When creating your emergency evacuation plan, you need to consider a lot of different factors, included but not limited to the following questions:
- How will my family be able to contact one another if cell phones or the internet don’t work?
- Where will the safest bug out location or locations be?
- What routes can we take to get to that location?
- Where will my family gather if we are spread across town when disaster hits?
Ideally, you should come up with multiple plans that can be used to respond to different possible scenarios.
IS IT EVEN NECESSARY TO EVACUATE?
The very first question you have to ask yourself as a response to a disaster or a crisis in your city is whether it’s necessary to evacuate in the first place. On the one hand, you know the area around your home and all of your stockpiles and preparations are right there. Bugging out has a myriad of risks, such as exposing you and your family to thieves, law enforcement and even hypothermia
At the same time, it may be too dangerous for you to stay in your home, which means you have to take those risks. If a hurricane is on its way or if your home is in the path of a wildfire or an angry mob, then evacuating your home is simply going to be your only option.
The central element of your emergency evacuation plan has to be a communication plan. When disaster hits and you have to evacuate immediately, the chances are high that not all of your family members will be in the same place. A communication plan is essential so that you can contact each family member and bring everybody together quickly before you evacuate.
It’s also important that you will be alerted to incoming disaster by the authorities before it happens. Advanced warning is key because it provides you that little bit of extra time to communicate with family members and confirm your strategy before disaster hits.
Some disasters, such as a terrorist attack, will happen unexpectedly, but with today’s technology, natural disasters, like hurricanes, are detected in advance which means you can have advanced warning. Tune into the weather alert system on your car’s radio, or at least have a separate emergency radio with you so that you can be effectively warned of the disaster before it happens.
As for your family communication plan, each family member should always have a contact card in their pocket, bookbag, or wallet. This contact card needs to contain the information, such as cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses, of every member of the family. Each member of your family should ideally have a cell phone and know how to send a text message to other family members.
Create a list of emergency contacts on the same or a separate card for each person to carry as well. These emergency contacts can include relatives or friends who live out of town. During any emergency or a disaster that affects the entire area where you live, you can get in touch with these emergency contacts outside the area to let them know you are safe or to request assistance.
COMING UP WITH A PLAN
While communication is essential for any disaster plan, it’s virtually useless unless you take the time to create a comprehensive disaster plan. It’s always better to have multiple disaster plans, customized for each realistic disaster scenario you can think of than to have one single plan that you will use regardless of what occurs.
The first step to creating multiple disaster plans is to come up with a list of the disaster scenarios most likely for your area. A good place to begin is to start with a list of four or five different disasters and then create a plan for each one. Consider any widespread disasters, such as an EMP, that could affect the entire region or country as well as disasters that might only affect your county or state, like a hurricane or tornado.
If you live near the coast, for example, you will want to prepare for a hurricane, but if you live in the Midwest, a hurricane is an unlikely scenario. If you live near a nuclear power plant, you will want to prepare for a potential power plant accident. For anyone living near a river or large creek, having a flood plan is advised. Preparing for and evacuating in the event of a flood can be much different than preparing for other disasters.
While each disaster plan is somewhat unique depending on what you are preparing for, each plan will still need to contain certain elements. For example, each plan needs to include where everyone in your family will rendezvous before evacuating the city, your bug out location outside of the city, and every possible escape route leading out of the city to that bug out location.
Your home serves as the best rendezvous point before leaving the city because everyone in your family knows where it is and how to get there. Also, all of your supplies are already in your home, so you or someone else can begin to pack up your bug out vehicle before you evacuate (we’ll talk more about having a bug out vehicle in your plan later).
Remember, many routes are going to become blocked off either due to law enforcement, traffic, collapsed buildings, or a combination of those things. If you want to evacuate safely, you need to be fully aware of every possible route out of the city and have multiple backup routes in place so you can change them quickly and decisively. During an evacuation, the time it takes you to evacuate is a key factor to survival. Not all routes are drivable. Make sure your plan includes a route you can take on foot. Include railroad tracks, power line easements, logging roads and hiking trails in your list of evacuation routes as well.
As for your bug out location, it needs to be a drivable distance away from the city but also in a safe and hopefully an isolated location. Try to secure a bug out location that is less than one tank of gas away from your current home. Keep your gas tank as full as possible at all times to ensure you can reach your bug out location. If you have any friends or family members who live a few miles outside of the city, ask if you can store a can or two of gas on their property for emergencies or even make their home your bug out location if it’s far enough from the city.
SCHOOL EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLAN
Something you have to prepare in advance for is that you could be forced to evacuate while your children are still in school. Each school in your area already will already have specific emergency response plans, and it’s your responsibility to speak with the school to ask about what these plans are. Include picking your children up from the school location or the school evacuation location as part of your evacuation plan.
Specific questions that you should ask the school regarding their emergency response plans include the following:
- Does the school store food, water, and medical supplies in the event of emergencies?
- What are the ways your student can communicate with you during an emergency or disaster?
- Is there a sheltered location where the school will take the students should they need to evacuate the building, and if so, where is it?
- What are the rules regarding picking up your child from the school or shelter location?
- Does the school allow students with a drivers’ license to leave campus to head home in the event of a disaster?
The answers to these questions are imperative, so you know what you need to do if disaster strikes when one or more of your children are at school. If any of your children have a driver’s license, and assuming the school will allow them to leave to go home during a crisis, then you should decide in advance whether or not they will drive home to rendezvous with you there. Also inform any of your children of driving age that they are responsible for bringing their younger siblings (if they have any) with them as well.
Again, communication is key. As soon as disaster strikes, or as soon as you hear the warnings of a pending disaster from the authorities, attempt to contact your children immediately even if they’re still in school. Have a plan in advance so that if you have a teenager with a driver’s license and a car, who doesn’t respond within a set amount of time, they know you will come to the school to find them. Make sure your child knows that even if they see your message after the agreed upon time, they are NOT to head home but should respond to you immediately and then wait at the school. Agree upon a specific location at the school where your child should wait for you if they missed the response window, or cannot drive home because the car won’t start or is stolen, etc.
THE BUG OUT VEHICLE
The last thing we will talk about is the necessity of having a family bug out vehicle so your evacuation plan can come to fruition. Your bug out vehicle doesn’t have to be a separate car from your family cars, but at the same time, not every ordinary car will work for a bug out vehicle.
There are several qualities that your bug out vehicle must meet, including the following:
- It should be AWD or 4WD (in case you need to go off road)
- It must have enough seats to carry everyone in your family
- It must have enough cargo space for supplies such as your bug out bags, first aid kits, food and water, spare gasoline, weapons, etc.
- It must be reliable and in good condition
A 4WD pickup truck or SUV is your best bet for a bug out vehicle because it most easily fulfills these qualities. While sedans may get better gas mileage, most of them lack 4WD capabilities, and cargo space is severely limited. A 4WD sedan may be fine for one or two people, but it’s going to be too small for a family.
No emergency evacuation plan is complete without a bug out vehicle, plain and simple. Without a dependable bug out vehicle to carry you and your family outside of the city, evacuation is only going to be made more difficult. If you do not have access to a reliable vehicle, consider alternate transportation including bicycles, four wheelers, motorized scooters, etc. Bugging out on foot should be your last resort. Most people are not fit enough to bug out on foot, and this is especially true for those with children or elderly in the family.
In conclusion, while you should come up with multiple emergency evacuation plans that will serve you well as a response to different kinds of disasters, each emergency evacuation plan still needs to contain the same elements:
- A solid communication system between family members
- A rendezvous point where your family will all meet before evacuating
- A defined bug out or evacuation point outside of your city
- Multiple different routes and backup routes for getting to that bug out point
- Knowledge of the emergency response plan of the school(s) where your children attend
- A dependable bug out vehicle capable of carrying your family and your supplies
If you can include each of these elements in your emergency evacuation plans, you and your family’s chances of survival will go up astronomically.