Evacuation Planning

When it comes to emergency preparedness, having a plan before things get crazy is the key to making the right decisions.

When the human brain perceives danger, cortisol levels spike and we are prone to make emotion, irrational decisions.

One way to make better decision under stress is through stress inoculation. This includes things like military bootcamp, ice baths, and training regimens of elite athletes. However these methods take time to become truly effective, and if not routinely practiced, their benefits will diminish.

A second way that is available to everyone and can be used immediately is a plan.

To make an effective plan, it is important to start with what you want to accomplish.

At the time of this post, in SouthEast Georgia, we are preparing for Hurricane Ian to make landfall in Tampa, FL later this week.

My main goal is to keep my family safe during and after the weather event.

Part of my emergency preparedness plan includes an Evacuation Plan.

The goal of my evacuation plan is to help me and my family decide if and when to relocate, and how to do so.

Step 1: Should I stay or should I go?

Determine what deciding factors will make you leave your home. Focus on objective elements. It may be that the Governor orders a mandatory evacuation. It may be that wind and rain data anticipate flood waters that will submerge our region. Or it could be that we need to leave due to some other medical or infrastructure related emergency.

Whatever your reasons, they need to be based in objective fact. If your home is 13 feet above sea level and you know that the ocean will rise over 15 feet, that is an objective reason to leave.

What is the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning?

Side note: a hurricane “watch” means that a hurricane is possible whereas a “warning” means they are expected.

Step 2: What should I bring?

If you make the decision to leave, have enough food and medical supplies for at least a few days.

In our case, we have a bin in the garage labeled “hurricane box”. Inside it, we have vitamins, NSAIDs (ibuprofen and acetaminophen for adults and kids), a first-aid kit, pet food, and people food that is relatively consistent with our normal diet*. For food, we’ve got family staples like mac and cheese, rice packets, oatmeal and tunafish. All of these things will be happily incorporated back into our normal pantry at the end of this year’s hurricane season.

*I’ve learned personally, and corroborated with several people in military and prepping communities that having one of those 72-hour food buckets is great as a last resort. However, if you actually plan to eat it, be ready to have a stomach ache or two. The high levels of sodium and processed food means that your body will require more water to break down those foods. And if the ingredients are way outside your normal, your body may take some time to adjust.

Step 3: Where do I go now?

Break your route up into sections based on:
– travel time and
– direction.

Time: draw circles around your current location that represent how far you can go in 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours and 5 hours.

Direction: pick your possible directions of travel, using major routes and noting potential side routes as back-up in case highways are closed or inaccessible.

Once you’ve established your timing and directions, locate the following at each intersection on the map:
– accommodation
– medical facility
– fuel station
– food resupply

As an example, if you plan to travel North, you will need to find a suitable hotel or lodging, hospital, gas station and grocery store at your 30-minute circle, 1, 2 and 5 hour circles.

Continue to do this for each potential direction of travel until you’ve filled out each intersection on your map.

Bonus points if you call on your inner OSINT analyst and use a service such as Google Street View to know what places look like ahead of time!

Having this type of a plan in place will help you navigate yourself and your family to safety in changing conditions.

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