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#237172 - 12/10/11 07:45 PM Best response to always get out of town?
dweste Offline

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
Dear braintrust:

In recent conversations it was proposed that the best response to all disasters is to get out of town. This did not seem likely, especially for short-term non-lethal situations where bugging-in lets you enjoy the familiar comforts of your well-prepared current abode.

The proposition was then modified to assert getting out of the urban environment was the best solution for any disaster of indefinite duration, especially any TEOTWAWKI. I responded that as it is unlikely duration of a disaster is crystal clear, that getting out of town should be down the list and not a first response.

The rejoinder was that getting out of the urban environment as a first and immediate response was a better-safe-than-sorry tactic. I turn to the braintrust in contemplation of that thought.

Edited by dweste (12/10/11 07:50 PM)

#237175 - 12/10/11 08:19 PM Re: Best response to always get out of town? [Re: dweste]
chaosmagnet Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 3088
Loc: USA
If the disaster promises to disrupt travel and services -- but you don't have anywhere to go and can comfortably survive the duration without the grid, staying put is often the right move.

If the disaster is that a Hellmouth is opening and will swallow the city up entire, the earlier you get out, the better.

Most disasters fall somewhere in between. I advised my mother to evacuate in advance of Hurricane Irene. She scoffed and wouldn't be budged. Fortunately, the effects were much less than predicted where she lives. Based on what we knew at the time, I still think she should have spent the weekend with friends inland -- she had no way of knowing that there wouldn't be widespread flooding.

With regard to urban environments, the problem is that they're hard to leave. Public transportation is incapable of moving a large percentage of the population out of the city, and highways are unable to handle the day-to-day load of commuters without major delays. Hordes of frightened evacuees can and do increase those delays tremendously. Leaving early may let you avoid the worst congestion, and may also let you find the most commodious shelter outside of the disaster-struck area. Wait too long and you run the risk of being unable to leave in time.

I live in the suburbs and it's easier for me to clear out than it is for most city dwellers. I would not hesitate to leave early if we had warning of something that could make staying home untenable.

Edited by chaosmagnet (12/10/11 08:22 PM)

#237176 - 12/10/11 08:28 PM Re: Best response to always get out of town? [Re: dweste]
JohnN Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/10/01
Posts: 966
Loc: Seattle, WA
I would say it highly depends on the situation. In a large urban environment, everyone trying to get out of town at the same time is going to be 1) pandemonium and 2) total and absolute gridlock.

Here in the Seattle burbs, I spent 35 minutes to travel maybe a mile yesterday around 5:15pm. During some of our ice storms, it wasn't unusual for people to take 8-12 hours go get home.

In a *real* emergency, I would suspect the situation could get a lot worse. And in a real emergency, the panic level out there is going to be very high, and that induces danger in addition to the inability to actually leave.

Combine that with the fact that your stuff is near your home and bugging out you'll only have what you can/have loaded, I would agree with you that the default mode probably should be bugging in, not bugging out.

On the other hand, you need to be read/willing to go if the situation dictates. Think of a chemical spill/leak.


#237177 - 12/10/11 08:34 PM Re: Best response to always get out of town? [Re: dweste]
JohnN Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/10/01
Posts: 966
Loc: Seattle, WA
Chaosmagnet has a good point. If you are going to leave the time to do it before everyone else clues in. In that respect, there is some aspect of wisdom in the suggestion that it is always safer to leave, but the reality is this only works if you decide to leave ahead of everyone else. And even that wouldn't work if everyone took the same strategy.

So if you do plan to bug out as a default the trick would be to do it at the first hint of trouble, rather than waiting for definitive signs.


#237185 - 12/10/11 11:29 PM Re: Best response to always get out of town? [Re: dweste]
Susan Offline

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
...the best response to all disasters is to get out of town

The best response to any disaster is to evaluate it individually, and to have a plan for each.

I really tend to wonder about the thought processes of all the people who think evacuation is the answer to everything. The people who advocate that seem to have a serious case of tunnel vision. I suspect they've watched the Rambo and Mad Max movies too many times.

Western WA has over 5 million people.
Portland metro area has over 2 million people.
SoCal metro area has over 22 million people.

Just where are all these people supposed to go? Moving the population of western WA and Portland into the Cascades just sounds like an incredibly bad idea. And SoCal, where to go? Into the desert???

Most people can't carry a tremendous amount of anything in their vehicles, and most people don't even store much food or water. If everyone runs to the mountains and picks a spot on semi-level ground, how long can they eat before what they brought runs out? Hunting? Don't make me laugh! All the animals would be dead and rotting in a week or two.

Water? If it's raining, they can catch it, if they have something to catch it with and something to put it in. If it been snowing, they've got water, but also a lot of other problems. Rivers and steams with lots of people camped nearby? Do they know how to spell POLLUTION? Sick people with diarrhea all over the place, cool! Oh, you're in SoCal? Sorry, you'll just die of dehydration in a few days.

Did everyone start with a full tank of gas? No, so many couldn't even get to where they were hoping to get, and have to park alongside the road with a lot of other people.

Shelter? Cold wind, blowing rain or snow, searing heat and blowing sand. One car, two adults and three kids? Kinda cramped, huh? Tempers getting a little short?

Forgot to bring matches? Oh-oh!

Your two teenage boys decided to engage in some horseplay and one now has a broken arm? That's too bad!

Everyone is searching the sky for signs of some double-rotor Chinook helicopters to deliver emergency supplies? We are counting on them! What do you mean they're not coming?

Meanwhile, my dog and I are trotting around the vacant neighborhood with the red Radio Flyer wagon collecting all kinds of useful stuff! Oh, Judy stayed, too! She's out with her wheelbarrow and we're trading stuff. Bill left a whole pile of dry, split firewood in his shed, must be about four cords. Here's all Doug's hand tools! It looks like Linda took a lot of food, but since she's Mormon, there's LOTS more!

Of course, this is assuming that the disaster wasn't an earthquake, because then, no one would be going anywhere due to the collapsed overpasses, and trees, poles, wires, and shattered buildings littering every single road and street.

I was just noticing the other day as I sat in traffic on the Alaskan Way Viaduct (what's left of it): if we only have 10-20 minutes to get to high ground after a mega-quake, a lot of people are going to die. The buildings are fairly tall (at least six stories), and they're all going to be in the narrow streets, blocking access to the nearest high ground.


#237190 - 12/11/11 12:28 AM Re: Best response to always get out of town? [Re: dweste]
Dagny Offline

Registered: 11/25/08
Posts: 1916
Loc: Washington, DC
Excellent response, Susan.

Unless I happen to be up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. when the crisis occurs and can get the car packed and moving within minutes, "bugging out" by vehicle would be a slow slog. During which time even a full tank may run out before we reached the Beltway.

Everyday traffic here has become a nightmare for several hours of the day.

9/11/01 provided some hint of a crisis evacuation (many people gave up on cars and mass transportation and walked several miles to get home) but in that case most residents of DC stayed in DC, it was the Virginia and Maryland commuters evacuating. Add DC's population to that mix (and no or few gas stations in much of the city) and it gets exponentially more difficult.

One encouraging aspect of the 9/11 evacuation in DC is that it was remarkably civil. Everyone I know who experienced it in cars and on foot, spoke of widespread camaraderie and consideration that day. Without exception, I watched a river of vehicles in my neighborhood obeying traffic lights and stop signs in a lawful manner that you do not see on a normal day.

About 30% of DC adults don't have vehicles. A higher percentage than New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit.

What are those people going to do?

I keep my fuel tank topped off but the more thought I've given to evacuation these past few years, it seems like a very poor strategy in most conceivable situations. And futile in others.

#237194 - 12/11/11 01:00 AM Re: Best response to always get out of town? [Re: Dagny]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6815
Loc: southern Cal
Consider the situation in an earthquake event. Typically no advance warning, just a big bump and then varying amounts of damage and disruption, depending upon your position with respect to the epicenter and other factors. Generally it makes sense to bug in, and then a possible withdrawal depending upon the situation.

Interestingly enough, southern California has experienced wildfires which demand excavation. These have occurred with no significant disruption or turmoil. Typically the refuge centers are not fully utilized. This may have something to do with a fairly robust infrastructure and generally competent emergency services.

Whenever possible, my tendency is to remain at home. It's called home field advantage.

The notion that the "best" response is "always (fill in the blank)" is unbelievably simplistic and naive. One needs to acquire dependable information, and logically think through whatever options are available.

Edited by hikermor (12/11/11 01:05 AM)
Geezer in Chief

#237199 - 12/11/11 01:44 AM Re: Best response to always get out of town? [Re: hikermor]
Susan Offline

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
...California has experienced wildfires which demand excavation.

I really don't think that is what you meant to type, but it brings up another solution that permaculturist Bill Mollison suggested for remote homesteads in Australia, an insulated hole in the ground for escape from a fast-moving wildfire or firestorm.

It consists of a hole dug into the ground (or half under, half above ground), a roof, and the roof should be heavily insulated with a thick layer of soil and sown with grass or something to hold the soil in place. It should have a heavy fireproof door (at least metal-covered), with a protective dogleg of mortared stone, brick, adobe or soil in front of it to protect the door from radiant heat. IOW, an underground cellar type of structure.

Out in the wilds of Oz, they have a lot of eucalyptus trees in some areas, and they burn like tar barrels. Firestorms create their own wind, and it can be impossible to outrun them, even in a vehicle. And if Dad took the only vehicle to town to work, the people left at home have no escape.

Anyway, another method that might be useful for some people. If it were placed in the middle of a field with no trees nearby, the fire should pass over relatively quickly.


#237200 - 12/11/11 01:48 AM Re: Best response to always get out of town? [Re: Dagny]
Susan Offline

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
About 30% of DC adults don't have vehicles... What are those people going to do?

We would hope that they put the school buses and city buses to better use than they did in New Orleans!


#237205 - 12/11/11 03:45 AM Re: Best response to always get out of town? [Re: Susan]
Richlacal Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 02/11/10
Posts: 778
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Unfortunately,Firestorms need oxygen to breath just like we do,An insulated 1/2 hole in the ground will likely become an insulated 1/2 hole in the ground with a corpse,The ants will feast!

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