Tag Archives: Go Bag

September 11, 2014–A Teachable Moment

September 11th will always be a day of mourning. How do we want to commemorate it next year?

Here’s an idea: Why not use September 11th to learn about evacuation?  Many people never stayed in a shelter and don’t  know where the nearest shelter is.

Many people do not have a go bag. If they have a go bag, they wonder what to put in it. Is it better to omit some items and have a lighter bag? Should they pack more and not worry about the weight of the go bag? (Yes, it’s like preparing for an overnight hike!).

It’s unrealistic to expect most people to figure out go bags and evacuation on their own. Who wouldn’t welcome some expert, communal hand-holding?

For starters, evacuation shelters are usually set up in a school. The shelter nearest you might be in an elementary school, a middle school, or a high school. It might be in a community college or a four-year college.

However, evacuation shelters are not always in a school. The shelter nearest you might be in a community center, a recreation center, or a house of worship.

“Find Open Shelters” is  part of the wonderful work done by the American Red Cross.  Just before or during an emergency, it tells you which shelter nearest you will be open.  If another disaster occurs, do not assume that the location used during Hurricane Sandy will again become a shelter.

September 11th provides a teachable moment.  On or near September 11th, 2014, experts in emergency management should hold free, community-wide events.  These events might be held where evacuees were housed during Hurricane Sandy.

Folks will then–while not under special stress–find the evacuation center and learn about it. Is it in the middle of nowhere? Is there a library nearby?  Is there a pizza place within walking distance? 

Is the evacuation shelter clean and well-maintained? Is it dingy and depressing?

Is there parking? Are buses or a train station nearby?

Participants who have go bags should bring them. They can compare items in their own go bag with what their friends and neighbors have. Hopefully, participants without a go bag will be inspired to pack one.

The idea of connecting September 11th and personal preparedness can be adapted. For example, the meeting could be held at a library or a high school instead of at a shelter.

I always feel a connection between September 11th and Hurricane Sandy. One is a man-made disaster; the other, a natural disaster.

They are both in the past. Nonetheless, they both made us feel more vulnerable.

We cannot save the precious lives that were lost. Let’s act now to prepare for the next disaster: Let’s do what we can to regain our sense of control.

Does this idea appeal appeal to you? If not, do you have a better one? There is space below to comment, question, or share.


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.