There are two definitions of evacuate that really fit what we’re talking about, the second being much more descriptive,
: to leave (a dangerous place)
: to withdraw from a place in an organized way especially for protection
NFPA’s Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities deals with the events, notification and your personal evacuation plan to get out of the building that you’re in.
The distance you need to go to be safe will vary greatly depending on the incident. A waste basket fire may mean that you only have to leave the room, but a hurricane like Katrina or Sandy may mean that you’ll need to travel tens or even hundreds of miles to get to a safe place.
Once you’re out, you may need to get to some temporary shelter. It might be close like with neighbors, friends, family or a rented place like a hotel or other facility, but it could be much further. NFPA’s Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities only covers the first three rings of the “Incident Area Model”. What about the other five rings?
Incident Area Model
If the incident necessitates that you move further out into rings 3 through 7, your plan will need to get more robust as the incident involves a larger and larger area. Planning ahead of time is crucial.
Let’s think about a wildland fire for a moment. There have been some very large wildland fires in the western United States over the past few years. Not only have they burned large areas, but they have been unpredictable in the paths they’ve taken and have changed direction often. So you not only need to how far you have to go, but also in what direction do you need to go “to leave a dangerous place for your protection?”
What about a flood? Again, hurricanes Katrina and Sandy not only caused damage from strong winds, but are examples of the impact that subsequent flooding can have over very large areas that are relatively flat.
Even in areas that are far from the ocean or those at high elevations flooding can be dangerous. Vermont has had numerous flash floods from torrential rains that have caused flooding and major damage in narrow river valleys destroying homes and bridges. In some cases the only viable evacuation route was to go up to higher elevations and also limiting the number potential shelters.
So how far would you personally have to go for each of the incidents that you might be affected by?
Each incident will likely require a different plan. It’s never too early to start building your plan! Some plans, by necessity, will be much more complex than others. You don’t want to wait to evacuate!!
In the next issue I’ll talk about planning for where you’ll stay once you get a safe distance from the incident. Equally important is how long you’ll need to stay there before you can get back into your home. We’ll discuss that in the next issue.
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