While sheltering in place is usually the best bet, sometimes the situation calls for a quick way out. But that’s only the beginning. There is more to evacuation, or a plain ole escape than what to take with you, keeping the gas tank full or figuring the quickest way to the interstate. There are steps to take, contingencies to plan for, questions in need of asking and answers to be had. Start with; Where will you go? How will you get there? And what will you do once you arrive?
Where to escape to?
An excellent question. Where are you going? Once you find the shortest route to the interstate where will you go? Given the particulars of the situation, are you trying to outrun a storm? Getting out of a wildfire’s path? Or are you just staying ahead of the zombie hordes? The circumstances will dictate where you go. You’ve got to pick an appropriate destination, right? There’s little gain from picking a place within reach of the very storm you’re trying to avoid. You don’t want to head to the in-laws’ if their house is next on the wildfire evacuation list should the winds shift. And would it make sense to choose a hideaway in an urban center if an infection is turning the populace into rampaging zombies?
If you live in an area prone to vicious weather identify evacuation destinations out of the typical storm’s path or is better suited to weathering the weather. Evacuating ahead of a hurricane? Choose a location inland as hurricanes’ severity drops off precipitately once over land. You might still be in the path of the storm but with land zapping its strength it will be easier to deal with. Okay, so you’re not in any danger of experiencing a hurricane but what about tornadoes or flooding from heavy seasonal rains? Both can put you and yours out of a home for weeks or months. Pick a place where you won’t outstay your welcome while the family home is made livable again or a new one is located.
Trying to get away from it all? Is the goal simply to remove yourself from society until the worst blows over? Pick an isolated place but a livable one, comfortable enough to house the family for extended periods, with plenty of storage for supplies, sufficiently sturdy to outlast the weather and a respectable area to grow your own food should the stay become virtually permanent.
How will we get there?
Getting to your destination is just as important as knowing where you’re intending to end up. During an evacuation that primary planned route of yours will, in all likelihood, also be everyone else’s primary route. It may also be the official evacuation route identified by the region’s emergency management. Actually, that was one of the purposes of the interstate highway system, to move people, equipment and supplies across the country during catastrophes. While efficient in their own right, one wreck will disrupt the flow of people out of the area. Plan alternate routes to avoid congestion. Consider, outlying surface roads, the old highways the interstates replaced or even forest roads. Should the situation become hopeless, the only option left may be hiking out, so plan for that contingency. Of course, hoofing it in the face of an imminent hurricane is not a viable choice. In these cases, the advisable option is to locate an emergency shelter and wait out the storm.
Plan alternate routes to avoid congestion. Consider, outlying surface roads, the old highways the interstates replaced or even forest roads. Should the situation become hopeless, the only option left may be hiking out, so plan for that contingency. Of course, hoofing it in the face of an imminent hurricane is not a viable choice. In these cases, the advisable option is to locate an emergency shelter and wait out the storm.
What about the chosen mode of transport? Space for family, supplies and equipment is ideal. But with size comes low gas mileage and if your destination is not just over the next rise then you want the most bang for the buck when it comes to fuel. If you run into roadway congestion, the security of high gas mileage will go a long way all by itself. So will the ability to bypass the disaster price gouging of the last chance gas stations. But economical vehicles lack the rugged versatility of venturing out onto the less than perfect roads, or off them. And therein lies the balancing act, the trick to finding the right transportation for your needs. Then, as if that wasn’t enough to think about, there is the issue of reliability and fixability. The vehicle needs to be reliable to get to where you need to go. But should anything go wrong, the ability to effect repairs with a general set of tools could mean the difference between making your destination before the SHTF and walking the rest of the way.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough to think about, there is the issue of reliability and fixability. The vehicle needs to be reliable to get to where you need to go. But should anything go wrong, the ability to effect repairs with a general set of tools could mean the difference between making your destination before the SHTF and walking the rest of the way.
Are we there yet?
Okay, so you’ve picked the appropriate safe haven to wait out the storm or to call home until full effects of the disaster blow over and recovery can start. What to do once you get there? If it’s a matter of waiting out a storm at the relatives’ home or a hotel then rely on the contents of your bug-out bag and stay apprised of the situation until the “all clear” is given to return home. Plan for the possibility that the wait could turn into an extended stay due to severe damage back home. Your 72-hour bug out bag supplies are meant to only last… well those first 3 days and the in-laws or friends can only be imposed upon for so long.
Plan for such cases by putting money aside to build up as an emergency fund or hide a credit card away for the sole purpose of keeping a roof over the family’s head until the return home. Bring vital records with you (insurance records, birth certificates, etc) to expedite claims processing. Stay in touch with emergency relief agencies to see what resources are offered.
With the family held up in a hotel, a spare room in a relative’s home or out in the wilderness in a small emergency cabin, anxiety and boredom eventually become problematic. The old adage, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” could not be more true. Staying busy will go a long way to preserve everyone’s sanity. If you’re staying with relatives pitch in to share the household chores. Before the hotel room walls begin closing in gather everyone together for regular game time, watch a movie, walk the dog or go for a hike. If the plan is to head to the isolated cabin, stay busy through regular maintenance and clean up activities. Assign everyone a schedule of duties, give them ownership of them as a way of instilling pride in what they do.
Plan on bringing a radio or other way to stay apprised of the situation and make that a regular gathering time for the family to get everyone involved. Plan meals and cook together. Should the worst happen and the isolated stay becomes more permanent gather the family together to plan for the long term. Plant a garden, hunt together, plan improvements to the living situation and scout for additional resources as supplies run low.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best but never say, “That will never happen.” If you can think of it, there is a chance it will. Familiarize yourself with official evacuation routes, take part in community emergency drills, consult flood and inundation maps for your area to avoid danger zones, make emergency arrangements with friends and relatives ahead of time and offer your home to them should they ever find themselves in need. Planning ahead for any of this is the best strategy and often times the best defense.