were prohibited from returning after Katrina.  I was able to pay bills by phone or online with account numbers readily available.  Don’t forget your credit and debit cards and checkbook and extra books of checks.  After Katrina, some could not return home for a couple of months.  Some lost everything left behind.  It’s easier if you plan ahead.  If you haven’t done so yet, set up online banking and online access to your investment accounts.  Get extra cash early. Even if power is not lost, there may not be anyone to refill ATM’s at the last minute, and the lines could be very lengthy.   Add to list.

Pack both your home and car chargers for cell phone, GPS, and other electronic devices.  Add to list.

Stop and think – what items do you value the most?  Family photos, dog photos, dog collectibles, family heirlooms.  All of us have things we treasure.  Every time I have evacuated, it’s been with the understanding that I might never be able to return to my home.   What items are most important to you?  Plan to pack them.  (I always evacuate with the urns with my Dobes’ ashes.  I have been known to leave my jewelry box, and take my Utility Dobe’s scent articles!  

Back up vital files on your computer to a flash drive.  Bring the laptop with you.  You may even wish to bring the CPU from a desktop computer if you don’t have a laptop.  Have ahardcopy list of user id’s and passwords for online accounts, etc.  Add to list.

Bring a list of addresses and phone numbers for friends and family.  Yes, you have them in your contact list on your cellphone, but what if the phone battery dies?  And cellphone coverage can be very spotty in a disaster.  Don’t forget the old-fashioned hardcopy.  Add contact information for your employer.

Establish an out of town contact, a friend or relative, in a distant location.  This person can serve as a means of contact for your family and friends who may also be on the run.

Prepare an evacuation list for your dogs and other pets.  Have all their microchip numbers in one list.  Have a good color photo of each pet, in case one gets lost along the way and you need to identify it or make a ‘lost pet’ flyer.  Include current vet records – vaccine records, meds, special needs for each pet, a brief history of any serious health conditions.  Include on your list ‘comfort items’ for each pet.  Yes, you will probably remember crates, meds, food/water bowls, food and water.  But don’t forget that pet’s favorite blankie!  A favorite toy, extra collars and leads. A baby gate may come in handy if you are staying with family or friends.  Add to list.
Finally, pack your DPCA membership list!  We are blessed with a built-in network of ‘Dobe people.’  If you are on the run in my area, feel free to contact me for help.  I’m sure others will feel the same.  I had met the woman I got my last Dobe from only once – we had kept in touch by email, but were not close friends.  After Katrina, when it appeared the entire New Orleans area had flooded, she immediately emailed me to offer the loan of an RV.  She offered to drive it across half the country, hook it up, let me use it as long as necessary, then come back to drive it home when no longer needed.  Other Dobe and dog friends had similar offers of help from Dobe/dog people.  Friends moved in with obedience friends in other cities or states; one friend was offered an in-law apartment at the home of her dog’s breeder.

Other considerations will involve protecting your home.  Put up hurricane shutters if you have them.  Some turn off natural gas at the meter before evacuating (most of those house fires you saw burning in New Orleans after Katrina were due to broken gas lines, not looting!).  And with major hurricanes, I’ve added a new item to my To-Do list.  I will now turn off the faucets leading to my washer.  When I returned after Katrina, I found the washer half-full with water.  My niece found the same.  I assume the low pressure a major hurricane brings opened the check-valves into the washer, allowing the water to flow.  Luckily, the low pressure didn’t last long enough to allow the washer to overflow.  I’d hate to have the only damage from a hurricane be an overflowing washer!  So now I will turn off those faucets before evacuating.

It is prudent in hurricane country to keep only a minimal amount of food in refrigerators and freezers during the worst two months of hurricane season.  And you may wish to discard perishable foods before evacuating.  Three weeks without power turns your fridge into a Petrie dish!  It’s amazing what grows there.  (Those feeding the raw meat diet? Well, let’s just say their freezers weren’t a pretty sight!)

The most important thing – plan today!  Having a good plan, with lists of items you will evacuate with, destinations, etc, long before it is needed will make the stress of an emergency evacuation a little easier.

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