Last Minute Emergency Evacuation Tips Learned from Hurricane Harvey

Don’t let a last minute evacuation derail you from your preparedness plans. Keep your family safe with these last minute emergency evacuation tips learned during Hurricane Harvey that apply to any natural disaster and evacuation.

Keep your family safe with these last minute emergency evacuation tips learned during Hurricane Harvey that apply to any natural disaster and evacuation.

To hear a woman begging for help to get her husband out of their home before the flood waters drown them is a sobering thing. I spent the last week listening to calls and stories just like this, of families desperate for help, and heroes who came to their rescue.

I don’t say this to bring any glory to myself, but to explain why this set of last minute evacuation tips came to be.

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I used to be fairly judgmental of folks who didn’t evacuate when a disaster struck and they were effected, when they had time to get out. I always thought…”why didn’t you leave? You knew and you stayed. Don’t put someone else’s life on the line because you were too stubborn to leave.”

While I do still think that for people who have been told to evacuate, who are able-bodied, have the means to do so, and just choose to stay, I have a whole different thought process on those that stay behind because they simply cannot leave.

“Sometimes, the disaster is so big that no amount of preparedness helps, and you just need help.”

Those who are infirm, have no family to help, are without transportation in a world built for single car/single driver travel, live in a city so vast that authorities cannot arrange mass transportation to get out, and are simply stuck in a world overcome by a disaster so vast no one could have expected the damage.

Sitting and listening to dispatch calls this week, arranging rescue boats to pick up people whose stories I will now weep over forever, I picked up a few last minute tips for anyone, regardless if you are in a flood, in a fire situation or stuck from any other disaster situation.

And please….please please please, I can only beg you … prepare your families. Please don’t let your life be in the balance because you said, “Yeah, I should get on that. I’ll do it later.” For some, there wasn’t a later.

Even after preparing and thinking that things would be okay, it may happen that you find yourself needing emergency evacuation after the storm has passed. Here are some ….

Last Minute Evacuation Tips Learned from Hurricane Harvey


And I mean anyone – even those prepared – can be devastated during a natural disaster. Sometimes, the disaster is just bigger than anything that we can do.


Sometimes your neighbors may need help even if you think your area is good. Especially the elderly or those with medical needs/concerns. If you can get them with you to help, or you can go to them and stay with them, your presence can actually save their life.


Keep an emergency bag handy that you can grab and go with. Even those who were having to escape to the roof – an emergency bag with food and water and tarps could help while they were waiting. And grab your meds!

This should include your Family Emergency Binder (with info also on a memory stick) so that you will have documents you need when dealing with shelters and the aftermath. Put them in waterproof pouches.

• Tip – Get your free downloadable, printable checklist here. No email signup needed. Just grab it and go create your kit!


If you need help, hop on social media and ask for it. Screen shot your home address, name, telephone #, and special needs. Get in contact with rescue groups on Facebook, Tweet info with # to the emergency, get the Zello app and connect up with rescuers (it is an app that makes your phone a walkie-talkie), register yourself on rescue databases. ASK FOR HELP!

• Tip – PLEASE put your phone number on the image. Rescuers may need to call you for confirmation on your location not only to be sure of where you are, but that you are really you and they aren’t being ambushed. They also need to know you are still in need so that they don’t waste manpower if you’ve already been rescued.


If you are in a flood zone (or near one), mount an axe to the rafters. If you get stuck in the attic, rescuers cannot get to you and you may flood out. Give yourself an out. You can use two utility or bicycle hooks to screw into the rafter, then hang the axe across them.

• Keep a pair of work gloves hanging on those hooks, too, to help protect your hands if you have to move wood. And from a Facebook suggestion from one of the Family Preparedness members, keep a flashlight strapped there as well. If you can, keep some inflatable life vests in a bag near, with paracord or other ways to lash folks together or pull each other up if needed.


If flood waters are rising, turn off the electricity at your panel if at all possible. Quite a few lives were lost this week due to electrocution. And be careful where you are walking outside your home. Flood waters, smoke or debris can hide live wires.


If you are waiting for evacuation – make it easier for first responders to find you by putting a white sheet or cloth on your door, window, or on the roof. It’s easier to spot than a human waving if they are far away or in the air.


Rescuers get information that is sometimes garbled, and they may go the wrong address on a street. Or they try to yell to you for confirmation, but they can’t hear your voice back. Get a good whistle or air horn to put in your evacuation supplies so that you can signal for help when you hear the trucks and boats pass by.

• Tip — Even grabbing pots and pans from your kitchen is enough to carry across water or distance. Just make some noise so they can find you!


Even if you aren’t evacuated, post disaster, especially in something like a flood, is when you cannot get supplies easily. Transport routes may be out. Keep enough food and water for 4-5 days at least, but up to two weeks is especially important in larger scale disasters.

Here is a story of a family that I helped this week. The storm started on Saturday and was still effecting families days later. This family had nothing – no edible food, no water, nothing. There was nothing in the house. And they’d been stuck in rising flood waters for two days. They had three little ones and a grandparent with them.

They didn’t have water or food because it had been damaged by the flood. They just had no food because they didn’t keep food stocked on the shelves in their home. They purchased fresh food every other day to cook with, and had little in the way of food that was easily opened, could be eaten without electricity, and relied on city water, which was turned off, of course.  First responders don’t always have supplies with them, so this family still had to wait, even after they were rescued, for transport to the local shelter.

They never thought to have a few cans of soup and extra water stored away. They never thought to grab some crackers and fill some bottles with water when they hid in the attic.

You may have an extended ice storm or flood or even fire that makes restocking from stores impossible for days. You may need to share with neighbors who have nothing. You can invest in a water container for your bathtub to fill to have potable water for days and days!

• If you need to build a pantry able to sustain your family with foods you love, check out this Build a Better Pantry challenge that can get you started. No freeze dried foods, no expensive survival foods – unless you want to!

Again, I want to emphasize that this is not a tale of judgement. I just need to implore you that even though you may never face a flood evacuation in your area, there are other natural disasters that force everyday people to live in extraordinary circumstances that need a little preparation.

Don't wait for a weatherman to tell you it's time to prepare for a hurricane. Take matters into your own hands and get your family and home prepared!


You may have other suggestions, so please leave them down in the comments below. These are just ones that I learned this week. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Don't let a last minute evacuation derail you from your preparedness plans. Keep your family safe with these last minute emergency evacuation tips learned during Hurricane Harvey that apply to any natural disaster and evacuation.

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Becky is a wildlife enthusiast and pet and livestock care expert with a diploma in canine nutrition. With over a decade of experience in animal welfare, Becky lends her expertise to Simple Family Preparedness through insightful info about pets, livestock, bee keeping, and the practicalities of homesteading.

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