Friday, August 20, 2010

On The Subject of Evacuation

Clearly, getting out alive sometimes necessitates evacuation. But sometimes it does not. The trick is to know the difference.

When to evacuate:
  • When there is an evacuation order by local, regional or federal authorities. 
  • When you personally determine that it is untenable to remain where you are, regardless of what the authorities are doing or saying. 
On the first point, the reason for adhering to an evacuation order is because the authorities probably know more about the situation than you do. They are coordinating with a variety of agencies that have eyes and ears scattered over a broad area, and a recommendation to get out of Dodge is based on a wide range of factors to which you might not have personal access. 

But as to the second point, it can be dangerous to leave your life in the hands of someone else by waiting to be ordered to evacuate. If you determine that the situation is getting sketchy and you would rather take yourself and your loved ones someplace else, go ahead and leave. In fact, if you leave ahead of the official evacuation order, you will probably have an easier time of it on the road. Once the order is issued, everybody will be trying to get out of the area at the same time, and that creates an instant traffic jam. 

When not to evacuate:
  • When there is no official evacuation order AND you personally determine that you'll be fine if you stay put. 
Some folks are walking around on "red alert" just waiting for the moment when they should run to the mountains and start living off the land. In fact, I was talking to a guy like that recently and he asked me, "if everything starts falling apart, are you going to head into the mountains?"

My answer to him was, "it all depends." 

That wasn't a very satisfactory answer, and we ended up talking for another 45 minutes in an attempt to solve the riddle of when to run and when to stay. "It all depends" means exactly that. Yes, there might be a situation when it would be appropriate to head for the hills — but there are many reasons why that would not be the right thing to do. 

When would I go?
  • When the threat of staying put becomes too great. And I don't need a government official to tell me when that is. 
When would I stay?
  • When the situation does not pose a threat to myself or my loved ones. Notice I didn't say that the situation would not pose an inconvenience — I used the word threat intentionally. Life in a disaster zone is automatically going to be inconvenient, but it doesn't necessarily pose a threat. It all depends on how well prepared, informed, and experienced you are. 
Why would I decide to stick it out where I am?
  • Sheltering in place (that's the official terminology for staying put) offers the advantage of having all my stuff — shelter, food, water, tools, medical supplies, building materials, clothing, blankets, a bed, etc. In other words, when you walk away you take what you can carry, but if you stay you have access to everything you own that has not been destroyed. 
  • You also have access to your community, and familiarity with your surroundings. 
Don't misunderstand — there are times when having access to the community is definitely a negative. In a major disaster (like Haiti), I would get out of town to stabilize my situation because there was nothing worth staying for, and the threat caused by masses of people (some of them criminals who broke out of the crumbled prison) all in dire need at the same moment poses a risk. 

But there are other situations in which having access to the community is beneficial. If you are well prepared, you can help care for others who are in worse shape. In my book, survival is about a lot more than just being the last man standing — it's about helping others who are less well equipped, informed, or experienced to stand with you. If you don't use your knowledge and experience (yes, and supplies) to help others, then you aren't real survival material.

Begin by helping your family, your neighbors and friends, and your personal social group such as your church. By lending a hand, you help take pressure off the rescue agencies as you help stabilize others around you. By doing that, you become part of the solution, not part of the problem. 

The key is to know when it's more prudent to get out of the area to save yourself and your loved ones, and when it's okay to stay and shelter in place. In order to make those determinations, you need to maintain constant situational awareness and assess the shifting conditions. And you need to be prepared to go or stay, as you deem appropriate. 

If you decide to go, you need to have methods of travel, routes of travel, and desired destinations figured out in advance. And you need to have contingency plans in place, in case your primary mode of travel, route, or destination become impossible. 

Evacuation is not an easy process, so start working on your plans now. 

And on a side note — your evacuation plans should include when and how you will exit a building or an arena that becomes involved in a disaster scenario. Know the exits, watch for the signs of trouble that would lead you to want to get out ahead of the catastrophe. Be prepared to act immediately. 

None of this means you should go through life on "red alert" but it does mean you should go through life  with a high level of awareness about what's going on around you, and be ready to take appropriate action to suit the situation. 


  1. A few years back I was given an old tent trailer, I tore all the material out of it and use it to store my tents and all my other survival gear.

    Now I also have a small 5th wheel so that means two trips into the woods but I'm okay with that.

    I also have five other trailers here, I like my things mobile if need be.

    When you personally determine that it is untenable to remain where you are, regardless of what the authorities are doing or saying.

    My answer to him was, "it all depends."

    This is true, you have to use your best judgment. I would just as soon stay here but I'm more ready to move quickly than most others if I feel the need to.

  2. Or lets use a natural disaster for an example, like a major earthquake. Most folks around here are not well prepared for one, but it would have next to no effect on me at all so the emergency response people can take care of others because I won't be needing them.