How to Effectively Evacuate a Big City Without a Car
Copyright © 2007,2008 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
If you live in a major metropolitan area then you may not own your own vehicle. The city's existing mass transit system will take you anywhere you need to go within the city. Therefore everything you could possibly need is within easy reach, such as doctors, hospitals, restaurants, grocery stores, and everything else. Purchasing a vehicle is simply not an option for most of the residents in a big city for the following reasons: (1) the down payment, (2) the monthly car payment, (3) the monthly insurance payment, (4) the monthly parking fees, (5) the cost of gas, and (6) the repairs. When added together these costs far exceed the small amount of money you currently spend riding the city's mass transportation system.
However, during a major disaster event some of the problems of living in a big city would be: (1) the mass transit system will probably become unreliable or simply stop, (2) deliveries of food to the restaurants and grocery stores will stop, (3) the electricity may become intermittent or stop, (4) the water and sewer systems may fail, and (5) it would only take one fire to burn the city to the ground. The fire could be started intentionally by a terrorist, or it could be a simple heating or cooking fire that accidentally gets out of control. Think about what happened to the World Trade Center in New York City. On September 11, 2001 the city's fire fighters were able to limit the damage to a very small part of the city. However, if the fire fighters had not had access to an continuous supply of water at high pressure then the entire city could have gone up in flames. Therefore, during a major disaster event a big city will not be a place where people will die of old age.
If you would like to read James Wesley Rawles observations about the feasibility of attempting to survive in a big city during a disaster then please click on the following link:
Hunkering Down in an Urban Apartment in a Worst Case Societal Collapse.
The first question is how could you escape from a big city if the mass transit system isn't working and you do not own a vehicle? The obvious answer is that you could walk or ride a bicycle out of the city. Although this may seem to be a monumental task, it is a feasible option as long as you don't have to carry a lot of weight with you. In fact, depending on the disaster event, a person walking or riding a bicycle may have a much better chance of escaping a major city if the disaster results in a traffic grid-lock situation and vehicles are stalled for hours or days on the roads, bridges, tunnels, and highways. In this situation it would not be unusual to see lots of people attempting to walk out of the city. Many of these people will have simple daypacks or school backpacks on their backs, or they will be pulling a luggage carrier behind them containing either a suitcase or a backpack. The only individuals who would be noticed would be the ones with specially designed camping backpacks which display a variety of special survival tools or weapons strapped to the outside of those packs. Those individuals would quickly become obvious targets for the thieves and criminals who are also a part of the exodus crowd.
The next question is where would you go and what would you do when you got there. Traveling to a remote small town with very little money in your pocket and with only the clothes on your back is a very scary thought. However, there is a way to make it a little less scary if you are willing to engage in a little advance planning.
Choosing a Safe Destination
Resist the temptation to pick another large city as a safe evacuation destination. All large cities have the same inherent weaknesses during a disaster as your current city. Almost any small community has a far better chance for long-term survival during a disaster event than any big city.
Therefore, you should begin your search by looking at a map of your state and identifying several small towns that:
A family could walk or ride bicycles a distance of 75 miles within three to seven days, depending on the family. However, the overwhelming vast majority of the people escaping from a city during a disaster would not consider walking that far. They would stop at the first safe community they came to and wait for the federal or state government to rescue them or for the local community to take care of them. Unfortunately their vast numbers will quickly exhaust that community's charitable goodwill. On the other hand, families that do not stop at the first opportunity but who keep moving towards a more distance community would have a much better chance for long-term survival.
- are between 60 to 75 miles away from your current apartment,
- are not on a major interstate or freeway, and
- are where you get to them from at least two different directions during a disaster event without adding a significant number of miles to your journey.
A person could carry enough food and a portable water filter to easily survive for three to seven days. However, you would not be able to carry a lot of equipment, supplies, water, and food with you. When you reached your safe destination, you would be just another homeless refugee family with limited options, unless you had something waiting for you at your destination.
If you rented a car now, before there is any threat of a disaster event, then you could drive to each of your potential safe rural towns and evaluate each town and select the one that would be best suited to your needs. An ideal small rural town would be one that:
If the community meets the above minimum criteria then you should verify that you could afford to pay the local rent for a furnished apartment or Extended Stay Motel that meets the minimum needs for your family. You can find the phone numbers of all the local apartments and motels in the yellow pages of the local phone book. Call each apartment and make a simple list of the location and phone numbers of all the furnished apartments in the area along with the rental price and the required deposit for each apartment. Visit the ones that are of interest to you and politely ask to see the inside of an actual apartment. Write down a brief description of what you see along with your opinion about the place. If you have a camera then take a picture of the apartment building and the inside of the apartment after politely asking the manager's permission. Record the picture number(s) on your master list of apartments so you can match them up later. This information will provide you with advance knowledge of your options if a disaster forces you to relocate to this community. Some of the places that currently have available apartments may rent them before you return, and some places that are now full may have an available apartment in the future. During an actual disaster the first families to arrive with enough cash to pay the rent and the deposit will get the available living quarters.
- is at least several hundred feet above sea level,
- is surrounded by farm land, dairy cows, and other typical farm livestock such as horses, pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens,
- has a reasonable supply of trees and forest timber land,
- has a few nearby manufacturing facilities of any size, and
- its residents still have the right to own firearms to protect themselves.
You should also ask if the monthly rent includes the basic utilities or if the utilities will be an additional expense. The utilities are normally included in the rent for Extended Stay Motels but not for apartments, although the apartment rent may sometimes include the water and sewer bills. During a disaster event it would be better if the utilities were included in the rent for the apartment or the Extended Stay Motel so the water, power, and heat would already be on when you arrive. During a disaster it might take a long time for the utility crews to get around to activating new accounts. Also ask if the apartment complex has its own washing machines and dryers for the use of its residents. These machines are usually coin operated. In addition, if an apartment has a functional wood-burning fireplace then you might want to give it more serious consideration than an apartment without a fireplace. If the disaster adversely impacts the state's power grid then having a wood-burning fireplace would give you the option to heat your apartment and cook your food.
If the quality of the furniture inside the locally available furnished apartments is completely unacceptable to you then you should consider the unfurnished apartments. With an unfurnished apartment you would have three basic options:
- Sleep on the floor. Eat your meals while sitting on the floor. If someone in your family chooses to complain then you can remind them of your sleeping accommodations below a bridge on a creek bank during your long walk to your new apartment.
- Purchase some high-quality inflatable air mattresses, and a folding table and some folding chairs, and then store them inside your storage unit at the small town.
- Set aside enough cash to purchase some new mattresses and some good used furniture after you relocate to your new apartment. The seller might agree to deliver these items to your apartment for free or for a small fee. Or you could rent a small U-haul truck and go get them yourself.
Renting a Small Storage Unit
After you determine which of the potential rural towns best suits your needs then you could rent a small storage unit near that town. A basic 6 foot by 6 foot by 8 foot tall unit rents for about $25 per month (picture on right), or a 6 by 10 by 8 foot tall unit rents for about $35 per month. If possible you should pay the rent for at least three months in advance (six months would be better). You can locate these storage facilities in the yellow pages of the local phone book under the word "storage." If you can afford it, one of these small storage units could easily be packed from wall to wall and from floor to ceiling with enough equipment, supplies, and food to last a family of four for one-year or longer. Put the heavier sturdier items, such as food, on the bottom of a stack and the lighter items, such as clothing, on the top of a stack. If possible leave a narrow aisle along one wall or down the middle of the unit so you can access any stack inside your unit at any time.
Climate controlled and 24-hour security storage units usually cost approximately twice as much. These units may be a better choice if you intend to make a substantial monetary investment in the items you will be storing inside your rental unit. Just remember that if the electricity goes off for any extended period of time then the temperature inside these units will slowly adjust to the current outside air temperatures. It is not unusual for rural communities to be without power for a few days each year and this usually happens during their very worst weather. If the facility has an electronic entrance gate then you may not be able to get to your things if there is a wide spread power failure during the disaster event that forces you to evacuate the city.
If you plan to store a lot of equipment and supplies then it might be wise to rent two small storage units in two different storage facilities a few miles apart, instead of renting one large storage unit. This would increase your family's chances of survival because you would still have the supplies in one of your units if the supplies in the other unit were stolen or damaged by adverse weather conditions such as a tornado. If one of these units was climate controlled then it would greatly expand your options for long-term food storage. If you rent two units then you should strategically divide your food and clothing between the two units so that you would have some of your basic necessities in each unit. And keep a list of what you store in each unit so you can quickly locate it in an emergency.
It would be extremely useful if the rental storage unit was located within walking distance of the small town, or an Extended Stay Motel, or some other type of furnished rental housing or apartments, or near a campground. If the nearby furnished rental apartments are within walking distance of the small town then you might be able find some type of job if a future disaster results in your relocation to this community. However the chance of finding work after a wide spread disaster event are very slim unless you have marketable skills that would be in demand after a disaster.
Stocking Your Storage Unit
Immediately after you pay the rent and get a receipt, you should put your own padlock on the door of your storage unit. Then you should visit the local Walmart, camping supply stores, and grocery stores and purchase the things your family would need to survive. However, you should have made a comprehensive list ahead of time, along with the estimated cost of each item, so you can quickly purchase the most important things you will need without omitting any critical items. You could load your supplies inside your rental car as you buy them and then take them to your rental unit and store them inside your rental unit. If necessary you can drive back and forth to your rental unit several times. To the extent possible you should avoid attracting attention to yourself. This means it would probably be wise to buy your food items from several different grocery stores in the local or surrounding area instead of making one huge purchase at one store. When you have finished shopping and stocking your rental unit, you should once again lower your rental unit door, put your own personal padlock on the sliding door latch, and lock up all your stuff. (Note: The round padlock in the picture provides better security because it can't be easily removed with bolt cutters.) Then you could drive home and return the rental car. This could all be done in one day, such as on a Saturday, if you had a plan and if you carefully worked your plan. Or you could rent a car for two days and complete your activities over the weekend by spending one night in a motel at the rural town of your choice. The advantage of spending the night in a motel is that it would give you a convenient private place to carefully pack your food and other supplies into your tote containers so you would not be attracting any special attention in public. The next morning you could then easily load your supplies into your rental car and transfer them to your rental unit. If necessary, you could make several trips back and forth from your motel room to your rental unit.
(Note: As you drive back to your apartment in the city you should write down all the highway mile marker numbers where bridges cross over streams or creeks because these could be potential camp spots for your family if a future disaster forces your family to evacuate your city. You could sleep under the bridge out of the weather and you could replenish your water from the creek by using your portable water filter. Depending on the size of the creek you may be able to catch a fish or two to supplement your food supplies. However, other families may have this same idea so you should be cautious when you first look under a bridge during an actual disaster event. As you continue to drive back to your apartment in the city you should also stop briefly at each community or major suburb along the way and look in the yellow pages of the local phone book. Make a list of the phone numbers of the local Taxi companies, the major churches, and the vehicle rental companies in that area. This information may be very useful to you if you are forced to quickly evacuate your city apartment during a future emergency.)
There are also a few other things you should consider. Depending on where you live, the temperatures inside a rental storage unit will fluctuate from below freezing to over 100 degrees during the course of one year. Most canned foods will not survive freezing without rupturing or exploding. Water will not survive freezing and it will burst its storage container. Insects and mice will chew through paper, cardboard, and thin plastic and consume any easy to reach food items. Moisture, humidity, and mildew will attack and gradually destroy clothes, supplies, and equipment that are not properly stored and protected.
The only food items that are specifically designed to survive temperature extremes are marine lifeboat ration bars (picture on right) and MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat). Click here for more information about marine lifeboat rations. Freeze-dried and dehydrated canned foods would also probably be okay, but they may have reduced shelf lives if your area experiences severe temperature extremes. These emergency food items are not sold everywhere so you would probably need to purchase them in advance, have them delivered to your apartment, and then transport them inside your rental car to your rental storage unit. These items are usually delivered in cardboard boxes that can be conveniently stacked on one another. However it would be a good idea to put each big cardboard box inside a 30-gallon heavy-duty black plastic bag and tape the bag tightly to the box like a birthday present using 2-inch wide clear packing tape. This will add a moisture barrier to the outside of the box and help protect its contents. It will also prevent other people from reading what is preprinted on the box as you load and unload your storage unit. The black bags would not reflect light and they would help to make the inside of your storage unit look dark and uninviting if someone who is passing by casually glances inside your unit while you have the door open. However, you should write what is inside each box in very small print on a thin slip of paper and tape it to the outside of the wrapped box so you can later determine the contents of each box without having to unwrap the box.
Large 5, 10, and 20 pound bags of ordinary white rice are usually easy to find at most rural grocery stores prior to a disaster event. You should probably store at least 100 pounds of white rice per family member inside several plastic tote containers. A few hundred pounds of a variety of different kinds of dry beans would also be a wise investment. Dry beans are widely available at most rural grocery stores in 1, 2, and 4 pound plastic bags. Leave the rice and the beans inside their original plastic bags and put several of them inside one large 30-gallon heavy-duty black plastic storage bag that is inside a plastic storage tote. Secure the top of the black bag with one of the twist-ties provided with the bags. Then snap the lid onto the tote. The bag will provide an additional moisture barrier for your food. It would also prevent anyone from seeing what is actually inside your plastic totes if they are made of clear plastic. This would be extremely important if food in the area becomes extremely expensive or unavailable after a disaster event. You should probably use two or three black plastic bags per medium size tote to keep the food separate and thereby help to prevent a total loss in the event one bag of food goes bad. Other good choices for long-term food storage include dry macaroni and spaghetti noodles, instant potatoes, and instant powdered milk. You should probably purchase at least a dozen boxes (or more) of each of these items and add them to your food reserves inside your storage unit.
Click here for some information about the shelf life of canned and dry foods.
Click here for a variety of simple but tasty recipes for white rice and dry beans.
You should carefully pack all your emergency food into plastic totes with tight fitting lids to protect it from insect and rodent damage and to help prevent it from emitting odors that might attract flies. You should use several medium size plastic storage containers instead of one or two very large plastic totes. This would keep the total weight of each full container to a reasonable level and permit the container to be moved by manual labor. In addition, if the food in one container goes bad it will only contaminate the food inside that one container and the balance of your food will still be edible. If the temperature inside your storage unit exceeds 85 degrees for long periods of time then you would need to replace your rice and beans and other boxed dry food items with fresh supplies every year, or once every two or three years depending on how hot it gets inside your storage unit during the summer months. You could take the old food back to your apartment each October and gradually consume it while it is still safe and tasty to eat.
You should also consider storing several 5-pound bags of white granulated sugar, and several 4-pound boxes of table salt or canning salt, and about ten pounds of baking soda, and a few large boxes of kitchen matches, and a few butane lighters. All of these items can be safely stored for decades and each one is extremely useful in preparing a variety of tasty recipes. Store the matches and butane lighters in a separate small plastic container. Do not store them inside your food or clothing containers.
It is highly unlikely that food will still be available at a reasonable price in remote rural communities after a major disaster destroys a nearby large city. It is more probable that food will skyrocket in price or be completely unavailable at any price. Therefore you should resist the temptation to wait until you actually evacuate to your rural location to buy your food supplies. This strategy has a very, very small chance of being successful, and if it fails then you and your family will die of slow and painfully agonizing starvation.
If possible stack your equipment, supplies, and food containers on some wood boards or on some wood pallets so they are not in direct contact with the floor. This will protect them from absorbing moisture from the floor and it will also help to protect them from water damage if a few inches of water temporarily gets into the storage unit during an exceptionally heavy rain.
Most rental storage unit contracts prohibit the storage of flammable items, explosive items, and food items inside the storage unit. The food clause is necessary because families sometimes store bread and perishable items from their home refrigerator inside the storage unit and this food quickly begins to spoil and stink and attract ants, insects, flies, and rodents. It also frequently leaks down onto the floor of the rental unit and creates a mess for the rental facility manager to clean up after the family has removed their other belongings from the unit. After reading the contract, it would probably be prudent to simply sign the rental contract without asking for a detailed explanation of each clause in the contract, unless there is something in the contract you can't agree to. In this case you should simply look for a different storage facility in the same general area.
It might also be a good idea to store a folding heavy-duty two-wheel luggage carrier inside your rental storage unit so you could later transport your things to your new apartment or campsite as you need them. Another useful item would be a bicycle so you could ride to work instead of walking each day. Rural communities do not have mass transit systems. You should also place a single battery L.E.D. (Light Emitting Diode) flashlight and a spare battery within easy reach inside the storage unit door in the event you need to access your supplies at night and the power is off.
When you initially go on your rural town evaluation trip you could also take some things from you current apartment with you in your rental car. For example, you could take some of your old clothing, old shoes, old cookware, old dishes, old bed sheets and pillowcases, old blankets and quilts, old towels, and a variety of other old things you no longer use and store them inside your future rental unit. When I say "old" I am not referring to items that are worn out and falling apart. Those types of things should be discarded. Instead I am referring to used items that still have at least half of their useful life remaining. These old things could make your life much easier during a disaster event if they were already at your rental unit. Since you have already paid for these old items they would not be adding to the current cost to stock your storage unit. If you were already thinking about replacing a few of your old items then now would be a good time to do so. You could take your time and carefully pack your used items inside black plastic bags inside plastic totes at your apartment and then later transfer them to your rental car when you are ready to make your journey to rent a storage unit. It would then be a simple matter to transfer them into your new rental storage unit after you acquire one at your destination.
On the other hand, if money is not an issue, then you should consider purchasing several new blue jeans, shirts, thick wool socks, and underwear for each family member. Also some new high quality waterproof walking shoes that each family member has tried on and verified for a comfortable fit while wearing a pair of heavy socks (or two pair of thin socks). If you have growing children then purchase the next size up in shoes.
If you are currently employed in a trade where you use a variety of hand tools that are your personal property then you may want to store some of your older tools, that you have replaced with newer versions, inside your storage unit. This would permit you to continue practicing your trade in your new community if it should become necessary.
If you also include a high quality camping tent, some low-temperature high quality sleeping bags, and some high quality inflatable air mattresses inside your storage unit then your family would have an emergency temporary place to live in the event no rental properties are available when you reach your destination. The sleeping bags and air mattresses would also be very useful if you had to rent an unfurnished apartment. Store each of these camping items inside a big black plastic bag and secure the bag opening with a twist-tie in order to provide a moisture and humidity barrier and to help prevent mildew. It would probably also be a good idea to store several 24-roll packages of toilet tissue inside your storage unit after you put each 24-roll package inside a black plastic bag and secure it with a twist-tie. This will provide an additional moisture barrier for your toilet tissue. If you store all your stuff inside black plastic bags you will prevent anyone from casually looking into your storage unit while you have the door open and instantly recognizing what you have. You should also consider investing in several bars of hand soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, nail clippers, hair brushes and combs, barber hair scissors, and disposable razors. These are relatively inexpensive but very practical items that would help your family more easily make the adjustment to living in their new rural community. It would be a good idea to buy these things now because they could become either unaffordable or unavailable after a major disaster event.
Executing Your Evacuation Plan
If you implement the above plan then you would have equipment, supplies, and some food waiting for you at your destination in the event of a future disaster. And your destination would not be a last minute decision made during a life-threatening event. Instead it would be a carefully calculated destination that would maximize the chances of your family's long-term survival.
If a disaster event has a serious impact on your city, then all the major banks and credit card companies will probably "immediately temporarily freeze" the accounts of all their customers who addresses match the impacted zip code areas. Therefore, before the disaster hits you should access your checking and savings accounts and withdraw as much cash as you believe you will need to survive for a few months. If possible, get $20 and $50 bills but nothing larger or smaller. This will make it easier to pay for things and it will keep your "roll" of bills to a reasonable size. If necessary, get a cash advance against your VISA, MasterCard, or Discover Card at your existing bank by asking your bank teller to give you a cash advance against your credit card. If you do this before the disaster hits then you will should have enough cash to get you settled into your new small town apartment and to pay for your basic necessities for a short period of time. (Historical Note: After the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans the local regional banks went bankrupt and the larger national banks froze the accounts of the local residents until they could verify all the last minute transactions by their customers at their branch banks in the disaster area. If a future disaster hits your city, then you would be very upset if you had money in your bank and you were not allowed to access your money because of "temporarily policies" your bank might implement to protect itself. On the other hand, if you already had enough cash to last you for a few months then you could afford to be patient and wait for your bank to release the remainder of your money.)
The only remaining element of your plan would be to safely evacuate with your family at the first warning that a disaster was about to strike, or immediately after the disaster hits if there is no advance warning. Families that evacuate quickly and immediately would have a much better chance of escaping the city.
If you have access to a working telephone then you could call the apartment or Extended Stay Motel you are headed towards and reserve the unit in your name and pay the rent and deposit immediately by phone using one of your credit or debit cards and get a paid confirmation number and the number of the apartment you have rented and the name of the individual that rented you the apartment. If possible, you should verify that they actually charge your credit or debit card and not just simply reserve the room for you using your card number. If you evacuate when you are first notified of the approaching disaster then it might be feasible to use your city's mass transit system to take you a good distance towards your future rural retreat. When you reach the end of the mass transit system line you may then be able to rent a Taxi to take you the rest of the way. The Taxi could deliver your family to the door of the apartment you rented by phone (after you stop by the main office to get the key), or to one of the apartments you previously identified or to an Extended Stay Motel that is within walking distance of your storage rental unit. Also remember to take your Rental Storage Unit Receipt(s) and your padlock key(s) with you when you evacuate the city. (Note: Although it is unlikely you may be able to take a Taxi from your apartment all the way to your final destination if you evacuate at the first warning of an approaching disaster.)
If your family is forced to walk out of the city then you will need a stroller for each small child or infant. Small children cannot walk very far and carrying small children in your arms will exhaust you in a very short period of time. You should also remember to take your list of phone numbers of the Taxi companies, large churches, and vehicle rental companies that are located in each of the communities you will be passing through. This is the list you made earlier on your return trip home to the city when you first rented your rural storage unit. After you have walked out of the danger area and you have reached one of the communities on your list that is not inside the disaster zone, then you should attempt to find transportation the rest of the way to your new apartment. The obvious choice would be to call each of the local Taxi companies. If you have set aside some emergency cash for this specific purpose then you may be able to rent a Taxi that will come and pick you up and drive you the rest of the way to your destination quickly and safely. Or you could try to rent a vehicle, such as a car or a small U-Haul truck. If you rent a U-Haul type truck then rent it one-way only for drop off at a rental dealer near your new apartment at your destination. A rental car or a rental truck would not only get you to your new apartment but you could also use it to quickly transfer some of your things from your storage unit to your apartment. In the long run this option might be cheaper than a Taxi. If you have very little cash then you should call some of the larger churches in the immediate area. The smaller churches are usually only open on Sundays but most of the larger churches have a full-time staff whose primary job is to assist people in distress. These larger churches have people who will answer the phone on weekdays during the day. Just explain your situation to the individual who answers the phone and politely ask if there is anyone currently in their church office, or perhaps a retired church member, who would volunteer to drive your family to your apartment located in your rural town "x" number of miles away. You may be pleasantly surprised at how friendly most of these people are and how eager they will be to assist you in your hour of need. Regardless of the high moral quality of these individuals you should not tell them about your storage unit full of emergency supplies nor should you try to enlist their aid in helping you to move some of your supplies to your new apartment. This activity should be a private matter that only you and your spouse participate in.
Even if you include the above strategies as part of your tentative evacuation plans, your family should still be prepared to walk the entire distance if it becomes absolutely necessary. Eat well, drink a lot of water, and use the bathroom just before you begin your journey. Lock your apartment door when you leave. If your family must walk out of the city then each one of you should be modestly dressed in loose-fitting faded dark colored clothes so you will not attract any unnecessary attention. Wear your most comfortable walking shoes and wear a pair of nylon hose footies under your normal socks to help prevent walking blisters on your feet. If you don't have any footies then wear nylon panty hose under your socks. This applies to both males and females. If possible, plan to walk completely out of the downtown area of the city during the first day or night of your journey. None of the females should be wearing any makeup and they should have their hair stuffed under a dark color large baseball type cap. To the extent possible the females should look almost like a male except from a very short distance away. This obviously means no visible purses or handbags. All the males should also wear a dark baseball type hat to minimize sun damage to the face and neck. Everyone should keep their head tilted slightly down with their eyes looking towards the ground and slightly ahead of them. The strongest person should be in the rear and the next strongest person in the front. You should have already planned your primary (and backup) departure routes from the city so the person in front will know exactly which way to lead the family. Do not talk to each other unless it is absolutely necessary and then only speak briefly in a whisper. If you must speak to strangers then let the oldest male do the talking while everyone else keeps their mouth completely shut during the entire conversation exchange. Tell your children to walk quietly and to step over anything in their path. If you have a fixed-blade hunting knife then you should wear it in its case attached to your belt in plain sight. It would be nice if each teenage or older person had one of these hunting knives attached to their belt in visible sight. This includes both males and females. If you have a firearm then you should keep it concealed and completely out of sight but it should be where you can reach it quickly if necessary. If only one or two of you are pulling a two-wheel luggage carrier loaded with a medium size suitcase or backpack then your family will not look like it is worth the trouble to attack. Thieves and criminals prefer an unarmed prosperous looking individual instead of a poorly dressed person wearing a visible hunting knife. However, thieves and criminals are always looking to acquire more firearms and that is the reason you should not have a gun in visible sight. This evacuation strategy should permit your family to travel unnoticed and unmolested through a very dangerous life threatening environment.
Once you are completely out of the danger area you should transfer all your belt knives to your suitcase or backpack, along with any firearms you might have. You do not want to terrorize the residents of the small towns and communities you will be passing through. You also do not want to give the local law enforcement officers a reason to arrest and detain you. If you are stopped and questioned then you should provide the law enforcement officers with the phone number of the apartment you are walking towards along with your paid rent confirmation number and then you will most likely be permitted to continue to your destination. However you should not mention that you have a storage unit full of equipment, supplies and food waiting at your destination. These are some of the reasons why it would be wise to reach your destination as soon as you can without unnecessary delays. These are also some of the reasons why travel by night (10 PM to 5 AM) would be preferred to travel during the day. At night there will be little or no traffic and you can see the headlights of the few approaching cars from both directions and your family could quickly get off the road and lay very still to avoid being seen. This is another reason for wearing dark clothing. Night travel during the hot summer months is less fatiguing and during the cold winter months it helps you to keep warm because you are walking (unless a freezing night wind is blowing).
Your emergency travel suitcase or backpack should contain your basic survival necessities, such as a quality portable water filter, one 24-ounce bottle full of drinking water for each person, all your prescription medications, a first aid kit and 100 extra bandaids, a bar of soap, a hand towel, toothbrushes and toothpaste, a few one-gallon ziplock freezer bags (lots of uses such as water collection), a spare hunting knife, a Leatherman type multi-tool, some matches and a butane lighter, some toilet tissue, a waterproof tarp to construct a simple tent-like shelter, a plastic ground sheet to sleep on, at least 200 feet of strong twine or thin wire, a small fishing tackle kit with some fishing line, a wilderness survival manual, a bible, and a blanket and spare socks for each person. You should also take the original copy of all your legal documents, all your cash, credit cards, check book, jewelry, and other small valuables, your cell phones, and enough high-calorie ready-to-eat food items to sustain your family during the entire trip to your safe destination. Each family member will need at least 3000 calories per day if they are going to walk or ride a bicycle all day. If you still have some unused space then you may include a deck of playing cards and some children's games to entertain your family at the end of each day's travel. A small solar powered or battery operated radio with an ear plug would permit you to keep up with the current news each time you stop to camp. Sleep in shifts with one teenager or adult always awake. If you still have room then you may include a small laptop computer with DVD drive, or a purse or handbag inside your travel suitcase after you have removed all the useless items that can be easily replaced when you reach your destination. If you strap a ladies purse to the top of a suitcase then it would be obvious to everyone that a women was traveling with your party. Remember how far you have to travel and how long it is going to take you. Each unnecessary pound you add to your travel suitcase will slow you down and delay your arrival at your safe destination. Each unnecessary pound will cause you to burn more energy and require more food and water during the journey. To minimize fatigue and permit the fastest possible average travel speed, you should strap each of your suitcases or backpacks to its own individual folding heavy-duty two-wheel luggage carrier with extra big wheels that can be easily pulled along behind you.
If you decide to rent and stock a small storage unit then you should not tell anyone except your spouse. Even your children should not know of these arrangements. If your children don't know then you won't have to worry about them telling their friends. Neither you nor your spouse should discuss your evacuation plans with anyone, including other family members or close friends. It would be okay to give them the web address of www.survivalblog.com and suggest they take a look because you found it to be extremely enlightening and informative. But telling anyone about the emergency supplies you have stored in a distant rental unit would be unwise for a multitude of reasons. If either you or your spouse decide to ignore this suggestion then you will probably regret it when a diaster begins to unfold and everyone who knows about your plans shows up at your apartment because they have decided to evacuate the city with you. Normal people behave entirely differently during a disaster because their survival instincts take over and they will not listen to you when you try to explain that you don't have enough supplies to share with everyone. You are their only hope of survival and they are not going to let you out of their sight under any circumstances. You can completely avoid this unpleasant and potentially dangerous confrontation by remaining absolutely silent about your evacuation plans.
Having an emergency evacuation plan is similar to making a religious decision about eternal salvation. The vast majority of people will agree that it is a truly excellent idea but they will do absolutely nothing about it while there is still time to take positive action.
In summary, the following steps taken now could maximize the chances of your family's survival during a future disaster event:
On the other hand, if you believe your city has a reasonable chance of surviving the disaster then instead of renting an apartment you and your family could rent a modest motel room in the rural town on a daily (or weekly) basis while you wait for the forecasted disaster to pass. Most of the smaller motels have a daily rate and a much lower weekly rate. If the disaster event should come and go and the city is able to survive with only moderate damage, then you could always return to your old apartment and way of life after the debris has been cleaned up, and the water and power is restored throughout the city. Just use a few days of your sick leave during this interval of time while things are being returned to normal inside the city. When you return tell anyone who asks the truth: you and your family stayed in a motel outside the city while you waited for the disaster to pass. You do not need to add any additional details. However, if the water and power is not restored and conditions inside the city continue to degenerate then you and your family would be able start a new future together in your new community.
- Select several small rural towns that are between 60 to 75 miles from your current apartment but are not on a major Interstate Highway.
- Visit each of these rural towns and select the one you believe is best suited for your purposes.
- Rent a 6 foot by 6 foot (or larger) storage unit near the rural town and stock it with equipment, supplies, and food.
- Do not tell anyone about your disaster evacuation plan for any reason. And never mention the name of the town you have selected.
- Later, if a disaster strikes then evacuate your family to your preplanned safe destination as quickly as you can.
- Rent a safe place to live in your new community based on your previous survey of rental properties. (Note: If possible complete this transaction by phone before you start your journey, or during your journey when you get within reach of a working cell phone tower or a working pay phone.)
- Your family should now be able to survive for a few months using your storage unit supplies while you and your spouse look for new jobs in your new community.
Some of the very first things you should do after you rent a new apartment are:
- Hold onto your cash as long as possible and, if possible, pay by credit card instead.
- If necessary have the utilities connected at your new apartment. If necessary have the utilities stopped at your old apartment in the city.
- If your bank has a branch in your rural town then visit the bank and change the mailing address on your existing account. Or open a new checking account at a local bank by making the minimum opening deposit. Do not deposit all of your cash.
- Visit the Division of Motor Vehicles and have them change the address on your driver's license.
- Register to vote. You are now a legitimate member of your new community.
- Register your children in the local public school system. You will need your apartment rent receipt, your children's birth certificates, a copy of their immunization records, and maybe a copy of their most recent report cards or their previous year's final report cards.
- You and your spouse should immediately file for unemployment benefits and for any welfare subsidies you may be entitled to. These benefits could keep your family alive until you can find a new job. However, you should not be surprised if it takes a very long time before you actually begin to receive any of these benefits because your state may be swamped with similar requests from millions of other individuals.
- Carefully consider who you want to notify of your new address and then do so. It may not be wise to notify everyone.
- Establish a budget and stick to it. Do not make any unnecessary purchases. Use the items in your storage unit. Do not tell anyone about the items in your storage unit. It may be a long time before things return to normal so carefully ration your available food resources beginning immediately and don't wait until half your food is gone. It is okay if you and your spouse loose a little weight. It will probably help you to better blend in with the other starving families in the immediate area.
- Honestly evaluate your current financial situation. If necessary, file for complete bankruptcy immediately. Since you and your spouse have both unexpectedly lost your jobs, a complete write-off of all your previous debts should be relatively straightforward if you consult a good bankruptcy attorney. A good attorney will advise you to start over with no debt instead of just shuffling your existing debt around and decreasing your monthly payments by a little bit.
- You and your spouse should begin a diligent search for new employment. Almost any honest job, including a part-time job, is better than no job. Part-time jobs sometimes become a full-time job after your employer sees that you are a diligent honest hard-working person. You can look for a better job after you have established some type of regular income. Never quit one job until after you have found another job. If necessary, work two jobs to keep your rent and utility bills paid. Do not continue working at a job if you do not receive your pay when it was originally promised. There are unethical people even in small rural towns who will try to take advantage of anyone they can. Before you leave a steady paying job you should be reasonably certain you will get paid on your new job on a regular basis.
- Become a member of a local church and attend church every Sunday. Give thanks that your family has survived the disaster.
Revised January 16, 2008 - Added paragraph with reference to Hurricane Katrina.
Revised January 1, 2008 - Added more information in many different areas.
Click on www.grandpappy.info/indexhar.htm for more Hard Times Survival Tips.
Click on www.grandpappy.info for Robert's Home Page.
Send e-mail to RobertWayneAtkins@grandpappy.info