We have all seen this picture, or ones like it.
A major city is in the path of a hurricane, or wildfire, or some other disaster, and the call goes out to evacuate the city, and chaos ensues. Our transportation grid just isn’t designed to handle the entire population of a metro area on the road all at once. Being stuck in a parking lot while a storm bears down on you doesn’t seem like the best emergency plan. So how do you get out of the way of natures or mans wrath without being part of a dangerous, panicked mob? A few things to consider:
-Do I really need to evacuate? Probably yes, if the civil authorities are calling on you to leave. But there may be exceptions. If flooding is imminent, but you are located on higher ground, the best bet may be to stay put, PROVIDED you have prepared for several days without utilities before services are restored. In large cities, civil unrest may also be a consideration.
-Can I get out quicker? As I researched for this article, several people talked about how a good map and knowledge of secondary roads kept them on the move when the major evacuation routes were gridlocked. If you are in the middle of a city, this may not be as effective as it would be if you live in the suburbs, with rural areas just beyond.
-Do I know where to go? Usually evacuation centers are set up, but frankly, the people who end up there are usually the ones that have not prepared in advance and are counting on the government and/or private charities to take care of them. Remember Katrina and the Superdome? Your best bet might be to own a small piece of far away enough from the city to be out of the danger zone but close enough to reach in a few hours. A similarly placed relative or good friend with a spare bed is also a good bet. Don’t count on a hotel, even one hundreds of miles away. Trust me, they will be booked, and the restaraunts will be out of food. Failing all that, if you can find a quiet spot where you are alone or at least not with a howling refugee mob, that may have to do. Water and firewood nearby are good things, even in an emergency, always ask before stopping or obtaining supplies from private property. Advance planning can alleviate the risk of having to make panicked decisions on the fly.
-Getting out early is better than getting out late. Most people wait until an evacuation becomes mandatory before they start even getting ready to go. If it’s obvious that an evacuation is coming, get packed and leave. The view from the front of the pack is much better. And leave at an odd time. Even when instructed to leave immediately, most folks wait until the kids get home from school, mom and dad finish work, that sort of thing. Leaving early also lets you take more of the things that will make your evacuation as close to comfortable as an an emergency can be. Things like sleeping bags, sturdy shelter, and substantial food plus a way to cook it are not likely to be in a fifteen pound bugout bag. When you are running for your life, grab the bag and go to stay alive, but if you are as prepared as you say you are, you will be leaving hours before the mob, going someplace they haven’t thought of on a route that will get you there quickly, and with the equipment and supplies you need not just to survive but almost have a good time.