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Evacuation Strategies: Page 1 - Page 2


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Recommended Books

Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late (2010) by Scott B. Williams.

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein.

Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient when the Unexpected Happens, by Kathy Harrison.

The Unthinkable - Who Survives When Disaster Strikes (2008) by Amanda Ripley

When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikes by Cody Lundin.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht.

Crisis Preparedness Handbook: A Complete Guide by Jack A. Spigarelli.

DVD's and TV Programs

History Channel:"After Armageddon", "Seven Signs of the Apocalypse", "Crumbling of America", "Global Warning," "Mt. Vesuvious", "Yellowstone", "Mega-Tsunami", "Magnetic Storm", "2012 - End of Days".

Weather Channel: "It Could Happen Tomorrow," a series that examines the impact of potential mega-disasters throughout the United States. Episodes include an earthquake on the New Madrid Fault, an eruption on Mt. Rainier, and flash flooding in Boulder, Colorado.

BBC Documentary: "Supervolcano: The Truth about Yellowstone". (Here's a transcript via ABC News.)

ABC News: "Earth 2100 A.D."

Evacuation Strategies

cont. from Page 3

Nearest Accessible Wilderness

The vast majority of survivalists subscribe to an evacuation strategy that targets undeveloped areas within driving distance of your home. Kayaker Scott Williams lays out the basic thought process in his 2010 book Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late. Just look at a map and you can quickly identify potential refuges for the worst-case scenario.

Here are some of the options you have to choose from:

National Parks - These pristine tracts boast uncontaminated water sources, plenty of game to hunt, fish to hook, wild edibles to forage and (in the case of wooded areas) plenty of fuel for cooking and staying warm. On the down side, they're such an obvious choice, masses of people are likely to migrate in their direction in a national catastrophe. Besides that, scouting out good locations, performing dry runs and evacuating in advance can be problematic, since the parks are so heavily regulated. State gun laws are observed, as are national park restrictions on your ability to carry some types of weapons. You also need a wilderness permit in order to explore the backcountry, which limits your time and requires you to stick to a specific trail itinerary.

National Forests and BLM Lands - Like the Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service enforces a multi-use policy with regard to the territories it oversees. Mining, logging, hunting and (in the case of BLM tracts) ATV use is permitted. Needless to say, you should be wary of the wildfire potential in any heavily wooded area. Look for nearby caves or other geologic formations that can offer cover should a fire break out. On the upside, you don't need a wilderness permit to explore millions of undeveloped acres (especially in the western U.S.), including places that are wholly inaccessible by car. Once you identify a remote location that won't be overrun by other evacuees anytime soon, enter the waypoint onto your GPS unit, or print out some directions and draw a map for a rainy day.

Army Corps of Engineers Domains - This agency presides over the shores on either side of American rivers with large dams, hydro-electric plants, reservoirs or other flood control elements (like levees). These wilderness tracts are often known only to local residents, so competition for the resources should be less intense than with other public lands. On the down side, you generally need a boat, kayak or canoe to get around, and flooding caused by global warming may remain an ongoing threat in any watery terrain for decades to come.

Other Undeveloped Areas - Land trusts and conservancies run by nonprofit groups offer the same perks as public lands, except not on the same scale. Like state and county parks, utility-owned lands and private estates, the amount of acreage is often miniscule. However, in many cases these various entities own adjacent properties, so when you string it all together, you get plenty of open terrain to choose from in a doomsday emergency.

In order to implement an evacuation, you'll have to formulate a specific plan and carry out most of the steps long before a possible doomsday arrives. Williams recommends the following steps:

High-Altitude Evacuation

Some doomsday websites, citing the Great Flood, recommend evacuating to the highest places on Earth. Earth-based cataclysms are likely to trigger chemical and sewage spills, radiation leaks at nuclear facilities, and other toxic discharges that can poison the land, air and water table up to about 3000 feet in altitude. Climbing out of harm's way, therefore, may be the most sensible plan.

Other doomsday trackers argue that since the second epistle of Peter says the Earth will be destroyed this time by fire from the heavens, the higher locales may be more dangerous. Fire could take the form of volcanic eruptions as well as space radiation and nuclear attacks.

Evacuating to a mountaintop retreat is easier said than done, in any case. The legendary Hindu Kush along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is largely controlled by fundamentalist Islamic military forces. Tibet is occupied by China, while Nepal has spent the last decade in the throes of its own civil war. In South America, the Shining Path guerrillas and Columbian kidnappers are known to be roaming around the Andes and other high-altitude locales.

The Alps, meanwhile, are crumbling fast by geologic standards. The frequently occurring mudslides make parts of that mountain chain extremely dangerous. In the United States, federal and state government agencies regulate the public's access to the Rockies, Sierras, and other mountains, but these will likely be popular destinations for Americans evacuating cities in a major emergency. (More on this below.)

As for polar refuges like the Alaskan and Canadian wilderness, the higher latitudes present food supply challenges. It remains difficult to predict how global warming and changes in the Pacific Ocean will affect western North America.

In defense of the high-altitude haven, staying put at lower altitudes - where the planet is plagued by drought, flooding, pandemics, etc - doesn't make much sense, either. It goes without saying that a rogue nuclear missile is more likely to strike a major population center than a remote mountain chain. Drawing from our experience in the Dark Ages, a disease epidemic would least affect people living high above the fray.

Ethiopia and other Foreign Refuges

Some 2012 survivalists are said to be eyeing Ethiopia as a possible refuge.  Yet this idea has pretty significant drawbacks. Shortly after Katrina in 2005, an earthquake opened up a 37-mile-long gorge, 13 feet wide in Boina. The city is 270 miles northeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capitol.  Geophysicists have since declared this spot the beginning of a new ocean, which makes it hardly the kind of place to put down roots.

While not discussed much by survivalists, South America is another possible location that may survive a planetary catcaclysm in the future. In Apocalypse 2012: An Investigation into Civilization's End, author Lawrence Joseph shares a fascinating anecdote about some Tibetan monks burying sacred ingots they'd removed from their own country beneath the ground in Central America. The transfer was supposedly taking place in advance of the upcoming doomsday.

Bolstering the idea of a safe refuge in Latin America is an auspicious Mayan calendar cycle known as the Thirteen Heavens, which began in 1987 and will last 676 years (i.e. 13 times the standard "calendar round" cycle of 52 years). The Thirteen Heavens always follows the Nine Hells, a shorter period of 468 years, and some researchers believe that interval last began in 1519, the year Cortez landed in the New World.

A third region worth considering may be Asia Minor, or what is present-day Turkey. That's due in part to the vast number of underground cities built there in remote times. Most of these places, including the caravaserais along the Silk Road, are still available for use today. (This subject was discussed at length earlier in Bunkers and Underground Caves.)

When investigating any foreign country as a potential refuge, be sure to check out the following:

Some of the information you need is availabe in the CIA factbook, the U.S. State Department website - travel advisories section, and the website of the Centers for Disease Control. Old articles in National Geographic magazine and other publications may provide more detailed insight into the terrain and culture of a particular region.

Flexible Planning Approach

Since the manner in which the next mega-disaster will strike is unknown, the first step to developing an evacuation plan is to learn as much about the various threats as possible. For example, if there's a volcanic eruption within a hundred miles of your home, you may not be able to outrun a fast-moving lahar (volcanic mud flow). Yet by simply avoiding canyons and creeks, or climbing up in altitude, you can easily stay out of its path. That's because a lahar follows gravity downward like the rush of water.

Likewise, if you find yourself near ground zero after a nuclear blast, you may be better off sheltering in place for awhile in a concrete building (assuming its windows are intact). Since radiation is carried by airborne particles, you'll limit your exposure by allowing the dust to settlebefore you go outdoors.

Understanding disaster threats will inform your decision-making when it comes time to decide how to respond. This is why disaster agencies sponsor so many mock drills, trainings and seminars. By teaching your body to react to horrific events with concrete actions, you're also less likely to experience the emotional brain-freeze and erratic behavior that typically accompanies natural disasters. Whether you make a dry run, or just read up on the subject, you can acquire the nuts and bolts to help you take the right evasive action, whatever the emergency.

The second step is to identify the safest types of geography for a long-term evacuation. This task may be initially accomplished by a process of elimination. Based on the survey of potential threats outlined above, here are some destinations that should probably be avoided:

Intuition Trumps Logic Approach

If we are to believe the scriptures and legends from cultures around the world, the survivors of an apocalypse are not people gifted with actuarial skills, but rather those who best maintain a spiritual connection with the heavens. It seems that a higher power has directed evacuations during past cataclysms on Earth. That's why the decision about where to go and what to do may be a matter requiring far less logic and a lot more faith. See our section on Spirituality for more on this subject.

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