Planning an Evacuation

Guest post by David Michaud, Emergency

image by mr.zorglob

Home, in most situations, is where it is easiest for you to survive most emergency disaster – that is the place, after all, where your food and water supplies are stockpiled, where you keep your guns, and where you are most familiar with conditions. However, there are some emergencies where the need to survive might compel you to abandon your familiar surroundings. For example, a large forest fire advancing through your area might threaten to reduce your house to ash, and in this case, there is nothing that you can do except heed the evacuation orders.

Those with an interest in survival matters will know that the best time to make arrangements for coping with an emergency is when it hasn’t happened yet. The whole idea of the survival movement is to be prepared, in one way or another, for critical, unexpected situations, to avoid getting blindsided by them and so, hopefully, to survive them.

An examination of even a few evacuation situations in recent history will tell you that the official and private response to an approaching disaster is usually completely inadequate. Warnings are issued immediately before the hurricane rushes ashore or the wildfire sweeps into the city suburbs. As a result, the most obvious escape routes are usually choked solid with cars within a couple of hours, and many people abandon any effort to escape because they know they wouldn’t get far even if they tried.

image by kalleboo

When is the best time to evacuate?

You can increase your chances of getting yourself and your family out of a dangerous situation safely by making your own unofficial evacuation plan long before you need to use it. Hopefully, you will never be forced to flee from your home, but in the event that you are compelled to at some time in the future, you should do so in a way that maximizes your chance of evacuating successfully, with some provisions for your return, as well.

The first thing to do is to identify multiple routes out of your area, preferably in different directions. You don’t know from which direction disaster might approach, so you don’t want to be reliant on a single escape route if you can help it. This route could end up blocked by other fleeing people or the disaster itself.

Get a local road map, figure out at least two or three alternate routes, and then drive them. Don’t just leave your route a theory on paper – practice driving your evacuation routes in advance, until you are completely familiar with each, and can drive them reliably without needing to consult maps. Also practice driving them several times at night, since emergencies can happen without regard to the time, and it is often harder to find your way along a driving route at night than it is during the day.

image by pnoeric

When your life is potentially on the line, you don’t want to take a wrong turn in the dark and end up wandering a maze of back roads while a forest fire advances or a tsunami approaches. Becoming thoroughly familiar with your escape routes will increase your confidence while driving them, which in turn will make it less likely that you’ll panic and make a mistake.

Know what lies ahead

Check your area thoroughly for the location of both emergency resources and potential dangers. Find out where the local evacuee area is likely to be, since that is where rescuers and those bringing food and water to a disaster-stricken area will come first. Learn the locations of police, trauma centers and medical centers, and other places you can potentially go for help.

You also need to check for possible perils on your evacuation routes. These can include spots where you might get cut off – bridges can wash out during flooding, for example, and dams might break during an earthquake, rendering whole roads downstream impassible. Areas where gas and other explosive or poisonous substances are stored should also be avoided when possible, since their containment might be broken by the disaster.

image by swanksalot

You should also be aware of spots where the local inhabitants might give trouble when there is a general breakdown of law and order during an emergency. Don’t plan your evacuation route through a housing development where gang violence is rife even at the best of times.

The final touch to a good evacuation plan is to make a car emergency kit, including some non-perishable food, water or water purification equipment, a first aid kit, and some basic repair tools. Some maps in the glove compartment will help, and a topographic map of the local area – together with a compass – can be a lifesaver if you’re forced to flee on foot at some point. With these preparations in place, you can rest assured that if you are ever obliged to leave your home in a hurry, you will do so in as effective and safe a way as is humanly possible.

Learn more about Emergency Disaster & supplies by visiting us at Emergency

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© Copyright 2011 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
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  1. LizLong says

    I think a good topographic map is helpful even if you aren't on foot. What better way to see where streams are located or potential spots for mudslides? You know a mudslide will NOT happen in the middle of a large flat area! My state Atlas and Gazetteer is topographical (bought on and includes such useful items as lists of campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, waterfalls, hunting areas, and boat launch sites. It also shows power line and rail line routes. Power lines could be a hazard if they went down, but they can also provide a clear route under them if you need to go completely off of roads. In addition to dams, lakes, mountains, etc, it shows "areas prone to inundation", which could be very handy if you're fleeing as a result of a hurricane or other storms. :-)

  2. says

    Good article. I would also add "timing" to the mix.

    While a natural disaster can be easy (easier) to time – you know when the storm is approaching for example – a more "man-made" disaster or cisis situation is a lot hard to plan for. Know when to actually put your evacuation plan into action is key. Too early and the crisis may not be as bad as you think it will become but you've incurred the time, expense, and possible social implications of leaving. OTOH, leave too late and you'll be in a worse situation than if you stayed put!

  3. says

    I agree with Liz, a topographical map is the right kind of map to have. You also need a lensatic compass to help you navigate. If you don't know how to read a topographical map or how to navigate with a lensatic compass don't despair! Their is good training on both at

  4. ke4sky says

    Evac kit stays in car always! Don't presume disaster will be short-term. Pack essentials before comfort items. Take adequate cash and supplies for a week. Forget last-minute purchases, don’t delay leaving. Put distance between your family and the storm. Leave 72 hours before storm makes landfall to allow adequate travel time to complete your evacuation. Relocate with friends or relatives outside the moderate damage radius. Avoid government shelters. Route selection is important. Plan alternate routes. Vehicle must be adequate to carry essentials, but large vehicle is handicap on crowded roads, uses more fuel, expensive / scarce in emergency. Don't plan on fuel being available en route. Keep gas tank at least half full always. When hurricane watch changes to warning top off tanks, charge batteries on phone, inspect supplies, conserve fuel, keep tank ¾ full. Prepare family to leave. Notify out of area contact of your intended route and ETA then leave ASAP. Do not delay.
    Carry extra fuel containers outside vehicle.

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