Planning for a temporary emergency shelter during a weather or man-made disaster will mean the difference between struggling or surviving during these kinds of emergencies. Start planning and taking action now so that you are better prepared to shelter your family in an emergency situation.
Emergencies that require you to evacuate your home may be weather related such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and winter weather. Man-made disasters like factory explosions, hazardous materials incidents on the railways and highways or other similar events.
Camping equipment is a great resource as temporary shelter. If your family goes camping regularly, you can definitely use your tents as temporary shelters. Tents are lightweight, portable and generally easy to set up just about anywhere. However, in some weather emergencies, tents do not necessarily provide sufficient protection from all of the elements like wind, snow and ice. You should consider that the weather will break, often sooner than your ability to get back home, so tents and soft sided structures can still be helpful. Make sure that you have sufficient tent space for a long duration evacuation. While tents may suggest that they can “sleep” a specified number of people, generally dividing that number at least half is wise. In other words, have twice as much tent space as is recommended by sleeping capacity.
Campers such as pop-ups, pull-behind campers and RVs also make great temporary shelters. If you have one, consider using it for your evacuation. However, don’t assume that you will have facilities to plug in for power, water and sewer. Expect many improved campsites to be already taken when you arrive. Opt for choices like a smaller pull-behind or pop-up camper over a large RV. Smaller means that you’ll be more agile.
Commercial temporary emergency shelters are available from many different manufacturers, but they generally come with a large price tag. If you have a large group or specific needs or risks, you might consider a more specific shelter like these. Many of these shelter systems include water, composting bathrooms and event generators. If you have a preedefined need for temporary emergency shelters and have the financial resources, these options are available and can be staged in your garage, or other locations, ready for you to use when you need them.
Sleeping in your car should be a last resort. However, if you are alone the back seat of your car can make for a reasonable shelter for several days or weeks. Make sure to park your car in a safe place, out of harm’s way. So stay off of the highway, park uphill from any streams and consider your car as a part of your base camp. At least this is better than sleeping on the ground.
Shelter-in-place is often suggested by emergency managers for situations where it is too difficult or too late to evacuate. If you are going to use your own house or office as a shelter, preparation is key. Filling the bathtubs with water will provide you with a water source even if the city water supply stops flowing. Plastic bags can be used to seal doors or windows. The BBQ grill is an excellent resource for cooking once the electricity goes out. The fresh food in the fridge can be useful for immediate needs and canned or boxed foods for the next several days. Sheltering in place often is the only choice if you’re stuck, but in some situations, personal safety is more important especially considering wildfires, flood waters or man-made disasters.
Families with small children will need to make appropriate adjustments as part of their emergency shelter plan. Consider setting up safe play areas, away from campfires and other hazards. A play pen for a baby or small toddlers is often practical. Don’t forget to have a place and the tools to clean up, especially after diaper changes and other messiness that younger kids are known for. For older kids, some rope or yarn might be useful in setting up a designated kid zone where kids know boundaries for safety. A portable toilet is an invaluable part of your emergency shelter for those with small bladders! Don’t forget to stash lots of extra toilet paper in your emergency kit.
If you evacuate with your pets, consider that many locations may not be able to accommodate your pet inside the shelter. Cats and smaller pets will need to be caged. Dogs will need long leashes, chains and other resources to keep them safely restrained. An outside dog house might be a great idea for your dog to sleep nearby your camper, RV or pop-up. Don’t forget to bring a litter box for the cat, with plenty of spare litter. When pets are stressed, they often change their bathroom habits, so be prepared to clean up the messes. The most important thing for your pet is to establish a good bathroom, watering and feeding routine.
Temporary shelters during a disaster come in many different varieties. This article covered some options that you might choose that are within your own control. While many organizations will provide temporary shelter in school cafeterias, fire halls and other public buildings, having your own resources ready to go will put you in a much stronger position to survive and thrive when you need temporary emergency shelter.
Guest Post: Nick Giacobe
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