We have always emphasized that preparing for the days after is as important or even more so than the preparations leading up to a crisis, providing you have advanced warning, of course. Imagine being told that a dam near your community may collapse at any time and you have to evacuate immediately, are you ready to do that.
The Oroville dam in California is close to collapse and roughly, 200,000 residents in the water’s path were told to leave immediately. The evacuation order has been lifted for now, but more rain is coming.
Would you leave? Some residents of the area who would be in the path of the water choose to stay instead of fleeing the possible catastrophe. Looting was apparently the main concern, and so people stayed back to try and prevent it.
Trying to protect your home and property from such an onslaught of water would be impossible however, but a few choose to stay and some may have had little chance of surviving if the dam did collapse.
You may be faced with the same dilemma someday. A train carrying toxic chemicals may derail in your town, a levee may fail, there could be an earthquake, and then a tsunami as a result, or any disaster that strikes without much warning where you must decide quickly whether to stay or evacuate.
To survive the days after you need to have your ducks in a row. You need all of your important paperwork in one place, preferably vacuumed sealed so your documents are protected from moisture damage. You do not have to seal the paperwork as if it were food, but just enough so it can be heat-sealed to make it waterproof. Vacuum sealing paperwork to tightly may damage some documents so be careful.
Passports, insurance documents, birth certificates, marriage certificates, deeds and so on will be needed during the days after. You may not be able to get back to your home without the proper identification so make sure you have some form of ID on you at all times. Proving you live in the community is needed to help reduce looting and vandalism.
You will need a shelter whether they are emergency shelters set up by your local, state, or federal government because everyone needs a dry and warm place to regroup, get meals, shower/bathe, and sleep. You may also seek out friends and relatives homes that are out of the disaster area. Hotels/motels are another option as well, if you can get ahead of the mass exodus because rooms would go fast. Rooms may be rented days before as people gather information on any possible disaster scenario.
Regardless of where you end up, you will need clothing, personal hygiene items, possibly blankets, emergency food, water, specific items for children and babies, pet supplies if applicable, and any medicines needed for daily maintenance and over the counter medications for pain, nausea, allergies, and so forth.
FEMA and the Red Cross in some cases, do provide some emergency supplies, but you should not count on it, and it may take several days for them to get operational in your area, so be prepared to survive on your own in the meantime.
If given advance warning, you can leave by vehicle but expect the roads to be clogged, so it is important that you decide quickly and move to evacuate even quicker to avoid the gridlock. The better prepared you are, the faster you can evacuate.
It is important that you know what is in your area that could cause a mass evacuation. In California, for example, the authorities knew about the dam for years and yet repairs went undone. You cannot count on your local, state, or federal government to always take care of you or to keep you informed of dangers literally in your own backyard.
You need to know about dams, levees, fault lines, flooding issues, hurricane probabilities as well as, the possibility of tidal waves, tornadoes, wildfires and any winter weather events that could cause devastation in your community.
You need to research and stay informed because no one will do it for you. You need a plan for evacuation and for sheltering in place, and once you decide one way or another you may not be able to change your plans after a specific point. If you decide to stay, you may not be able to evacuate if you change your mind a few days into it, because the roads and bridges could be damaged, washed out or simply not safe, so consider this as well when planning. Once committed you may have to go all the way with it, so you need to be prepared to do just that.