By Russ and Tiña De Maris
In Part 1 of this story, Your RV Disaster Plan, we talked about how to prepare your RV for use in a disaster. In our concluding part, let’s cover the more personal aspects of disaster preparedness.
Are you documented?
Having copies of important documents in the rig will prevent you from having to run about trying to scoop them up if an emergency comes up. If you have a document scanner, by all means, lay these out and make electronic images of them. No scanner? At least take a good, non-blurry photo of each. Store these images on a flash drive or “memory stick,” and keep it safely stashed in the RV.
Driver license or government ID. Passport. List of critical phone numbers (best to have a paper copy, too). Health insurance card. Copies of your credit and debit cards. Bank statements that show account numbers. Social Security card. Medicare card. A list of your health conditions, allergies, prescription drug list.
Other documents you might also have and need include: Original Will. Living Trust document. Letter of instruction to your heirs. Durable financial and/or health power-of-attorney. Living Will. Home and land ownership documents, cemetery plots, vehicle titles, stock certificates. Partnership and corporation agreements. List of any brokerage or mortgage documents. Loan agreements. Three years’ tax returns. List of internet accounts and log-in information. Safe deposit box information. Life insurance policies. Pensions, annuities, IRAs and 401Ks. Marriage license. Child support orders, and similar.
You can see how having a flatbed scanner could really help in putting this together. Once the information is copied to a flash drive, encrypt it with a strong, but memorable password so if someone else gets ahold of it, they won’t be able to steal your information.
Know your escape routes
It’s best to think ahead. If you receive a sudden evacuation order, you’ll need to know where to go, and how to get there. It’s best to have more than one route in mind. What if your “normal” drive is blocked by, say, a wildfire or hazardous material spill? Is there an alternative route to get away safely? Be sure to take into account height, weight, and width restrictions that might bog your RV down. Your RV disaster plan should include making a practice run.
In a similar vein, if you’re traveling through parts of the country susceptible to hazardous weather, it’s good to know your options. It’s not a bad idea to have an emergency alert receiver that warns you of impending hazardous weather – we’ll cover more on that in a minute. When you’re staying in an RV park, find out where the nearest shelter is. Some campgrounds in high-risk areas have shelters already in place. Trip planning? Here’s a link to a list of campgrounds (by state) with on-site shelters.
In the nation’s “Tornado Alley,” some government agencies have installed storm shelters for highway users. Texas has a huge network of shelters in some highway rest stops. The Kansas City Turnpike Authority likewise has shelters available. If your travels take you through storm-prone areas, take the time to do an internet search to find out where shelters are along your route.
Staying in touch with loved ones in a major disaster will be challenging. Here’s where advance preparation comes into play. Uncle Sam’s emergency planners at FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommend every family member has a “contact card” they keep with them. You can get one for free on the internet from ready.gov. Fill it out online, print it out, and be ready.
Since communications within a disaster area may be down, think of calling out. You may be able to call out of an area, so find a friend or relative who’ll act as your central contact – best in a different state. Everyone should call that person to let them know their status. If your contact allows it, get their voice mail system’s security code. If they don’t answer, you can check and see if other loved ones have left messages.
Cell phones are great—when they work. If you find you can’t make a call, try text messaging. Often text messaging will work, even when voice is down. Make sure you have a phone charger or two in your RV at all times, one that’s not dependent on shore power to work.
An addition to cell phones
For communication among the group in your RV, having a set of walkie-talkies is another idea to explore. They’ll work even when cell service is down. Of course, distance is limited. Many use Family Radio Service (FRS) units. They’re not expensive, and don’t require a license for use. A longer-range system called GMRS [General Mobile Radio Service] is also relatively inexpensive, and shares some channels used by FRS units. Some units include a weather alert radio function. It provides official National Weather Service forecasts and alerts. We’re currently testing these systems, and will have a report for you soon.
If your group isn’t together when a disaster breaks out and the RV needs to “get out of Dodge,” you’ll all need to meet up. As part of your escape route planning, plan a “meetup” location. If communications are cut off, then you’ll still be able to get with your loved ones. It’s all part of your RV disaster plan.
What’s your take?
Have you had to use your RV in a disaster? We’d like to hear your experiences. Please drop us a line at Russ [atsign] rvtravel.com.