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Surviving An Evacuation Order

December 16, 2013 by  

Surviving An Evacuation Order
UPI FILE
When Hurrican Rita approached land in 2005, many evacuees found themselves stranded along evacuation routes due to gas shortages.

An evacuation order may be issued for a number of reasons. With rare exception, there is typically minimal notice that it is coming. From a natural to a man-made disaster, the knock on the door could come at any time. This makes having a plan for how to deal with, and survive, the call to evacuate absolutely paramount. Most importantly, the time to make this plan is not as the local sheriff’s deputy is standing on your doorstep letting you know that you have 10 minutes to leave… or else. In an effort to avoid unnecessary stress later, consider implementing a plan and proper preparations now. Don’t forget to make a plan for the family pet when making plans for an emergency evacuation.

Things To Do Now

  • Build a car kit: The worst thing that could happen during a disaster is to be caught completely unprepared and without any supplies to sustain life during a difficult time. In an ideal world, you would never be caught without your bug out bag and plenty of notice that a disaster was going to occur. But in an ideal world, disasters wouldn’t even happen, right? A good car kit might not contain a change of clothes; but it will address the areas of food, water, shelter/warmth, security and shelter at a minimum. Other items to consider including would be car maintenance and emergency repair items. The main focus of a car kit should be to overcome life threats if you become stranded in your vehicle.
  • Assemble a bug out bag: A bug out bag is something that each member of the family should have. This is an area that will build on what is contained in your car kit and should be designed to sustain a life for at least 72 hours. There is a ton of information available on how to assemble and what to pack in a bug out bag, but something to keep in mind is that each person’s bag should be built for him. If travel on foot becomes necessary, it is vital that the weight is manageable for the individual that will carry it. Another factor to consider is that when traveling as a family, some items may be cross-leveled across the bug out bags to minimize the load that each person carries. This is the most effective approach to take. Once these bags are put together, put them in a common location that is easily accessible on the way out of the house. A coat closet is a very popular location for a bug out bag.
  • Create an evacuation plan: Wherever you go, try to go together as a family unit; or plan to evacuate with friends, if possible. There is safety in numbers. In order to make sure this can be accomplished, plan on a location(s) where you will meet, if it is possible, before evacuating. This location should be centrally located to home, work, school, etc. Also, don’t blindly set off to a random location if an evacuation order is issued. Plan ahead of time not only where you will go, but how you will get there. Because a disaster can obstruct roads, having multiple routes in different directions, will usually leave at least one feasible option. The important this is to find a successful path out of the area.
  • Make a checklist of tasks: An evacuation will most likely be a chaotic time. To avoid missing key elements of your evacuation plan, it is helpful to create a checklist of the tasks that must be completed and who is responsible for each task. Because the time available to evacuate can vary, tasks should be prioritized from most to least important, based on the time available. It can also be useful to determine how items will be packed into a vehicle. Determining this prior to a disaster can mitigate the amount of grief that may come with realizing you don’t have enough room in the heat of the moment.

What To Do During An Evacuation

  • Monitor local news: Information is a valuable commodity during a disaster, especially when having to evacuate. If not already following the situation, as soon as the notification comes, turn on the television or radio and get up to speed on the five Ws and one H (Who, What, When, Where, Why and How). This will be useful in deciding where to go.
  • Fill up the gas tank: If time allows and there are the resources to do so, fill up the gas tank in your vehicle(s) as soon as possible. During a disaster, fuel can be the make-or-break factor. Not only will fuel be in demand, leading to long lines and even longer waits, but running out of fuel en route to your destination can put you in danger. A good practice is to keep every vehicles gas tank at least half full at all times so that you can be clear of immediate danger even if you are not able to stop and fill up before you leave.
  • Choose the best route: Since you will have been following the news, it is likely that you will have an idea of the best direction to leave on your way out of the area. Important things to keep in mind include not only what routes are open but the nature of the disaster and how you may be impacted by things like environmental conditions. A key example would be if there were a chlorine gas leak in the local area and there are also high winds that are pushing the gas to the west. In this case, you would not want to choose to go west out of town. You may have to drive east to get clear of the threat before heading to your final destination, even if it is in a western direction.
  • Load up: Pack up the bug out bags and any additional gear, according to the established plan. If the time and space are available, consider taking important documents and sentimental items that cannot be replaced should the disaster cause damage to your property.
  • Lock up: At a minimum, lock up the house before you leave. Looters and thieves are always looking for an easy target. Remembering to secure your residence will make it at least a bit more difficult for lawbreakers to victimize you while you are displaced.
  • Contact pertinent persons: There are a few people that should be contacted in the event that you are forced to leave your home. The most important contact that should be made is with a family member or close friend that is not in the affected area. This is important so that someone is aware of your status and knows where you are headed and how you are planning on getting there. Secondly, if you are able to, notify your employer of your situation and how it will impact your ability to complete your scheduled work and find out if there is a way to accomplish your work from a different location. Lastly, once you and your family are in a safe place, contact the kid’s schools, etc., to let them know if you have been displaced from the area and that your children will be absent.

A very important thing to note is that evacuation decisions should not be made lightly, and there is always good reason for making this determination. If the government is ordering or suggesting an evacuation, it is most likely in the best interest of the general public. Many of the casualties from recent disasters came as a result of people choosing to ignore the recommendation to evacuate. It is always best to avoid being a statistic so make a plan for how you and your loved ones will deal with having to evacuate if the time were to come.

–Tom Miller

Thomas Miller

lives with his wife and three sons in the Northeastern quadrant of the United States. He has completed countless hours of advanced training in both clinical and trauma medicine and is a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician. Tom has also completed several courses in disaster and emergency planning/management as well as hazardous materials handler and transport certification. He graduated with honors from American Military University with an Associate of Arts in Real Estate Studies. Tom is a U.S. Army combat veteran who served with honor as a combat medic on his multiple overseas tours during the Global War on Terror. During his time in the Army, Tom became an expert in the use of several weapons (including long guns, sidearms and improvised weaponry) and obtained competence with many other weapon systems, including foreign firearms. The Army also afforded Tom the opportunity to become proficienct in the driving and operation of several different vehicles from Humvees to heavy trucks and tracked vehicles. If there happens to be any free time available, Tom can be found sharing his passion for fishing with his sons, working on a project in the wood shop, tending to the garden or trying to maintain some resemblance of physical fitness. Tom's other writings can be viewed on his blog, The Prepared Ninja, at www.thepreparedninja.com. If you are on Twitter, Tom can be followed on the handle @preparedninja.

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