By Allan B. Fraser, CBI, CPCA,
Sr. Building Code Specialist, NFPA
This is the fourth in the ten part series on personal disaster planning.
In the last three issues we’ve talked about the first three parts in preparing yourself for an evacuation; the types of events that might cause us to have to evacuate; the typical warning times that you’ll likely have before the event; and how far you may have to travel to get to safety. In this issue I want to talk about how you’re going to get to a safe location.
Let’s take another look at the “Incident Area Graphic”. You may be able to get yourself out of the room that you’re in, or off the floor that you’re on or even out of the building that you’re in by yourself or with the assistance of family, friends, co-workers or building staff, but now what?
If the incident is large enough you’re going to need transportation. Do you need to move off the site, out of the neighborhood, out of town, out of the county or even out of the state? What’s involved and why should we be planning for transportation?
The fact is that the larger the incident the further you’ll need to go and the more people will be evacuating to keep you “company”. To make matters even more difficult, the choices in modes of transportation become more limited the further you may need to go.
Let’s start with that last statement. Any transportation that runs on rails is restricted to those rails and where they go. Trolleys or Light Rail Vehicles (LRV’s) and trains may work well for getting people to and from work or shopping, but they simply aren’t designed to get you very far from home during a large incident and they can’t chose any direction they want, they have to follow the tracks.
For the next group of transportation vehicles, generally considered “hired” vehicles such as busses, taxis, limos, Uber/Lyft, etc., there are several criteria that you need to look at in your planning if you would use these for evacuation during an incident:
- Are they public of private?
- How many are there in the incident area?
- How many people will they hold?
- Are they accessible?
- How much luggage/essential items/durable medical equipment (DME) can they hold?
- How far will they be taking people? Will it be far enough for you?
- Will they be able to make more than one trip?
- Will the drivers be available or will they be evacuating with their families?
Lastly, your own car or that of a friend or neighbor.
- Will it hold enough people and DME?
- Is it accessible?
- Can you access potentially changing public information, radio, internet or otherwise during the trip? ie, Bridge out or road closed, the wildfire has changed direction, etc.)
- GPS or other navigational system?
Remember, the larger the incident area the more demand, and higher potential for less availability of transportation. Planning ahead and knowing your options is critical.
You might want to seriously consider leaving well before you might otherwise have to even if it turns out that you didn’t need to. The old adage; “Better to be safe than sorry” comes to mind.
Part five of the ten-part series will be in the next issue, June, 2017.