Reports coming out of Butte County, California, describe the drama of an entire city evacuating on the run from wildfire. Disaster preparedness experts prioritize various levels of evacuation depending on how much time the residents have to leave. For many in Paradise, California, there was no warning. No casual announcements from mobile loudspeakers, no gentle urging from the authorities, just a panicked mass exodus trying to outrun a fire bent on destroying an entire region. Stories of common folk displaying uncommon bravery saving lives and property are constantly being reported on the internet.
Evacuation is also referred to as “bugging out.” (You remember that from watching all those old reruns of M.A.S.H.) Then there’s T.E.O.T.W.A.W.K.I., short for “The End Of The World As We Know It.” Evacuation is only necessary when it is imminently likely that your humble abode will no longer be “abode-able”. Maybe your house is on fire, maybe there is a wildfire on the way, or maybe a Category 5 tornado/supercell is bearing down on you. Or as some in our region experience every year, rain-swollen streams have placed your home in imminent flood danger and you are ordered to evacuate.
Some experts suggest the need for three evacuation plans. A 60 second plan, a one hour plan and a twelve hour plan. So let’s pretend you wake in the middle of the night with the smell of smoke in your house. After much panic, screaming and frantic rushing about, you get your family and pets out of the house, hopefully without injury. That’s an example of the need for a 60 second plan. I have a theory that the panic and screaming factor will be reduced in direct correlation to how much planning (and rehearsing) you have already practiced.
Situations like the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, are extremely rare. Almost always, residents are given ample time to evacuate. On the other hand if the authorities tell you a wildfire is headed your way or the flood waters are rising or that tornado is developing and you have one hour to get out, you still need a plan. More planning equals less panic and screaming, which equals less stress on the marriage. What to take, what to leave behind, who to notify and oh yes, where to go. When deciding where to go, consider this, there is a term for someone who leaves their home with hopes of escaping to some unknown place of ‘better-ness’. They’re called refugees.
The 12 hour plan is also known as the “Just in Case” plan. “C’mon honey lets gas up the car, hook on to the RV and stock up on toilet paper, just in case.” This also gives you time to sit down make a list, (if you don’t already have one) empty the fridge, unplug your flat screen TV, your computer and even flip the master breaker on your electrical panel. But then those things should already be in your plan. All in all, we can diminish the damage from a natural disaster and better our chances of survival by simply taking some time to “Make a Plan.”
As always if you have any questions or comments email me me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous columns are on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is an author, pastor and freelance writer. His book, “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” is available on Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and other online booksellers.