How to prepare for an emergency evacuation

Canyon Country evacuee Merlyn Reeves and her dog Dixie check the evacuation area map on display at College of the Canyon evacuation Center in Valencia on Friday, October 25, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Gov. Gavin Newsom just shared we’ve had more than 1 million acres burn this year, one of the worst fire seasons in history. 

And in the midst of the fires, multiple alerts about earthquakes also raised alarms recently for some section of the seismology community. 

From earthquakes to floods to wildfires, the Santa Clarita Valley — and the rest of California — is no stranger to these unexpected emergency situations residents ensure time after time. An unfortunate combination of high winds, low humidity levels and dry conditions make wildfires an unpredictable disaster. Fire officials say the best way to be prepared in case you need to evacuate is to have everything ready in advance.

First responders and emergency managers have stressed that preparation is key but in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a new layer of challenges, urging experts to stress the importance of staying ready. 

“Making sure that we’re taking active steps to stay safe and know what to do is of paramount importance,” said Helen Chávez, associate director of the Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management. “We’re living in a state of emergency, and it’s a reality that, unlike other times where they’re short-lived, this is a test of endurance. So, it’s important to have a plan with your family and loved ones.” 

Emergency officials from the city of Santa Clarita, the county and state agree one way to start preparing is by sitting down with those in your household to set up a plan. 

Create a plan 

A solid plan should include every member of your household, said Chavez, who added that there are 10 essential parts to consider when creating what you and your unit will do in case of an emergency. 

Start by familiarizing yourself with the threats in your area to learn steps to reduce personal risk. In the SCV, for example, there are portions of the valley that are considered high risk for fires and floods, and others that are near or on an earthquake fault zone, according to, which allows users to discover hazards in an area by entering a ZIP code or address. 

Next, try to identify locations to meet with your family in case you separate or aren’t together following an emergency. These places can be outside of your home or your neighborhood, for example. 

Keep an out-of-state contact or of someone who lives outside of the affected area, said Monica Vargas, public information officer for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. 

Connecting with neighbors and setting up a plan can also help during an emergency, as communities may include individuals in need of special support, such as pregnant women, non-English speakers, post-survey patients and people with physical or emotional disabilities. 

Other essential actions include knowing evacuation routes, maintaining an inventory of medications those in your household may need and identifying safe locations within your home to take cover, such as under a firm table or against interior walls. 

To find out additional points to consider for your plan, visit

Set up a ‘Go’ bag 

Every emergency situation is different and may require different preparation but having a “Go” bag ready is important in all incidents. The American Red Cross recommends a three-day supply evacuation kit and a two-week emergency supply stay-at-home kit. 

Remember to add supplies based on the needs of each member in your household, such as for babies and older adults, games and activities for children, as well as medical supplies including hearing aides, syringes, glasses and contacts.  

Don’t forget about your pets, as leaving them out of the plan can put your household unit and/or first responders at risk during an emergency, said Chavez. Some items to consider adding in a pet emergency kit include: 

Food and water for at least one week. 

Supplies such as leashes, carriers, bowls, can openers, plastic lids and cat litter. 

Any medications and medical records. 

A firstaid kit. 

Name tags and current photos in case your pet gets lost. 

For large animals, such as horses, evacuate when your area is issued an evacuation warning, have transportation ready and train animals to lead and trailer so they can become comfortable with the process, according to

Evacuation centers

With an ongoing pandemic, evacuation centers and shelters have established health safety precautions, such as limiting capacity at a facility, requiring the use of face masks, physical distancing and sanitizing. 

Amid recent wildfires in California, however, many affected families have found refuge in hotels and others have stayed in their cars. 

“Regardless of where people evacuate, the same safety principles, like constant cleaning and wearing face masks, that we already practice day-to-day apply,” said Chavez. “They are also free and services are offered regardless of immigration or economic status.”

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