During hurricane season, the decision to evacuate is often a personal one. But there are times when the decision to evacuate is mandatory, and also, when it is the only safe option for you and your family.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding whether or not you should evacuate. These questions are not the only questions that you should ask yourself when making your decision to evacuate, but they might give you some guidance. Also, never leave your pets behind when evacuating your residence.

1) Do you live in an evacuation area?

There are certain areas – usually within close proximity to the beach – that the county designates as evacuation areas. If there is a storm coming your way, then the county officials will likely begin ordering evacuations. Usually, the evacuations are voluntary in the beginning, but when it is almost certain that the storm will be coming to your area, the evacuation orders will become mandatory. It is important that you heed mandatory evacuation orders. The areas that have been designated evacuation areas have been chosen for a reason – they are not safe during a storm, so you must leave. Otherwise, you could be in harm’s way with no one who can get to you during and after the storm if bridges are washed out, etc.

2) Are you unable to take care of yourself or your family in the event that your home is damaged and/or you have no power for an extended period of time?

If you are aware that you cannot take care of yourself or your loved ones, then it is probably a good idea to evacuate to a safe place well before the storm comes ashore. An example of someone who should probably go elsewhere would be someone who has a medical condition and a lack of power could cause the condition to worsen.

3) Is your home unsafe?

A few years back, South Florida was hit by two storms back to back. The majority of the people who went through the first storm weren’t even able to clean up before the second storm hit. Many of us had homes that were still compromised from the first storm. The roof at my place was damaged during the first storm and during the second, the entire ceiling caved in under the weight of the water. Good thing I decided to evacuate during the second storm. So if your home is not safe because you have some type of structural damage (for whatever reason), then it is probably a good idea to find someplace else to go.

4) Are you required to evacuate because of the type of home you live in?

There are certain types of homes that people are required to evacuate from if the live in them. The most popular home of this type is the mobile home. Mobile home residents are always supposed to leave their residences during a hurricane because mobile homes are not strong enough to withstand the winds of hurricanes. If you think that your mobile home will survive, just take a look at the pictures of hurricanes past. There are always pictures of mobile home parks that have been completely destroyed. And remember, during a hurricane, the police and fire department cannot help you if your home collapses and you are trapped. They have to wait until the winds die down to rescue people. So if you live in a mobile home, get out!

5) Do you live in a low-lying area?

If you know from experience that the area you live in is prone to flooding, then you might consider evacuating. I lived in an area a few years back that was practically under water after a tropical storm dumped 21 inches of rain on us. We were flooded in for days. If you would rather be somewhere that is not prone to flooding, then you might want to stay elsewhere during the storm.

Again, you should not base your decision to evacuate your home solely on these questions. Even if you answer no to all of these questions, it is entirely okay if you want to evacuate. The important thing is that you feel safe and that you are safe.