There are very good reasons to shelter in place if you can, but there are times when evacuation is the best alternative. When that time comes, your prepared evacuation plan should allow you to answer the following questions:
- Why do you want to evacuate? What are the circumstances that make it unwise or undesirable to shelter in place, (which means stay right where you are)? There are times when it’s preferable to stay put, as long as your primary shelter (your home) isn’t in imminent danger. If you can shelter in place, you are in familiar territory, you have all you daily supplies with you, and you don’t put yourself at risk of not making it to your planned evacuation destination. However, if your house is no longer a viable shelter, or is in the path of an oncoming disaster, you must evacuate.
- Where are you going to go? Different circumstances will call for different evacuation plans, and you should have destinations in mind that cover different scenarios. For example, if a hurricane is coming and you live along the coastline that is about to be hit, you need a destination far enough inland that you will be safe from the storm surge and flooding, as well as from the wind damage. But if the disaster is a massive wildfire inland, you probably don’t want to head in that direction — perhaps opting to follow the coastline to a destination opposite the direction of the fire’s progress.
- How are you going to get there? You need different contingency plans that will work when the roads are open and when none of the roads are open. An earthquake can effective shut down roadways, so if you’re trying to evacuate in a car you might not make it. Likewise, when everyone is trying to get out of town at the same time, highways become gridlocked. What alternate form of transportation can you use under those conditions?
- What route are you going to take? Rather than gathering with all the rest of the crowd trying to get out of town on a main road, consider alternate routes that might be more open to the free flow of traffic.
- When are you going to evacuate? My advice is to not wait until the official evacuation order is issued. That’s when everybody hits the road at the same time, and the traffic locks up fast. You don’t want to get stuck in traffic when a disaster is approaching. Take the initiative and get out ahead of the crowd. Monitor radio and TV broadcasts to stay up on the latest information. If it looks like conditions are becoming more dangerous, pack up and leave early.
- What are you going to take with you? You don’t want to end up in a refugee camp having to borrow somebody else’s toothbrush. And you don’t want to be totally dependent on someone else to supply all your necessities. Prepare an evacuation bag that has all the essentials in it, and stow it someplace where you can grab it on a moment’s notice, toss it in your car (or strap it on you back), and go.