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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:24 pm 
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What to do If you become a refugee.


I know the ZS emphasizes preparedness and many of have detailed plans and preparations to Bug in for many or most disasters. We also have Bug out Bags and various preparations to get us to our Bug out Land. Nevertheless it is within the realm of possibility that God forbid you may find your self in a forced evacuation to another city.

I am writing this based upon conversations I have had with a variety of people about a variety of experiences after Katrina. Some are lessons I gleaned from them and other parts of are my personal opinions based upon hearing their stories. Clearly Katrina’s evacuations were on a massive scale and other evacuations may be different as a result of the lessons learned, then again may be not. These experiences are also not likely to apply in other than say a massive natural disaster. In short your results may differ.

Some Basic Rules:

I would have to say rule #1 is do not become a refugee and throw yourself into the “tender arms” of FEMA (or the equivalent). If at all possible evacuate yourself and avoid any assistance from governmental agencies, until you have a chance to think, research your alternatives and understand the situation and aid offered.

Rule #2 if you find your self in a public shelter, find a way out of the shelter as soon as possible either through family or friends. In a shelter you have no privacy, your sleep will be disrupted by the noise and lights (they stay on for safety 24/7), and you will experience varying levels of shock and trauma. The authorities will decide when you eat, what you eat and when and where you go to the bathroom. They will decide what news you hear and how you hear it. Your life will be regimented to suit their convenience (& capabilities). I am not criticizing these agencies, this is the only way they can run a safe shelter, and nevertheless it is not a pleasant place to live after a traumatic event.

Rule #3 you and only you can decide what is the best course of action for you and your family. Do not look to others for anything but information. People will offer a lot of advice, but strive to obtain information about the situation and your options before you turn to others for advice. A word of caution is necessary here. Do not underestimate the trauma of being displaced from your home, separated from friend and familiar places. This trauma can negatively impact your judgment. This is why you should strive to obtain information before you make any significant decision regarding your future plans. Sometimes the best decision (once you leave the shelter) is rest, get back to as normal of a schedule as possible and then in the cold light of day start to review the information.


What to expect if you are evacuated:

Most people I have met and talked to who were evacuated got to a shelter in a variety of ways. I spoke to both rich and poor, while their individual stories varied much was the same.

Transportation:
With regards to the people who were rescued from the flooding the story was similar. They were taken to high ground and told to wait for ground transport. There generally was no food or water provided at this point and often times little shade. Sometimes the people were brought to a railroad track and told to walk in a certain direction until they came to a check point. From this point forward it is important for your family to stay together and under no circumstances leave anyone alone. Pairs should be the minimum number for safety.

Lesson to Learn: Pack and bring a bug out bag. At the very least bring water, clothes and documents, money and good walking shoes and socks.

Once ground transport arrived (in some cases a pick up truck, 6x6 Army truck or buses of a variety of sizes and comfort {school buses to tour buses}), People were segregated for transport. Note sometimes they wanted to move the sick and young out first, other times they went by family. It varied based upon numbers, convenience to the authorities and available transport. Again my advice is that if someone is young or ill and needs to be separated from the group, that an adult should accompany that person(s). As for children my advice is to not separate yourself from them for any reason.

Lesson to Learn: Do not get separated. Do not look hostile but maintain a high situational awareness.

During the transport stage, armed troops or LEOs would search people for weapons and contraband. Most of the time when a weapon was found it was confiscated, but the person was not penalized for having a weapon or contraband unless the authorities had reason to believe the person was a “bad guy”. People with rifles were not mentioned, but I suspect, but cannot prove, if you showed up looking like Mad Max or a ninja things would not go well for you at all.

Lesson to Learn: Don’t dress like a ninja unless everyone else is dressed like one. Ditch weapons before you get to the checkpoint.

You can count on having someone frisk you, look through your bag and likely force you to discard some items to “make room” on the transport. Pets were not be permitted and you were forced to abandon them at that spot (note: LA now has a new law now requiring pets to be evacuated but on a segregated pet bus, so you may be able to take your pet out but may be forced to wait a very long time for the “pet bus”). Note the buses generally had water and sometimes MREs and FAKs on board. If you are thirsty, need aid or have other needs the time to ask is when you see a bus. You may or may not get what you need, but this is the best time to ask for it.

Lesson to Learn: At this point prepare to kick self for not being smart enough to have left earlier.

Some buses went to the airport where people were put on aircraft and evacuated to different cities. Often times the people on the plane did not know where they were heading until they disembarked from the aircraft. Other buses drove 7 hours non-stop to Houston, 9 hours to Dallas or San Antonio. (God bless the generosity of the state of Texas, they did more for Katrina refuges IMHO than any entity in those first dark days.)

When you arrive you will processed. That means your name, address, SS#, age, etc will be filled out on a form or entered into a computer. You were asked to provide an ID. If you did not have an ID you were still admitted but you were generally segregated (sometimes locked up) until your ID could be verified. You will often be issued an ID wrist band like they issue in hospitals and prisons. Do not lose that wrist band; without it your are SOL! People were then provided with a bag by the Red Cross or local aid group with shampoo, toothbrush, soap, disposable razor, toothpaste, etc. People were provided access to bathrooms, clean clothes (usually thrift store and donated stuff) and given an indoctrination seminar on the rules and regulations of the shelter.

Most shelters lock their doors at 10pm and do not reopen until 7am. If your are outside when the doors are locked; you are SOL. If you are inside when they were locked you are not going anywhere until 7am. Plan accordingly.

Counselors from FEMA, Red Cross, the Salvation Army and various local welfare/volunteer groups (it varied by shelter) set up a table to help people with communications, prescription drugs and various other needs. Some were great, some were useful, and others were less than useful, it varied.

Your living space was allocated based upon your arrival and your needs. Families were bedded together, but floor space was limited and crowed. It was like camping out in a gymnasium with a 1,000 of your friends. In the large shelters like the AstroDome the safest place to be was reported to be in the middle away from the corners. If you can, try to arrange a bit of privacy by hanging blankets to form a cube. Note just because it is called a shelter do not assume you are safe. Your new neighbors will steal you blind. You should always have someone stay with your things and never leave children alone or unsupervised. This environment has been described to me in many terms by many people ranging from adequate to Dantes’ Inferno. Your first course of action upon arrival should be communication with loved ones to let them know you are safe that and arrange for shelter for yourself elsewhere ASAP. You will be allowed to leave anytime you want (at least during the hours the shelter is open).

Lesson to Learn: Public shelters suck and they are not conducive to good mental health after a disaster. Make sure you have basic ID, credit cards and cash.

Getting Out and Getting Away:
The best story I heard was from a person who was looking for ride from Lakeview to Baton Rouge where his wife had evacuated. He got on one bus which went to the airport and he was ushered onto a plane bound for Salt Lake City (he thought is was going to Baton Rouge, the guy is not the sharpest tool in the shed). He had only the clothes on his back, a driver’s license and an American Express card. Once he got to Salt Lake City he called the American Hotel in SLC who sent a car for him, brought him to a men’s store, bought some clothes and the hotel upgraded him to suite since he was a “refugee”. He flew to Baton Rouge a couple of days later.

Obviously if you have the means getting out is simple for those with lesser means there may be a delay until you can find something affordable. Nevertheless getting out and getting back to normal should be your goal.

The options are to find a hotel room, friends or family or an apartment.

Hotel Room: Many people enjoy staying in a hotel, however if you live in one it is amazing how cramped and uncomfortable it gets. If you do stay in one look for one with kitchen facilities, eating out 3 meals a day gets very expensive and can be difficult if you do not have a car or transport.

Family & Friends:This is the cheapest but it has it own pitfalls. I recommend this only for a very short term stay.

A furnished Apartment: This is actually a very good option in many cities, assuming you can get it on a short term basis. If you are staying 30 to 90 days this normally is cheaper than a hotel room larger and is actually more “normal” so it helps you get back into the normal mode and out of the refugee mode.

You should note that in cities like Houston apartments and hotel rooms were not available due to the number of refugees, while in other cities this was not a problem.

This brings up the next decision where do I go. There is no one answer to this question. It varies by individual and family. I went back quickly while my wife stayed in Atlanta for 45 days with our family.

Many people chose not to return and instead decided to settle elsewhere, some stayed in the city to which they were evacuated while other relocated elsewhere. The statistics showed though that the people who willingly evacuated themselves and chose their destination did a whole better than those plucked form a roof and transported to an unfamiliar city. There may be several reasons for this, but I suspect it has to do with a willing to accept responsibility for one’s own destiny is likely high on the probability list.

Lesson to Learn:You are in charge of your life and you are responsible for keeping you and your family safe and happy. If you have an experience like this you will very likely be negatively impacted, mentally, emotionally and possibly physically. However the sooner you are able to take charge and get back to normal the better you will feel. Do not allow yourself to become an un-empowered victim. Be prepared to seek counseling, admit and accept the trauma, it will help you to move on with your life.

In conclusion, this information is provided in the sincere hope that none of you ever needs it. The next step which is resettlement after a disaster, which if there is any interest in it will be provided for your review at a later date.

EDIT for clarity: This should not be construed as criticism of any shelter operator. Katrina was tough due to the huge numbers involved. The shelters did the best job they could under very difficult circumstances. The regimentation described above was the only to handle the sheer number so people.

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Last edited by raptor on Thu Feb 07, 2008 4:33 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:54 pm 
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Raptor this post was fantastic, great job. Like you pointed out, a lot of us have a BOB or supplies for bugging in, but really don't have any plan in the case that we have to leave and a city and can't come back for an extended period of time. If I'm ever put in a refugee situation, I hope to be as independent of the government's help as possible, it's amazing how much just a little preparedness can help people out before a disaster and just waiting for the government to take care of them. Problem is the government is going to do the bare minimum, because (despite us being the wealthiest and greatest country in the world), it's damn hard taking care of thousands of people completely. Just thinking about the logistics of what it takes to move people, house them, feed them, give them medical attention, take care of security, then going on to think of who takes care of the vehicles used to transport them, where do the supplies and fuel comes from, it's all a lot to handle even for a government. But if every individual is prepared to at least some extent, it will definately help alleviate their problems, and make it easier for the government to facilitate their more urgent needs. Once again, great post Raptor!


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:59 pm 
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Great post Pratical advice that is not politicaly charged.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 3:10 pm 
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We were on the receiving end of a "family and friends" bug out after Rita. I can say for certain 'Short Time Only'. And we have a large house and are well prepared for problems.

I will add another post with some details when I have time. We are a Bug In family, but "you never know..."

A main comment that I have is there were ZERO gas cans to be found anywhere near our town (200 miles from Rita's landfall) for months after Rita hit. Seriously; Walmart, Home Depo, Lowes, none of those places would even order them for us the national stocks were so short (Katrina hit 3 weeks before Rita). You could get them via amazon or something, but it cost an arm and a leg for shipping.

We currently have 12 5 gallon cans. That will get both cars to BOL A or the SUV to BOL B.

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My wife and I evacuated before Katrina to a hotel in Ft. Worth with 2 days worth of extra clothes and our two cats. We expected the "normal" near miss and to be home in a day or two. We were gone for a little more than four weeks. Everything that Raptor has written matches my experiences as well as those of everyone I've spoken to. I'll add a couple of thoughts of my own.

Don't expect people to be reasonable. Don't expect people to be thinking straight. I was surprised at how mentally and emotionally effected I was by the whole experience and I was never in any physical danger. Not knowing the state of my house or property, whether my neighbors and coworkers and friends were okay, when we could safely return, the state of my job (I lost it, but didn't know for a week or two), and the thought that the city that you've lived in - everywhere you've gone for the last year could be gone... that stuff will mess you up.

If you are still in the affected area, everyone you meet will be going through this and will react differently. This includes whatever government and emergency management personnel are there trying to help. A lot of stuff happened here that should never have happened. I will not be discussing blame or responsibility for any of it, just remember, people will be tired, scared, overwhelmed and not entirely rational. While evacuated, I heard a lot of people say things about how they would have handled different situations, giving no thought to the mindset of the actual participants. As one example, the small town Sheriff you encounter in the street may have been awake for the last 40 hours wading through knee high water full of corpses carrying dehydrated children to shelters. He may not care whether your rifle is properly registered, and he might not be capable of a calm discussion about it.

I'm not trying to excuse anything that might have happened here, just suggesting that, as best you can, you should plan on other people not being at their best. And for you to not be at your best.

Some less gruesome advice you've probably read elsewhere: If you can, evacuate with copies of recent bills, your insurance papers, mortgage papers, etc. We spent a lot of time on the phone with customer service people arranging for late payments, mail delivery and so on. Having the paperwork made everything a lot easier.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 4:08 pm 
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sssss wrote:

Don't expect people to be reasonable. Don't expect people to be thinking straight. I was surprised at how mentally and emotionally effected I was by the whole experience and I was never in any physical danger. Not knowing the state of my house or property, whether my neighbors and coworkers and friends were okay, when we could safely return, the state of my job (I lost it, but didn't know for a week or two), and the thought that the city that you've lived in - everywhere you've gone for the last year could be gone... that stuff will mess you up.

If you are still in the affected area, everyone you meet will be going through this and will react differently. This includes whatever government and emergency management personnel are there trying to help. A lot of stuff happened here that should never have happened. I will not be discussing blame or responsibility for any of it, just remember, people will be tired, scared, overwhelmed and not entirely rational. While evacuated, I heard a lot of people say things about how they would have handled different situations, giving no thought to the mindset of the actual participants. As one example, the small town Sheriff you encounter in the street may have been awake for the last 40 hours wading through knee high water full of corpses carrying dehydrated children to shelters. He may not care whether your rifle is properly registered, and he might not be capable of a calm discussion about it.

I'm not trying to excuse anything that might have happened here, just suggesting that, as best you can, you should plan on other people not being at their best. And for you to not be at your best.

Some less gruesome advice you've probably read elsewhere: If you can, evacuate with copies of recent bills, your insurance papers, mortgage papers, etc. We spent a lot of time on the phone with customer service people arranging for late payments, mail delivery and so on. Having the paperwork made everything a lot easier.


All true and good advice that is applicable to future disasters, not just Katrina.

+1 on emotions and worry distorting your thought process. It is something that can take a while to get over and to deal with the residual issues. If you can imagine getting fired, losing your house, kicked out of town and not knowing whether or not your family and friends are safe, all happening on the same day, that gives you some perspective into the level of stress you may encounter.

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Raptor I have read your other posts and this one with great interest. Thank you for taking the time to do this. I'm going to mull this before I comment.
DK

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Just think the level of confusion/panic created with a single city or population area hit

Now imagine a country wide crisis! (such as an EMP and 1/3 to 1/2 of the country down)

Katrina/The run from Rita was just a small taste of the anarchy that will happen and the rapid unraveling of civilization that will happen if/when a BIG disaster happens

This is why IF and I say IF you have the option to bug in....stay! If you must leave...leave early and try to find a safe location with lovedones far away from the affected area...DO NOT WAIT till the last minute...the freeways will be parkinglots and frustration quickly overrides rationality, and if all possible..have multiple routes to your destination

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AwPhuch wrote:
Just think the level of confusion/panic created with a single city or population area hit

Now imagine a country wide crisis! (such as an EMP and 1/3 to 1/2 of the country down)

Katrina/The run from Rita was just a small taste of the anarchy that will happen and the rapid unraveling of civilization that will happen if/when a BIG disaster happens

This is why IF and I say IF you have the option to bug in....stay! If you must leave...leave early and try to find a safe location with lovedones far away from the affected area...DO NOT WAIT till the last minute...the freeways will be parkinglots and frustration quickly overrides rationality, and if all possible..have multiple routes to your destination



I saw the attempted evacuation of Houston for Rita on TV (I was in N.O. at the time) do you (or any other forum member) have any first hand insight into that event. We all heard about cars running out of gas, 12 hour drives from the Beltway to Katy, etc. I would be very interested in anyone's insight into that event and the resulting lessons learned.

The key lesson I learned is that if you live in a major metro area evacuate at the first sign of trouble or plan on being stuck there. If you do evacuate by car have a full tank of gas and at least 2 full 5 gallon jerry cans of fuel.

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AwPhuch wrote:
This is why IF and I say IF you have the option to bug in....stay! If you must leave...leave early and try to find a safe location with lovedones far away from the affected area...DO NOT WAIT till the last minute...the freeways will be parkinglots and frustration quickly overrides rationality, and if all possible..have multiple routes to your destination


+1 on that. Also, be sure that you KNOW the various routes. Don't rely on trying to find your way with a map or a GPS unit. If at all possible, drive the routes in advance and get to know all the major and minor roads along the way.

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I don't think that anyone has mentioned how much Raptor kicks ass. Thanks for another poignant and insightful post. I am always interested in the opinion of experience.

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That was a great read Raptor, thank you for sharing.


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Raptor,
Once again you have given us a insightful and useful post with many good points to ponder.

Thanks!

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This is valuable reading Raptor, thanks for sharing what you observed.

I've taken what you written here and on your other big Katrina thread and copied the text to print out for future personal reading. It's too valuable to skim over and forget. Thanks again.


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Wow. I keep telling m ywife to read raptor's posts. i wish she would.

Great job!

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Raptor,

May I have your permission to copy of some of you posts to share around with some of the local emergency response community?

There are several who will not come to ZS because of the packaging, but I still think they would benefit from it and I think they would cause some useful conversations locally.

Thank you for your consideration.

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AwPhuch wrote:
This is why IF and I say IF you have the option to bug in....stay! If you must leave...leave early and try to find a safe location with lovedones far away from the affected area...DO NOT WAIT till the last minute...the freeways will be parkinglots and frustration quickly overrides rationality, and if all possible..have multiple routes to your destination

Just be aware that if you bug in, the authorities may force you to bug out on their terms regardless of how well you're prepared or how safe your BIL is. If that happens, your guns will be confiscated and your preps will make for a nice change from MREs for the folks who move you out.

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raptor wrote:
I saw the attempted evacuation of Houston for Rita on TV (I was in N.O. at the time) do you (or any other forum member) have any first hand insight into that event. We all heard about cars running out of gas, 12 hour drives from the Beltway to Katy, etc. I would be very interested in anyone's insight into that event and the resulting lessons learned.

The key lesson I learned is that if you live in a major metro area evacuate at the first sign of trouble or plan on being stuck there. If you do evacuate by car have a full tank of gas and at least 2 full 5 gallon jerry cans of fuel.


As I mentioned, we were the bug in location for my parents for 10 weeks, and others for (thankfully) much shorter times. We live NW of Houston, and traffic was stacked up this far away; a good 100 miles and on a secondary highway. Gas stations along the highway ran out, and there was difficulty getting fuel to them. It was worse on the main NW outflow, of I45 & US59. Rita compounded the problems by turning NE towards the end.

The actual landfall was the TX/LA border, and those area were not told to evacuate until 48 hours before, AND, all of the millions in Houston were pouring out and had already stripped the gas stations and so forth.

My dad left trying to stick to the back roads. That worked for a while, but highway 69 was both lanes north from Beaumont, there was no way to cross it. They had to stay in that mess for about 4 hours and 20 miles, until they could get to a place to cross over. After that, staying on backroads work. Knowing this, if he could have planned ahead and found a place to cross the 'designated evacuation route' on an overpass, he might have had nearly clear sailing. They left Orange Friday morning about 20 hours before the storm hit, and it took them 9 hours to get here; normally about 3 hours.

My cousin left Sugar Land, drove 12 hours getting less than 20 miles. She realized she was about out of gas, so she returned home.

A very important point is that about 750,000 people in the Houston / Galveston area were told to evacuate, and over 3 million did. The state had the idea to run traffic inland on the major highways, but didn't have any plans as to how to make that happen, so there was quite a bit of improvising. There have been some major studies of what when badly and what went well. I will search the Houston paper and post some links.

Also, local hotels and evac shelters had quite a number of NOLA folks, still evac'd from Katrina. That made finding places for the Rita refugees more difficult. And as AP pointed out, you're still talking about maybe 4-5 million people, the vast majority of which could go back to Houston/Galveston the next day.

We had more than our share of refugees here. There are 45,000 students at A&M, so people who needed a place to go came here to stay with their kids. As I said, most were from Houston / Galveston and went home within a day or two since the storm didn't hit those areas. Some people told me it took them 18 hours to get here; I can make the trip normally in under 2 hours.

I said earlier gas cans were impossible to find. Ditto chain saws, blades, chain oil, gas, come-a-longs, etc, any of the things you need to clear roads and property. You need to have these things before hand; that whole preparedness thing again. Full gas can's aren't as important as having the container. There was gas to buy at first.

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The Piney Woods and 120mph winds are not a good combination.

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Some results from the Houston Chronicle about local planning to try to not repeat the mistakes from last time.

http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2007/05/houstons_next_e.html

http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2007/05/hey_just_who_is.html

Humberto shows holes in planning

The new official plans

They've made changes to all the highways here, to allow for easier switch over of traffic for 'counter flow', the national guard is prepared to provide gas to both the stations and stranded motorists, etc.

As AP noted, this is all planning for a regional disaster. If Houston is effected, Corpus Christi won't likely be. If its a major national disaster, you can expect parts of the plan to be implemented, which may or may not have any impact.

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phil_in_cs wrote:

My cousin left Sugar Land, drove 12 hours getting less than 20 miles. She realized she was about out of gas, so she returned home.

Some people told me it took them 18 hours to get here; I can make the trip normally in under 2 hours.


The only reason Houston did not suffer a catastrophe was the the hurricane turned, but this is not just about Rita or hurricanes. It is about having plan B and even a Plan c in the event of a failed bugout for what ever reason.

These 2 statements are IMHO the 2 most important lessons for us to learn about an evacuation of a major US city. One person spent 12 hours driving 20 mile almost ran out of gas turned around and went home on the remaining gas in the tank!

The 18 hours to go approximately 150 miles is closer to what I have seen in New Orleans evacuations. That by the way is likely a tank and 1/2 of fuel or a full gas tank and 2 gas cans.

This is also the reason people want to bug in. I agree for many events bugging in makes the most sense. However there are also situations (hurricanes, NBC incidents/attacks, Tsunami, etc) where a rapid evacuation is the only sensible alternative.

I am sure some will say this cannot happen in my city, or live in the country so it is not an issue for me. Those of you who feel that way, you can stop reading now and please spare us those posts on this thread. :D

Are those folks gone?... good!:D

Now for the rest of us there is the issue of “what do you do now”.

Let’s look at some obvious lessons here.

Lesson 1: If you are in traffic for 6 hours and have gone only 10 miles with no relief in sight, it is probably past time to execute Plan B.

Lesson 2: Every hour you spend in traffic gridlock is one less hour you have to prepare, gather supplies and/or figure out how you are going to protect you and your family.

Lesson 3: Sticking to a plan that is clearly not working can be as deadly as making no preparations whatsoever. A plan is just that, a plan. Mindlessly sticking to a plan or system that is clearly not producing the results you desire is stupid. There comes a time when you have say this is not working we need to do something different. Failure is not correcting a mistake; the mistake is not the failure.

Lesson 4: This is my mantra that I preach to everyone. “Always have a Plan B and always know where the back door is located”.


What about a Plan B:
In this case going back home was not fatal for these people. That may not be the case in other situations. Clearly the type of emergency will have an impact on your Plan A, B & C.

Secondary Roads:
The most obvious solution is not to use the main route like an interstate but rather for instance the US highway systems like Route 66 or in the case of the Gulf Coast Highway 90. These alternate routes while slower and possessing stop lights may actually be faster than the main arteries. They also may be jammed with traffic. There is also secondary streets that in many cases goes for miles in a safe direction. Remember the goal here is to put as much distance between you and the danger area as you can in the shortest period of time. Listen to what the main evacuation routes are and spend a little time, (it can be done in the car) determining an alternate that is far enough away from the main evacuation routes that they may not be disrupted by the evacuation traffic. Any route that takes you away from danger is good even if you have to back track later. In these cases extra gas cans are your friends.

Alternate Transportation:
During situations like this the airlines are generally booked as are charter aircraft. However, there are companies that for a fee (a rather large fee) will arrange a special charter for group of people for evacuation purposes. This is likely beyond the means of most people; nevertheless it is an option and if you can afford it and can get to the airport in time (remember you have to drive there!).

Trains and buses are generally crowded now and will likely be jammed in an evacuation. Nevertheless trains fall into the evacuation plans for New Orleans and are an option to attempt.

If you live on a navigable river this is also an option assuming you own or have access to a boat.

A motorcycle or even a bicycle may also be an option. You could drive as far as you can, then ditch the car and continue on bicycle or motorcycle. But you will have to plan ahead and think to bring the bicycles or motorcycle.

A Failed Evacuation:
This thread started with the concept that you are now a refugee and what you can expect as one. Based upon the assumption lets assume that despite heroic and creative efforts you are now stuck behind the gridlock inside a danger zone.

Hopefully you realized early on that plan A & B were not going to work and you then redirected your efforts to plan C early. The time you would have wasted stuck in a failed evacuation you can now be directed towards your plan C.

Time to Go to Plan C:
At this point you have some very serious decisions to make. I am assuming you chose to bug out because after serious consideration you believed your home was an untenable position for the current disaster. If that is the case you should avoid saying “oh well… at least I know the area” and head home. If you do, without some change in the threat status (i.e. the tsunami is overdue and thus not likely, the NBC incident is not as bad as expected, etc.) you are setting yourself up to be casualty. Remember and review the reason why you chose to bug out, unless these can be mitigated you must move to plan C.

This is why prior to such a disaster you should identify locations in different parts of your city that could provide temporary shelter during a disaster. For instance in my case I have identified several parking garages that could provide adequate shelter for me and a vehicle in a hurricane or a tornado. The interior stair wells of parking garages, assuming they have no windows are sturdy and provide shelter from flying debris. They are not comfortable or even a plan B shelter, but they are adequate plan C shelter points. I also have identified space in my office building and made mutual assistance deals with friends in different geographic parts of the city. Clearly a plan C is a short term location and is a last resort. It will not have any supplies and I may even be turned away from such a point since I do not control access to these spots. This is why in your bug out plans you need to make sure that you have basic supplies for unprepared location such as a plan C shelter.

Becoming one of the un-washed masses
The final resort is going to a government shelter of last resort (assuming there is one). This may actually be the best option if you have someone who has medical needs that you cannot deal with for some reason. However, I would do this only as an absolute last resort if you do not need medical assistance. All you have to do is look at the pictures of the Superdome to see why this is a fundamentally bad plan. I use the term great unwashed masses not derogatorily but rather to paint the picture of what 48 hours in a Superdome situation must have felt like. I was not there but the stories from the people
Who were combined with the video footage I think paint a graphic picture.

Final Advice:
During this time it is vital to monitor whatever information you can glean from a variety of source. Good information can save your life. If you have a group 1 or 2 people should be delegate to do nothing but gather information. I do mean simply sit in front of a TV, I means listen to commercial broadcast radio, TV, official news channels, internet and network with friends and family. Traffic reports are very important. I have a deal with friends to report traffic conditions via text messages to one another in the event of a hurricane evacuation.

Remember also the disinformation, poor information and exaggerations that occurred during Katrina. Even official sources were providing bad information. Treat information during such an as you would any raw data. It is not true until confirmed by multiple sources and if it sounds unbelievable it is likely an exaggeration and should be discounted until confirmed by a trusted source.

The final piece of advice is don’t panic, but do THINK. Plan and anticipate issues and problems monitor progress and be prepared to change your plans. Do not be afraid to deviate from a plan once it is clear it is not working. Don’t go A.D.D. with your changes, but be prepared to improvise and adapt to a changing situation. Preparation is great, but adaptation is better.



In conclusion I say again I hope none of you need to use this information, but I do urge you to think about your current situation and prepare accordingly.

EDIT: Note while I using CS's statement as a quote I am not being critical of either he or his cousin or picking on Houston or Texas. The Rita evacuation is a text book of example for us of what will likely happen when you try to evacuate such a big city. I would also add that TX probably did better job than many states (especially LA) in those circumstances.

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Last edited by raptor on Tue Feb 05, 2008 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Going off what Raptor said about it could happen to your city, it can. I live in nebraska, no danger there right? Wrong, downtown lincoln has railroad lines going right by our Memorial Stadium, which seats about 80,000+ football fans, and certain days there are chemical cars going through that if there was a spill, 10 miles downwind would have to be evacuated. Every city, every town, has the potential for a disaster, not necessarily the types that we hear about on the news, i.e. hurricanse earthquakes, but something that can disrupt our daily lives pretty damn quick. Here's a good example.

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/weathe ... ideosearch


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Another note, on the secondary roads:
On the weekend Katrina was coming in, we were in Orange TX visiting my parents. Orange is where I10 crosses from LA to TX, about 10 miles up the Sabine river from the Gulf. We waited until quite late Sunday to leave; if you recall the storm was headed for the TX/LA border, though the forcasters kept insisting it would turn north. Since my parents are elderly, we waited with them until the storm did in fact turn north.

Normally, we'd travel on I10 from Orange to Beaumont before heading NW. When we approached I10 in Orange, traffic was completely stopped on it. I'm sure it was grid locked from Beaumont back to Baton Rouge based on what I've heard from others. Its two lanes each way from Lake Charles to Beaumont (50+ miles) and a single disabled car would block everything. We passed under I10, went up some back roads, and got home in more or less the normal time. We even decided liked the more scenic route, and still use it rather than I10.

We had by that Sunday evening a large number of NOLA refugees in our city. Most told us they'd dialed the 800 number for Best Western or Hilton, and got the directions to the nearest hotel with a vacancy! That's being somewhat resourceful.

WRT to my cousin in Sugar Land; she didn't need to evacuate in the first place. Sugar Land is on the west side of Houston, and even a Cat 5 storm heading directly to her would be a Cat 2 or 3 by the time it got there. Some property damage and problems sure, but that's why we store lumber, screws, nails, plastic wrap, and so forth, right? People doing the bug out boogie that had nothing 'real' to fear will severely clog things up for everyone.

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phil_in_cs wrote:
People doing the bug out boogie that had nothing 'real' to fear will severely clog things up for everyone.


This is the herd mentality/panic at work. You see this in a lot of situations. That is why people need to assess their bug out/bug in thresh hold and make a good go/no go decision. Everyone's criterion is likely different based upon preparation level, individual risk and any special needs (i.e. elderly/sick).

In her case clearly staying put made more sense.

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phil_in_cs wrote:
My cousin left Sugar Land, drove 12 hours getting less than 20 miles. She realized she was about out of gas, so she returned home.


We live on the NW side of Houston (Cypress) and were the BOL for my parents and my brother's family who both live in Pearland (South side of Houston). The trip normally takes just under an hour. They both left Wednesday evening for our place. My parents took the official "evacuation route", and despite leaving an hour before my brother, arrived after he did, since he took some alternate routes around the mess. It took him almost 3 hours to get to our place, and my parents at least 2 hours longer. What was supposed to happen was that the police in places like Houston were supposed to block the on-ramps to the freeway to allow people closer to the coast (Galveston, Freeport) to evacuate first, and then roll the blockages inland to gradually allow people farther and farther inland to go. What actually happened was that HPD was blocking a lot of the off-ramps to keep the mess from expanding into the city, which just made the freeways that much worse. My parents actually called on the cell phone when they were about where my work was and I tried to give them directions for the back roads. Being good rule-following big government fans, they insisted on staying on the official route and probably spent an additional hour sitting in their truck because of it.

Thursday morning, I had to go in to work to shut down the servers and networking equipment (the school insisted on having classes Wednesday evening. They actually wanted to open Thursday (with the hurricane expected Friday) but we told the president she'd be shutting down the IT stuff herself if she did that), and going against the flow, made a normal 45 minute commute in about 25 minutes. Even at 5 AM, the outbound freeway and feeder road were completely gridlocked.

We finished up around 11, and I made the 45 minute drive home in 3.5 hours, taking back roads and avoiding the freeways. By this time the freeways had backed up onto the secondary roads, and even they were backing up onto others. The freeways were at a complete standstill. Our server room had a window that looked out to the West Beltway, and we noticed a truck pulling a trailer with a race car on it. When I left an hour later going down the feeder road, I passed it still sitting on the freeway. It had moved less than 1/4 mile.

We had topped off both cars and all the gas tanks on Monday and Tuesday, and even then there were lines and the cheaper stations were running out several hours after the delivery truck. The grocery stores were picked clean by Thursday afternoon, and the gas was completely gone by then, as well.


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