As we plan for an emergency evacuation, we try to make our plan flexible and simple, yet cover likely situations. Essentially, we need to move from our home to a place of safety very rapidly and then return home when possible. That may mean days, weeks or much longer. The benefit of having a plan is in the process that we have gone through to make it. When the time comes to use our plan having already gone through the step by step planning process will enable us to quickly alter it an a moment's notice. This should help our plan fit the situation facing us. Unknown emergencies necessitate flexible plans.
Even if it needs to be changed, having made the plan gives a structure, a series of actions, that we will follow. It has to be flexible if we are to use it in unknown situations.
We are grateful to have never needed to implement our plans. Though I am certainly not an expert on planning for an evacuation, these following questions are things I recommend from reading I have done. There are a number of considerations to take when making a plan. First, what sort of things could force you to evacuate? How will those things affect how you need to evacuate? Where do you plan to go? How can you prepare now to make departure faster and easier? How will your family assemble if you are separated? How will you travel to your destination? And, how can you improve communications in case your family is separated?
Depending on what causes you to evacuate, how you go about it will vary. We looked into possible emergencies, which could force us to leave home. First, if the government has ever evacuated your area due to bad weather, it is safe to assume the area will be evacuated again. In certain areas extreme weather can make it advantageous to leave a locality for some period of time. This could include things like hurricanes, tsunamis and flooding. In these situations you would probably have some notice but would need to move quickly if you thought you could get ahead of the worst traffic. Dams and dikes have been broken by excessive quantities of water. In a flood plain you will probably have some notice, however, if a dam or dike breaks you could have virtually no notice and time to evacuate. Large volumes of traffic will greatly increase the chances of roads being totally blocked to vehicles, especially at bottlenecks like bridges. Thus you need to be able to carry your survival gear. Once you have moved some distance away from the danger, you will most likely find most aspects of the economy functioning properly.
Bad pollution can also be a concern. When we lived near a chemical factory, they had an accident where a large quantity of plastic burned for a significant period of time. We didn't learn of it till after the fact, however, it may have been prudent to leave the down-wind area for a short while. In this case there was no disturbance to normal activities or traffic.
Living near high risk military or terrorist targets would in most cases require faster evacuation, in the event that they were attacked. Any nuclear site would be a potential terrorist target, as well as dams, bridges, and high population areas. If a nuclear reactor was damaged or something else caused nuclear contamination in your area, you would probably want to get out of the down-wind fallout area very quickly. In the event of nuclear, biological, or chemical contamination there would be a high likelihood that bridges and road traffic would be blocked in the local area. Some degree of panic would be very likely in a situation like this. When people panic it would be prudent to keep away from populous areas.
If you live in a city or urban environment, you may need to take some other things into consideration. I don't know much about urban concerns. Probably with the larger quantity of traffic, however, roads would become clogged quickly. Also it would be more likely that roads or bridges would be shut down and travel restricted near a city. With higher populations, it takes more time for the government and other relief groups to stabilize the situation and provide relief. Really we are responsible for ourselves and our families. When there are so many people, it requires more time for food systems and utilities to be brought back online. We learned in hurricane Katrina that crime can also dramatically increase after a disaster. That is another reason to try to avoid densely populated areas. Even if we can stay away from high population areas we will still need to be prepared for crime.
Orderliness and being organized is very valuable when you need something in a hurry. Well, there hardly could be a time when it could be more important to get some specific items in a hurry than prior to evacuation. The emergency backpacks should be kept in a very specific spot all the time and all your gear for them should be kept in them. Having a dry basement, we were able to put all ours together on a shelf where they are ready when we need them. Other items we will need to add to our packs we also keep is specific places. The food is in bags in the pantry, while we try to keep all our boots on the rack inside the basement door. A few of the tools from my pack I use regularly, so I keep them in a bag in my drawer, or here on my belt, however, I always know where they are and can get them when I need them.
We keep checklists of the items we need to add before departure to our backpacks. The checklists will include the supplies we need to add to the backpacks so we are ready to go. This includes things like specific items of food and medicine, everyday boots, etc,. You will probably want to take copies of specific documents with you and secure other documents and valuables. You should also take spares of important keys. At the time of the emergency our young children will be linked up with older siblings in order to free up our parents in case of unforeseen urgent needs; things like medical emergencies, which are often connected with disasters. By linking older children together with younger ones, each young person's checklist should be completely covered. If several family members are separate when it is necessary to evacuate, different older children will be put in charge of younger siblings. Our plan is flexible here, but having put it together ahead of time will help. Of course if all your children are young, the parents will have to take care of these checklists.
Depending on the condition of the roads, vehicles (or bikes) will be an option to provide greater mobility and possibly a slightly increased load. If your vehicle can carry more than you and your backpacks, you will want a checklist of what you think will be most valuable to take with you. You may also want to keep some of those items in duffel bags with your backpacks so you can move out quickly. To drive a distance you will have to have fuel for your vehicle. It doesn't cost any more to keep your fuel tank above half full. The habit is worth cultivating. Keeping several cans of fuel on hand will also be a major advantage. If you plan on storing fuel you will need to use and replace it regularly or put fuel stabilizer in it.
Before leaving, you will want to close up your house as well as possible. If you have enough time you can turn off water, electricity, and fuel. If you live in a cold area you might want to drain your water pipes. If you are evacuating due to a storm, you could tie down anything loose in your yard and board up you windows. If you have animals, leaving is certainly more complicated. You should plan ahead of time what you will do with each of them. A dog you can take with you and outdoor cats will continue to live outdoors. Some animals like dogs can carry packs. However, I think it is absolutely necessary to train them before they will actually carry any load. That may take a bit of time. It is an option if you are interested. Our dog carries a pack with his own food.
Having picked your destination you may want to lay out, on a map, the exact roads you will follow. I would recommend keeping to small roads as much as possible, even if this makes your route somewhat longer. In an emergency we want to reduce risk, so we don't want to get lost in the wilderness. Still there may be times when you will have to go cross country. Certainly this is a valuable skill to learn ahead of time.An evacuation is not a good time to be learning new skills. It would be good for most family members to have a map and know how to use a compass with it. Practicing any skills like that before you really need them is prudent. If someone does get lost while we are traveling, we each have a whistles to assist in locating him or her. Basic outdoor hiking skills should include what to do if you are lost. These should be fairly simple. Each family member should know how to keep from getting lost, and what they are to do if they are lost.
As you plan your route on a map, you will probably want to bypass certain places. It will be best to travel by small roads whenever possible. Rivers may greatly restrict where you can go. Bridges may be blocked or very difficult to cross. If you need to cross a river, try to find a second crossing as an alternate option. Probably you will want to avoid towns and any high population areas, whenever possible, since they will greatly reduce your travel speed. When you have the option, try to pick as flat a route as possible. It will be much easier walking. Topographical maps show elevation, and so does Google Earth which you can download for free.
When an emergency arises the possibility that your family will be in several different places deserves consideration. Certainly it is desirable to gather together back at home where your gear is. Seeing, however, that this may not be an option, you may want to make a series of rendezvous points along your preplanned travel routes. These provide places to meet if your family is separated at any time.
Of course as you get out of the affected zone you may be able place telephone calls. It would be helpful to have local and out of state emergency contact people who you could call if separated. Each person should carry those contact's phone numbers. This will allow your family to get back in communication quicker if you are separated. If you have HAM radio licenses you may want to keep several radios in working order. These can substantially improve your ability to communicate in an emergency. If you have cell phones and can't make contact for whatever reason, text messaging may still go through. Being able to communicate will be of tremendous assistance if you are separated.
What we do when we reach our destination will be totally dependent on the situation. Depending on how long we think we will stay, we will try to establish ourselves to some degree. Under most circumstances, you will be able to find work and a place to stay. Very likely you will stay with someone you know in the area at least to start with. At some point you will probably be able to return home. Returning should require less haste and perhaps better transportation.
We have tried to make our plan flexible without removing the structure, which is the value of having a plan. Every family will be affected by many unique local factors. Some areas I have probably totally neglected, however, here are a few things with which you can start if you are interested in making an evacuation plan. In an emergency, with a pile of young children, on short notice and without everything where you thought it was, you will be very grateful for a plan. Something to provide order.
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