Displaced by Disaster: Plan A Safe Escape

Prep your family to escape any emergency!
Safe escape from disaster or emergency
Having a crisis plan is key when attempting a safe escape from disaster.|Photo by Getty Images

When a life-altering, catastrophic event has struck and sheltering in place is not an option, you must have a contingency plan for where to take your family that is both safe and reliable. If you break it down to the basics of survival (food, shelter and water) and build from there, you can quickly move from just surviving to thriving in the aftermath of an emergency situation.

Many catastrophic events are preceded by some sort of warning, but others like tornados or manmade emergencies such as a terrorist attack do not. I was working in Afghanistan some years back when a tropical storm blew through my hometown and parked for a few days. A record amount of rainfall dropped in a short amount of time, causing deadly flooding that destroyed many homes and businesses. While I wasn’t there to oversee the evacuation and execution of our family contingency plan, my wife, children and other family members were able to work together in getting everyone to safety and quickly move into the recovery phase until I was able to get home and help with the process. Having no plan or alternate areas to relocate to would have exponentially increased the stress of the situation and the loss of property compared to what was actually suffered.

Crisis Plan

While having a well-documented plan is paramount to being successful in the evacuation, relocation and recovery process, knowing it through rehearsal and fine-tuning it with reviews will make that plan nearly bulletproof. Having multiple contingencies is part of the planning and documenting process whereby all parties involved (friends, family, etc.) know their responsibilities. Taking that phase a step further, everyone who is a part of the process or group should know the overall plan to a level where the individual(s) can execute the operation in order to be able to meet up in a designated location with the requisite supplies should there be a separation before, during or after the event.

Scenarios of this extreme nature are indicative of the need for a support network. A careful vetting process should be implemented as to who and how members of your group will be chosen. These are people who you won’t mind spending time with, especially in a trying time where patience is limited and stress is high. Each person should be assigned tasks that they are well suited for and that will help the group thrive.

There are several relocation sheltering options. Going to a public shelter is like going to the emergency room. If you have to be there, something is very wrong and you will receive immediate care (depending on your insurance coverage), but it’s not necessarily the best place to be, especially for the long term. This scenario is best described by the old adage that an ounce of prevention, or in this case preparation, is better than a pound of cure.

Safe Escape

If you or your mutual assistance group don’t have the budget for a second property as a retreat, a good alternative is the use of public lands such as state and national parks and forests. You can find no-charge campgrounds in these areas or you can pick a less-traveled place off the beaten path to set up a semi-permanent yet mobile camp. Many of these types of areas are restricted to staying no more than a week or two within a 30-day period, so alternate locations within a close proximity will need to be considered in the planning process.

Picking folks, whether family or friends, that share a common goal to establish these types of alternate locations along with communications procedures are key in making a smooth and comfortable transition from normalcy to refugee to recovery. Extended relocation due to a catastrophic event is part of the recovery process that should not be looked at as a survival situation; it should be treated as an opportunity to thrive in another environment like a family vacation. In order to make that transition a success, detailed preparations and rehearsals beforehand are absolutely mandatory.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Winter 2016 edition. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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