As it has been shown in history, evacuation announcements come at a moment’s notice and having your gear ready means you’ll be that much ahead of the crowds already choking the roads out of town.
Even if no order is given, you may decide that it is better for your family’s security to remove yourselves to the safety and solitude of some out-of-the-way location. In that case, you’d better be ready to evacuate.
Use your vehicle
Since you might have to go at a moment’s notice, you’ll want to make sure your chosen bug-out vehicle is gassed up and kept well maintained. Gas stations might be closed. Service will be limited, and the streets will be crowded with cars.
At the bare minimum, keep a host of needed gear in your car at all times. It means that there will be less you’ll need to gather up on the day you’re forced to leave, and you’ll be just that much more prepared for an emergency when you are away from home on a daily basis.
Pick your gear properly
Consider your environment, climate, time of year, type of emergency, and intended destination when putting together the gear that is supposed to keep you comfortable for a few days to a few weeks. The most efficient list to pack with is the 10 Essentials made popular by the Sierra Club and the Boy Scouts in the 1970s.
Having redundant gear represented from all 10 categories will ensure that you’ll be well prepared for most anything on the road. It is important to pack well but don’t overpack.
Food and water are the most important, but if it is summer and you’re headed away from the city and into a desert, for example, extra blankets and warmer clothes might not be necessary and will only take up valuable space.
Keep your gear in readily accessible boxes or totes near where your car is parked (and have a carry option like a backpack in case you can’t take your car).
Extra items to include
- In addition to the 10 essentials, consider including the following:
- Extra cash (assume ATMs won’t work)
- Prescription medications, vitamins, and other medical supplies (diabetic, allergies, etc.)
- Personal hygiene items Important personal documents (stored in a waterproof container) such as birth, death, and marriage certificates, insurance policies, deeds, and bank account records.
- Gear and food for your pets.
Making an exit plan
Every city is different. Some have many different directions to evacuate to, while others will be more limited. Make an exit plan based on your location, population, and intended destination.
Avoid going toward the city center. Keep with you detailed paper maps of your area (as cell service will likely not be available) and have marked your primary route. In addition to highway and local road maps, take with you topographical maps and forest service maps for your area. Know your routes intimately.
Though you should follow the advice and directions of governmental officials during an evacuation as they are probably more informed than you are about the situation, be prepared to go your own way if it means the difference between life and death and safety or danger. A small dynamo-powered radio should be part of your cache to keep you abreast of the latest news.
Think things through
Whatever you plan, whatever your primary goals are, plan for failure. Plan for the main highway to be jammed. Plan for the secondary roads to be washed out or congested. Plan to take a tertiary road, an alternate route, a “secret” series of side streets that might not be as crowded as the main roads.
As you develop your plan, think of all the items you might need along the way. What’s important here is to consider what you’ll need if your plan falls apart for some reason and you have to switch to Plan B… or Plan C.
If your vehicle breaks down, did you plan to bring the tools, training, and parts to fix it? If not, you’ll have to figure out another way.
Make sure you plan on what to take in every case, overlap your requirements for each case, and decide what would make sense to take. Of course, you can’t take everything or plan for everything, but you can maximize your chances if you plan effectively.
Practice your exit plan
Putting your bug-out plans into action may be as simple as driving your intended route(s), and be observant of what happens along the way, how long it takes you to travel your primary and backup routes, and if there are any issues. Do it during rush hour to get a feel for what kind of traffic you can expect.
Note on your maps areas to avoid (bad neighborhoods, those without proper services) and areas to aim for (remote friends, military bases, hospitals, etc.).
On your map and route, are there choke points where traffic can bottleneck?
Do you cross any rivers or streams that might swell and flood the road?
Are there sources for fuel, water, food, and will those sources be available in abundance if you need them?
Leaving your home with the prospects of many never seeing it again is a difficult thing to do, but don’t leave like you’re abandoning it. Instead, leave like you’re going on vacation. Pack your gear in a closed garage, so nobody sees and leave like you’re just going out for a while.
If there is a fear of flooding, cut the power to your house at the breaker, but if not, leave a couple of lights on to dissuade looters. Of course, close and lock all windows and doors.
Once you’ve left, put your evacuation plan into play and stick with the routes you have laid out in your preparation phase. Stay extra vigilant for unforeseen dangers like riot zones, road hazards (downed powerlines), washed-out bridges, and excess traffic.
The idea is to escape the city as quickly as possible, so you may have to rely on your secondary or tertiary plans. But, most importantly, don’t stop. It’ll sound callous, but you need to look out for yourself and your family—you’ve packed your gear and planned your escape for your group—plus, people during emergencies should not be trusted.
Things to do before an evacuation
A wide variety of emergencies may result in an evacuation, and you need to be ready for it. In some cases, you may have a day or two to prepare, while other instances might call for an immediate evacuation. Planning ahead is vital to ensuring that you can evacuate quickly and safely, no matter what the circumstances. Below are some recommendations from our government.
Learn the types of disasters that are likely in your community and the local emergency, evacuation, and shelter plans for each specific disaster.
Plan how you will evacuate and where you will go if you are advised to bug out.
Identify several places you could go to when SHTF, such as a friend’s home in another town or a motel. Choose destinations in different (various) directions so that you have multiple options during a crisis.
If needed, identify a place to stay that will accept pets. Most public shelters allow only service animals.
Be familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area.
Always follow the instructions of local officials and remember that your evacuation route may be on foot, depending on the type of disaster.
Develop a family/household communication and re-unification plan so that you can maintain contact and take the best actions for each of you and re-unite if you are separated.
Assemble supplies that are ready for evacuation, both a “go-bag” you can carry when you evacuate on foot or public transportation, and supplies for traveling by longer distances if you have a personal vehicle. Keep a full tank of gas in it if an evacuation seems likely.
Keep a half tank of gas in it at all times in case of an unexpected need to evacuate. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages. Plan to take one car per family to reduce congestion and delay.
Make sure you have a portable survival kit in your vehicle.
If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if needed. For example, make arrangements with family, friends, or your local government.
Things to do during an evacuation
Listen to a battery-powered radio and follow local evacuation instructions.
Take your emergency supply kit.
Give yourself time and leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather. Take your pets with you, but understand that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. Plan how you will care for your pets in an emergency now.
If time allows, call or email the out-of-state contact in your family communications plan. Tell them where you are going.
Make sure you secure your home as best as possible and start by closing and locking doors and windows.
Unplug electrical equipment such as radios, televisions, and small appliances. Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding. If there is damage to your home and you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas, and electricity before leaving.
Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going. Wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provides some protection, such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and a hat.
Check with neighbors who may need a ride.
Follow recommended evacuation routes.
Do not take shortcuts; they may be blocked.
Be alert for road hazards such as washed-out roads or bridges and downed power lines. Do not drive into flooded areas.
Things to do after the evacuation
If you evacuated for the storm, check with local officials where you’re staying and back home before traveling.
After significant events, residents returning to disaster-affected areas should expect and prepare for disruptions to daily activities and remember that returning home before storm debris is cleared is dangerous.
Let friends and family know before you leave and when you arrive
How long should you stay away?
This, of course, is an unanswerable question. Your length of time out of the city and away from your home is dependent on many factors, and the first and foremost is safety.
Is it safe to go home? Is whatever the reason that caused you to leave over?
Another concern is the aftermath.
Is your home even still standing? Is there a reason to go home to an empty lot or a pile of rubble?
Whatever forces compelled you to stay away, be prepared for the duration of your absence. You escaped possible death and destruction for a very good reason. Don’t go home too early and be unprepared to face additional dangers.
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