Needed: Education About Evacuation

When disaster strikes, folks have a choice:  They can “shelter in place” or they can evacuate. Sheltering in place means staying at home or staying at work.

“Home is where the heart is”.  It’s also where our stuff is! Therefore, most people choose to “shelter in place” during a disaster.

Evacuating means leaving home or work and going elsewhere. Leaving familiar surroundings is scary. As a result, many people avoid thinking about it altogether.

This is true for people who live alone. It is also true for families, for people with elderly parents, and for people with pets.

Hopefully, talking about evacuation will reduce its scariness. Then, maybe we can take baby steps toward preparing for it.

There is at least one thing experts agree on: It is the importance of packing a go bag or emergency kit. Packing a go bag should be done ahead of time–that is, before disaster strikes.

How many of us have followed this advice? I do not know.

With Hurricane Sandy, we had advance warning. In some areas, evacuation was mandatory.

In other areas, we had to decide on our own whether to shelter in place or evacuate. We could leave before the storm. If we waited, we knew that our options after the storm might be limited.

Is evacuation necessary? If so, a community-based shelter is probably the option of last resort. Nonetheless, it may be the only option that comes to mind due to television and other media coverage.

What else do people do? Some fly as far away as possible. Some stay with family. Some stay with friends or neighbors. Some–in places like Manhattan–stay at a nearby hotel.

The choices people make when they evacuate depend on many factors. Relevant factors include where their homes are, where they work, when they decide to leave, their support network, and their financial situation.

Each option has advantages and disadvantages.  It makes sense to consider your options now, when things are calm and you can think clearly.

It is important to realize the following:

  • In an emergency, you can find nearby open shelters online.
  • Some shelters take people with special needs and some take pets.
  • A public shelter may be open only temporarily.
  • If your home becomes inaccessible or unliveable,  you might need long-term housing.

Have you worked in an emergency shelter? Have you stayed in one? Have you sheltered with family or friends? Stayed at a hotel? Gone on vacation? Whatever your experience with evacuation, do you have advice for the rest of us?

If so, please comment, question, or share. There is room below.

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