Wednesday, July 5, 2006

How to prepare for a military pack-out

The procedure of being packed and moved by the military begins at your local Personal Property Office (PPO) or Transportation Management office (TMO). Both the service member receiving permanent change of station (PCS) orders and the spouse should attend the appointment to set up the move, especially if you are new to the military. Spouses are often tasked with carrying out the move alone when the Sailor or Marine is sent ahead to a duty station or on a deployment.

Tools to use

If a spouse is unable to be present for this appointment, there are other avenues. The Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Household Goods Web site is the perfect destination for just about everything you ever wanted to know about packing, loading and transporting your property. It's Your Move is also published online, so you can read it well in advance at your convenience. Smart Web Move is a newly developed site for setting up moves online. It's offered in select locations, with many more to follow.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Before setting up a pack-and-load day, decide how you want to work out lodging arrangements at both ends. Keep in mind that you may need to use the paid lodging time at your new location for house hunting. If you arrange for your goods to be picked up early, determine whether you'll stay with friends, in a hotel, or camp out in your empty house.

It is advisable not to set up your pack-and-load days right up to the date of your departure. Give yourself a buffer of a day or more to decrease the level of stress during this time.

Pay attention

The most important aspect of your pack-out day is the requirement of your attention. Two people should be present in the home on pack-and-load day. If necessary, ask an adult friend or family member to be with you during this time. You can oversee different parts of the house, and if one of you has to leave temporarily, the other will be there to keep a watchful eye.

The people packing your things are being sent by a moving company contracted by the government. Their job is to complete your pack-out within an allotted time frame. While there are standard packing procedures, its best to be present to ensure the careful handling of your goods. Reasons for your astute awareness include, but are not limited to:

* Watching for items being squeezed into tight places.

* Finding things you don't want packed and may have forgotten to separate.

* Observing how an item is packed, in case you do the unpacking.

* Unseen items being left out of boxes (such as the contents of drawers and cabinets).

Make arrangements for children and pets to be elsewhere on pack-out day. Cats have been known to slip into boxes undetected. It's a harrowing way for your feline friend to arrive at her new home.

Three degrees of separation

Anything in your house that is not nailed down is likely to be wrapped in paper and put in a box, which isn't supposed to be opened, once it's sealed.

A concise list of items you plan to keep with you during the move will come in handy as the day draws near. Keep these items -- including valuables -- separate from everything else. Clear out a closet or a bathroom and place the items there. Mark the door with a sign that reads "Do not pack." For a higher guarantee of safety and to eliminate any potential confusion, put these items in your car or in a neighbors home prior to the arrival of the packers.

If you're moving overseas, predetermine what items to send in the express shipment, which is a small amount of non-furniture necessities (linens, small appliances, etc.,) to tide you over until your regular shipment arrives. These items are packed and picked up prior to the larger shipment.

Military members are allowed to claim a designated amount of goods as professional gear that does not count against the total weight allotment. This is any item pertaining specifically to the service members profession within the military, such as special uniforms, computers, books, or instruments, which should be separated before the packers arrive. Declare professional gear, regardless of whether you think its necessary. It is advisable to include necessary professional items in your express shipment to enable you to perform professional duties immediately upon arrival at your destination.

When packers won't pack

It should be noted that if your home is riddled with fleas, you stand the chance of not completing your move in a timely manner. Packers can refuse their services if a home is infested with bugs or is exceptionally filthy.

Items covered in dirt or not prepared for the move may also be left behind. Before the move, clean grills, empty the gas out of lawn mowers, and remove mud from outdoor furniture and toys. Plan to either carry plants with you or find them a new home before leaving.

What packers might pack

Besides Fluffy, there are other things you wouldn't want tucked into boxes for the duration. Before your pack-out, check for coffee grounds in the coffee maker, trash in garbage cans, water in the iron, and dusty bed canopies, to name a few.

All the while

There's rarely a time that a military family is not, in some way, thinking about an ensuing move. Here are some things that can be done throughout a tour to make the pack-and-load process easier when it comes along:

* Hang on to crates built for special pieces, such as grandfather clocks. These can be used on your next move and will save the government hundreds of dollars.

* Store original packaging and boxes from appliances, such as TVs, stereos and computers. Your electronic equipment will fare better if it can be packed as it comes from the factory.

* Keep a running photo or video inventory of large or costly items, along with all receipts. A date stamp may be necessary for future damage claims.

* Brush up on restrictions on household goods shipments to foreign countries, particularly if you anticipate a future transfer oversees.

* Remove existing stickers on items from previous moves.

* Clear unnecessary clutter on a regular basis to eliminate this headache prior to a move.

* Be aware of weight restrictions, which are based on the members pay grade. If your shipment surpasses your allotment, you will be required to pay the difference. Check with your local PPO or TMO for tips on estimating the weight of your household goods.

* Have antiques or other high-value items appraised.

* Read up on insurance matters concerning military moves. Check with your own insurance company, as well as the military, to get information on coverage of goods in transit and the potential need for additional insurance on high-value items.