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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Preps: Evacuation Plan, Part 2

This is a part of a series of  "drill downs" for the Disaster Impacts you can encounter if an emergency occurs.  Click here to update yourself on the entire list of twelve, and our philosophy on Emergency Preparedness.  All of these drill-downs will be categorized under the 12 Impacts label listing.

Click here to see Part 1 of this post. 

In yesterday's post, we talked about determining the contents of your Bug Out Bag (BOB) and the preparation of a personalized Evacuation Checklist.  Today we'll tackle:
  • Evacuation Transportation
  • Evacuation Destinations 
  • Mapping Evacuation Routes
I have decided to add a third post on this subject:  Voluntary Activation Of Your Evacuation Plan.  That will be posted tomorrow.

Evacuation Transportation

You've decided (or had it decided for you) that you need to evacuate for any number of reasons.  How are you going to get "there"?

In general, you have 3 options:  (1) By foot/bicycle, (2) by public transportation (the regular system, or one established by evacuation authorities),  or (3) by personal vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, etc.).

By Foot/Bicycle - In general, this is the least desirable option.  It is the slowest of the options, and requires you to be, "out in the open" during a potentially dangerous situation.  Still, it must be considered and included in your plans.  It is the ultimate "fall-back" position:  When all else fails, hoof it!

Comfortable, broken-in footwear along with first aid supplies (mole skin, salves, etc.) must be part of your gear. Since you will be in the elements, hats, jackets, ponchos or other means of protecting you from the hot/cold/wind/rain must be included as well.  Self-defense weapons need to be enhanced.  If you're using a bicycle, you will need a tire repair kit at the very minimum.

Food and water supplies must also be increased, as they will be providing you with the fuel to power your journey.  Plan on at least 3,000 calories and 2 gallons of water per day, per person - more if the weather is very hot or cold.

And, as The ABC of Hiking points out, your level of physical fitness will play a major role in the success of your journey [BTW, this is a great site on hiking in general].  Get in some sort of reasonable shape NOW.

Public Transportation - Aside from the constraints placed upon you (coordinating the schedules of the various modes of transportation), if the emergency event has already occurred (an earthquake or terrorist attack, for instance), public transportation may not be available.

This option would be most viable if you were aware of a pending emergency (i.e., a hurricane).  Once you have determined your evacuation location(s), be sure you have current schedules for each of the modes of transportation you intend to use.

Clearly, keeping informed about events is ultra-critical if you intend on using public transportation.

Personal Vehicles -  This gives you the most flexibility.  You are able to leave for your evacuation destination at any time.  You are also generally able to bring the most supplies with you, when compared to other options.

To be successful, your vehicle must be in good repair and have sufficient amounts of fuel available.  Attempt to keep your vehicle with twice the amount of gasoline needed to reach your Intermediate Destination (more on this later) at all times in case an emergency occurs which disrupts your ability to obtain additional gasoline.

For instance, both of our Intermediate Destinations are approximately 70 miles away from our home.  We try to keep gasoline to allow us to drive 140 miles in our tanks at all times.  Your miles per gallon and tank size will determine the amounts you need to keep on hand.

You want to keep twice as much gasoline in your tank as you will likely need, in anticipation of having to take an alternate - usually longer - route, and the possibility of being stuck in traffic for long periods of time.

Also seriously consider keeping filled gasoline containers at your home.  Learn about safe storage practices, and about additives to extend the useful life of the store gasoline.

Regardless of your means of transportation, don't wait until the last minute to initiate your evacuation plan.  The sooner you act, the less likely you'll be impeded from reaching your destinations by traffic jams, or crowds of frightened people.

When the recent tsunami warning was issued for Hawaii, it would have been prudent to move to your evacuation destination immediately after it was issued.  Most others were driving towards the stores to buy emergency supplies!

Evacuation Destinations

So.  Where ya gonna go?  If you don't decide, others might make that decision for you.  Your destinations should be for a number of scenarios. We recommend at least 3 evacuation destinations:  (1) Local, (2) Intermediate and (3) Long-distance.

Regardless of the destination, if it is the home or property of someone else, be sure you have fully discussed the possibility of you (and your family) becoming semi-permanent guests.  Two ways to make that imposition a bit easier is to offer them a reciprocal agreement, and to pre-position supplies at the destination in advance.  The less likely you are to become a burden, the more likely they are to agree to your plan.

The type of emergency you encounter will dictate your evacuation destination.

Local Location - this is usually the residence of a friend or family member, OR a commercial residential property (hotel/motel) that would have the ability to accommodate you and your family.  Obviously, this latter option would require access to money.  These locations are generally located within 10-15 miles of your residence.

Using a local site also implies that the emergency is very focused in its impact, not requiring the relocation of significant numbers of people.  Things such as a house fire, or even a wild fire, mud slide, tornado or flood that takes out hundreds of homes.  An entire region is NOT affected, just a limited number of homes that are in the path of the disaster.

You should have multiple Local evacuation sites - 4 if at all possible - one each in a different compass direction from your home, under the assumption that one or more of them will ALSO be affected by the disaster.

Understand that if it is some sort of emergency that affects others, hotels/motels will quickly fill.  These should be a last-resort option.  If you own an RV or travel trailer, these can be effective short-term solutions as well.

Intermediate Location - This is a location that is still in the general region (i.e., "Northern California") but is sufficiently distant from your residence for it to be highly unlikely to have been affected by the same emergency.  They are generally more than 50 miles and less than 200 miles away.

They are used for significant, wide-ranging disruptions in the general area in which you live.  A major earthquake or an anticipated major hurricane come to mind.

You should have at least two of these Intermediate locations identified, and they should certainly have some level of pre-positioned supplies already in place.

For both the Intermediate and Long-Distance sites, the use of an RV or Travel Trailer should be considered.  Your options for locations significantly increase.  The vast majority of Walmarts allow you to temporarily use their parking lots.  From their web site -
While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.
There are numerous private websites that keep track of the Walmarts that allow RV parking.  Most of the restrictions are place by local zoning ordinances, and not Walmart themselves.

Also, with an RV, you will have access to many state and federal parks, private park grounds and other similar locations.  Note, though, that many have time limits on how long you can stay, and the more popular sites require advanced reservations.  Investigate this well in advance of arrival.

RVs are also best used where you have advanced warning of an emergency.  It would be ill-advised to rely on an RV to get you to an Intermediate site after a spontaneous emergency (earthquake or tornado) which has destroyed portions of the highway infrastructure.

Be sure you don't "fall in love" with using an RV as your Intermediate Location.  It should be one option, not your only option.

Long-Distance Location - As with Intermediate Locations, these are best utilized well in advance of a major emergency.  These are typically more than 200 miles away from your residence (and may be thousands of miles away) and may be in another state.  They are used either in anticipation of, or in the aftermath of a significant disaster or societal event.  Typically, they will be used for significantly longer periods of time than the Local or Intermediate locations.

Because of their distance, many more logistics come into play.  You need to plan for fuel, lodging and food requirements along the route.  You should have significant amounts of food and other supplies already in place, or have the means to transport them with you.

Pre-positioning them is much more preferable, but you will need to ensure that they are safe.  A remote cabin might be an easy target for theft in the best of times, and will certainly become one in more trying times.

If you are traveling between states, be sure you are familiar with each state's firearms and use-of-force laws.  Unless we have experienced a total loss of civilian control of society - very unlikely - you can expect gun laws to be strictly enforced, or even abused by local authorities.  See Hurricane Katrina for examples.

Again, as with Intermediate Locations, RVs become a very attractive option.  They afford you the ability to transport people and supplies for long distances, while also providing shelter along the way.  They can even be used as temporary housing at the final destination for periods of time.

Mapping Evacuation Routes

For each destination, you want to have at least 3 routes.  One as a "normal" route you would normally use if you were going to the location for a casual visit.

One which avoids as many "choke points" as possible.  This includes bridges (including freeway overpasses), levees, tunnels, ferries or any other natural or man-made structures which might become impassable.

The last one should be for a travel route by foot or bicycle.

Sounds pretty daunting, doesn't it?  If you have access to the Internet and a printer, you have no worries.

Google Maps will allow you to produce all of these maps, and do it for free.

Let's say I wanted to go from Concord, Ca to Galt, Ca (hmmm, Concord and Galt.  And No, I don't live in Concord, and I'm not going to Galt!).  I would key in both of those cities (or specific address if they were available) and let Google do its thing.  I'd get this basic map -

I would print this map AND the directions, and be done with Map 1.

For Map 2, I would go to the Options link in the upper left-hand corner of the page, and check the boxes, "Avoid Highways" and "Avoid Tolls", and here's what I'd get -

It's a big re-routing to the south that adds about 45 minutes to the trip.  The benefits of this route are that it is much less heavily traveled, and would likely be so in an emergency.  It also bypasses a significant portion of the Sacramento Delta and the accompanying bridges.  On the down-side, you're out in the boonies for much of the trip.  Gasoline, repair shops and emergency services are widely dispursed.

For Map 3, Google offers "Walking" and "Bicycle" options.   Both will give you routes which are safe to walk on, BUT, at least for the maps I was producing, the Bicycle maps took me through a number of restricted Bike Paths in the area.  If you were walking with a back pack, you'd likely be OK, but if you were pulling a cart, you might have difficulty getting through the "man traps" they sometimes erect on these paths.

That brings us very nicely to the fact that for each of these routes, you need to test them before you simply add them to your BOB.  For the Walking and Bicycle routes, you can still drive them, but get out and walk those portions restricted from automobiles to see if they are passable with a pack on your back.

For Maps 2 and 3, when you are doing your practice runs, you should also very clearly note every single bridge, tunnel or other possible impediment along your route.  These are your choke points, and you may want to map alternatives around them.

Handily, Google maps also allows you to make on-the-fly adjustments by simply clicking and dragging a portion of the route, and moving it to other locations.  Very cool, indeed!

Lastly, Google maps also has a Public Transit option.  It will not work everywhere (for instance, it would not map a route from my home to my Long-Distance Location) but it has been surprisingly accurate for local and Intermediate routes.

Tomorrow:  Voluntary Activation of your Evacuation Plan.

Accept The Challenge

The work involved with identifying evacuation locations, and then mapping multiple routes is quite time intensive.  You need to first make agreements with the owners of the locations and then work out the logistics of getting there.

All for an event which may never happen.

Think of this process like any other insurance policy:  It hurts to spend the resources up front, but you're sure happy you did so when you need to collect!

Don't be short-sighted.  Time is the greatest investment in this process.  Allocate a few hours to consider your alternatives, and at least begin the process of establishing relationships with others.  You might be surprised to find them thinking along the same lines!

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.

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