The latest from Egypt is that there are approximately 2,400 American who want to get out of the country now, before problems escalate to the point that they end up being hostages the way Americans did in Iran back in 1979. Secretary of State Clinton warned against a takeover that resembles the one in Iran, so it's past the time when folks who want to leave should be packing their toothbrushes.
The problem is that most people don't do anything until they're told to do it by someone in authority. Maybe it's a failure to put two and two together. Maybe they can't count that high. I don't know what it is, but most will simply stand there staring at the world falling apart around them as if they're watching TV. Then, inevitably, they will demand that the government do something to save them.
Is it ignorance or insanity? Maybe it doesn't matter, because the outcome is the same. Perhaps the insanity is that we keep saving those who are too stupid to save themselves. I don't know, but it's frustrating.
But as long as I'm on the subject of getting out, let's talk about evacuation for a minute. In the situation in Egypt, an alert individual could see the chaos coming for weeks in advance. At least days in advance, people could start quietly boarding airplanes to elsewhere. Some probably did, but they don't make the news headlines. The ones who end up in the news are the ones who didn't recognize the trouble that was coming.
This is the kind of crisis that shouldn't catch anyone unawares. It isn't like an earthquake that just suddenly explodes beneath the pavement. This is one of those slow-cooking societal eruptions that gives advance warning in the form of public outcry and protests way before the situation blows completely to pieces. Anyone who travels to those parts of the world where the domestic political act is walking a tightrope should be fully aware of the potential for disaster, and have their toothbrush packed and ready to run at all times.
Our State Department has issued advisories to U.S. citizens who want to get out of Egypt that they should expect lengthy delays at the airports, and they should bring food, water and other necessities with them. That sounds like what we used to call a "bug out bag" or what I now call a "grab and go" kit. In the kit should be all the things you need to live without outside resources for at least 72 hours.
That doesn't mean 3 square meals per day or enough water to take a bath. It does mean enough emergency rations to keep you alive and able to keep going until help arrives or you get to a better location. High-energy foods such as Power Bars, some water and a water filter system so you can make drinkable water out of non-drinkable water sources, toilet paper (try going without that for 72 hours!), and any medications you absolutely need to stay alive and well. Some kind of shelter, even if it's only an emergency blanket, a method for for starting a fire, a signal mirror, a whistle, some cordage so you can rig up a lean-to. Basic stuff.
By all means, throw in your toothbrush and toothpaste, some hand soap, insect repellent, and sun screen. The point is to be able to stay alive and live with some level of dignity without having to depend on outside sources of supply for at least the first 72 hours of a crisis. If you end up evacuating to a refugee camp, you'll be a step ahead of the game if you have some of your own personal stuff with you.
Now, about evacuation — Get out early, ahead of the official declaration of emergency conditions. To do that, you must keep your eyes on the situation at all times. Don't get so lost in the daily dazzle that you fail to see or hear what's going on around you. Then listen to your gut. If something starts to feel weird, pay attention to your instincts and get out early. It's far better to misread the situation and leave too early than it is to fail to read the situation and get caught up in the chaos.
In sailing there's an old saying — when you first think about reefing (reducing the amount of sail that is up), you should already have done it. The point is that If you ignore your gut feeling, the wind is going to punish you severely.
If you're in a situation that doesn't feel right, grab your bag and get out now! Don't wait for the authorities to be in the streets with bullhorns telling you to evacuate. By then, it's a little late and you're going to end up competing with all the other masses of humanity who are trying to do the same thing at the same time.
Use your head. Analyze the situation, make a decision, and do what needs to be done.