10 September 2011

Prep30: Develop your evacuation plan

Many of the situations for which people prepare involve "hunkering down" in your home and riding out the storm (literally or figuratively). Nonetheless, there are time when it will be necessary to evacuate your home. For instance, a hurricane, flood, wildfire, or chemical spill may result in your needing to leave for some short amount of time.

Anyway, let's imagine that it's time evacuate from your home. You've got a 72-hour emergency kit ready to go, and even a kit for your pet. You quickly gather your family and emergency gear, get in your car, and go... where? That's what you'll figure out in this Prep30 post.

Note, this post is not geared toward a major, widespread catastrophe where you're leaving indefinitely for some remote retreat. Rather, it is concerned with evacuating your home temporarily and returning within a reasonably short timeframe:
  1. First, it's important to know where you're not going. While there will likely be "official shelters" mentioned with any news or evacuation notices, you can't really preplan for where they'll be. Plus, you're likely to find less-than-desirable situations and living conditions in the shelter anyway. You'll be far better off avoiding the chaos and potential problems of a shelter and finding a place to stay of your own.

  2. For your "safe location," you'll want to find a relative or close friend who lives a good distance away, something like 100 to 150 miles away. This distance is only approximate. It should be far enough away to be out of the danger area around your home, but close enough to be able to get there within a half-tank of gas.

  3. When thinking of possible safe locations, find places that are not likely to suffer the same emergencies as the ones you'll likely be fleeing. For example, if you might be evacuating before a hurricane, make sure your safe location is inland, far away from the coast.

  4. Be sure to discuss your plans to "camp out" with your family/friends and get their buy-in on the idea. It may work out that they'll plan on your home as their safe location should they face an evacuation.

  5. A less preferable safe location would be a hotel located about the same distance away, using the same location criteria. The problem with hotels is that other people will have the same idea, and there may be no availability. Still, it's a good idea to have a fallback plan in case your primary safe location is unavailable for any reason. (If you have pets, check these resources to find pet-friendly hotels: www.officialpethotels.com or www.petswelcome.com)

  6. Once you've figured out the place(s) you would be going, you need to figure out your potential routes to get there. Use your favorite online map utility (e.g., Google Maps, MapQuest, etc.) to find multiple routes to your location(s). The first route should be the fastest, most direct route. However, this is also likely to be very slow (or at a standstill) during an evacuation, especially if it involves interstate highways. Therefore, be sure to have a back-up route that uses less-traveled roads.

  7. Gather all of the contact data for your safe locations. Have names, addresses, and  phone numbers for each of your safe locations neatly printed out and easy to refer to. Print out hardcopies of all the various routes to each location(s). Be sure that you print all of this information out and keep it in your emergency kit. This step is critical, because your mobile phone or other electronic storage media may not be available in an emergency.

  8. You should be able to get through the above steps in the 30-minute period that's the target of these Prep30 posts. However, as soon as practical afterward, you need to actually drive the routes you've planned to check them out. Now, with family or friends, you may well have driven your primary route many times before. Nevertheless, you need to do it again. But this time, pay attention to what might be trouble spots during an evacuation. This is especially important for the first portion of your trip, which is where you'd likely encounter the most problem during a real evacuation. Once you've driven your routes, assess them carefully, and and adjust your plans accordingly.


  1. You put forward some really good ideas here that many have not thought of. I suggest that a 4 wheel drive is a must during a evacuation because of the probability of so many traffic jams and vehicles broke down an out of gas. I have a map with four different locations and different alternate routes to each including off road. Each location is dependent on what has happened and where is the safest location for me to head out to.
    One other item that many have not thought of, is gas, and a abandoned vehicle has some gas in it and a puncture in the bottom of the tank and a container and you now have a way to add to your own gas supply

  2. Hello... uh... Anonymous! :)

    Thanks for the comment. You bring up some very valid points, ones that would be worth considering.

    These tips are especially useful for the "dedicated" prepper who's willing to go beyond "entry level". :)