Evacuating your home 101 – The Challenges and Questions

figure not ready to evacuate, standing by a large red question mark

Evacuation, Where do I start?

(If you jumped into this series on this post, you’ll want to head back to the beginning so it makes sense.  The first post in the series can be found here, then follow the links for the rest of the series.)

Evacuating your home, are you ready?

Think about it for a second….. if you aren’t ready, to evacuate, why not?  What is keeping you from being ready?

Here are some possible reasons you might give:

There are no teachers

While there are lots of people who had to evacuate their homes at one point or another, most of them did it poorly,  lost much and did not learn all the lessons that they could have from the ordeal.  No one seems to have made it the subject of scientific study.  There are few books on the subject, and chapters in related books are very general when it comes to evacuation (with not much info beyond a good discussion of the 72-hour kit)

The loading time is unknown

The most crucial variable in an evacuation is time.  You might have 30 seconds to get out, (as in a house or apartment fire), 3 minutes to throw some things in a box, (as in a police situation where the evacuation is precautionary), 30 minutes to load your vehicle, (as you might with an approaching flood or wild-fire), or 3 days warning, (such as a hurricane provides).  It would really help if we knew how much time we had, but we don’t.

Starting time is unknown

You can’t predict where you will be or what you will be doing when the alarm is sounded.  Will you be at home?  Will your family members all be at home? or scattered across the city?  Will you be awake, dressed, rested, healthy, and fed, or will it be the opposite?

Duration unknown- How long will I be away from my home?

Some crises are over in hours; with others you never return to what you left.  What kind of plan can span that range of possibilities?

The survival of what you leave behind is unknown

Will the house be safe while you are gone?  Will you have a house to return to? or will everything be lost that is not taken with you?  Not only can you not know this now, in the planning stage, often it’s not at all obvious when you are in the middle of the evacuation.  Will  the firemen be able to stop the fire at the road, as they intend, or will it jump across and consume everything but the driveway?  Will the severe weather calm and spare us or will it release it’s fury and bring destruction with it?

Family resources vary widely

Who is going to offer a plan that works the same for the bike-riding student, the sedan-driving retired couple, and the farm family with two pick-ups an equipment trailer, a cattle truck, and 3 teen age sons?  What if your livelihood is in that home?  What if you have pets?  What if that fragile old grandfather clock is all you have of your grampa’s things and you’d die if anything happened to it?  What if you are the family genealogist, and your passion fills 5 filing cabinets?

Coordinating actions and plans with extended family and friends

Will I have time to get in contact with them, or will the urgency be too great?  Will the local church or community organize, gather and pull together, or is it ‘every man for himself’?

Should I make sure I am one of the first on the road or stay clear of the panicky crowd?

Will the back roads be less crowded, or should we stick to the main corridors where help (and possibly desperate people) be concentrated?

Will there be fuel available or not, how far do we have to go ?

Will I have time or be able to gas up before hitting the road? or at towns along the way or at my destination? Will a half a tank be enough to get us to safety?

Travel Difficulties

Will I be able to re-supply food and water along the way?  Will the roads be passable, or blocked (by fallen trees, power lines, barricades)?  What happens if the car breaks down along the way (Murphy’s law applies even/especially during evacuations).  If we have to go on without the car, will it be looted ?  Are we taking our belongings to safety or just to a new hazard?

Hang in there with me, we are getting to the solution to most of these problems..

Loading unknowns

Will the weather be nice or at least tolerable?  or will we be dealing with the worst possible weather at the front edge of the coming storm that is causing the evacuation?

Where will we go

Will the authorities or govt dictate that? Should we head for the hills, or make a bee-line for a big city and all its resources?  Is there safety in numbers or in solitude?

Will a battery-powered radio really help?

Or will the public announcements be as poorly informed as the public address system announcement that told office workers to return to their offices in the World Trade Center.

Will I be going back to work on Monday or will my employment be among the casualties?  Will it be local or wide-spread? What exactly are we planning for here?  Do I need to start over somewhere else?  or are we coming home?

These and many more questions are the main reason people don’t take the time to think about or prepare for an evacuation.  There is just too much to think about, too much to plan for, but doing nothing will only guarantee that you and your family will experience more stress and suffering than if you had done something.

Before most of us can do anything about evacuation preparation, (more than just  throwing the 72-hour kit in the car and driving off) there must be a system that makes it logical and clear what to do.  This approach must be :

  • Inexpensive
  • Adaptable to a variety of households and budgets
  • Meaningful and effective despite all the unknowns.

Next post  –> What you will learn in this series.

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  1. What a great series. I need this. Yes, it will make me feel guilty and inadequate, but it will be good for me.

    I’m hoping you’ll create a single post (maybe the intro one?) that lists each post in the series with a link to it. That will give me one page I can bookmark to have access to all the great info — and pass on to others. This is such needed info.

    Thanks for all your work!

    • ready1 says:

      Oh How Sweet, Thanks for sayin’.
      And please don’t feel guilty, we all have to start somewhere, we don’t just poof ourselves into being magically ready. The trick is to start. It’s like anything worthwhile…it takes work. You didn’t start out back in 1994 being a internet/blog guru did you? Probably not, But with time and effort, you became one and now you are sharing…that’s what I’m doing with this blog…taking people like you and helping them to turn into crazy nut job preppers 🙂 be more ready.
      The thought behind breaking this topic down into a series is to make it doable. I will definitely add links to all the posts in another post after they are all published. I might even make a cute informative graphic so you can ‘pin’ it if the mood strikes 🙂

What do you think?