Evacuation: Pre-planning is Essential Reply

1-evacuation-crowds-of-people1. Get out early. Don’t delay.
2. Pre-plan your evacuation. Do it now, before it’s too late.

Routing, navigation, timing of departure, and predetermined locations to meet-up with family and/or friends, are all critically important elements of every personal emergency plan.

Unfortunately, evacuation routes are often thought to be obvious, and yet the obvious routes are usually a poor choice when disaster strikes.

In large urban areas, as well as rural locations where major storms are a part of life, evacuation routes have often been established, and these are generally marked with special signage. Maps of these ‘official’ evacuation routes are typically available online at the website for your local government’s Emergency Management Planning office.

Notwithstanding, it may be more prudent to review these ‘official’ routes and then formulate your own evacuation route. Actually, you need several routes. Routes to the rendezvous location where you intend to meet your family or friends, and a route from that location to a more distant safe haven. Plus, direct routes and ‘Plan-B’ routes to use when your first-choice route is compromised.

In a danger-is-imminent situation you need to skip the rendezvous location and immediately flee to a nearby safe (or safer) location. Then, once the initial danger is past, the maps and other items in your GO-Bag will make it possible for you to escape to a place where you can reconnect with family and friends.

Flexibility is essential, so an understanding of evacuation route options, and a good map, are important components of your GO-Bag.

1-Bug-Out_Team-Walking‘GO-Bag’ is an acronym for a “Get Out” bag of essential items. This emergency supplies kit is sometimes also referred to as a ‘GOOD Bag’ (Get-Out-of-Dodge Bag), or ‘Bug-Out Bag’ (old military term). Whichever term you use, this is a knapsack containing 12-20 pounds of essential items, things that you may desperately need for safe evacuation.

You always need to plan for more than one evacuation route. Though part of the route may be the same, you need alternate routes not only to your final destination, but also from your home, work, and the other areas you frequent.

If disaster strikes when you are on vacation or traveling, you have hopefully planned for that eventuality, as well. Most people will not take the time to make a detailed plan for every eventuality, but we nevertheless need to keep this possibility in mind while away from our hometown. Remember, disasters and emergency situations can be even more catastrophic for those who are far from home.

Since you might be someplace else when disaster strikes, you also need general maps, and ideally topographic maps which show terrain and land features in great detail. Beyond this, you also need to develop an understanding of choke points, local dangers and high-crime areas to be avoided.

1-Family-Bug-OutMoreover, for most of us, it’s not just about getting out of the area, it’s about getting out and being able to quickly rendezvous with our loved ones. That acknowledged, your plan needs to articulate when, and under what conditions, you abandon the local rendezvous plan in favor of meeting-up at your ‘Plan-B’ location. Safety and the reality of current conditions may make it necessary for you to head out alone, and meet your family and friends at your ‘safe haven’ final destination.

How do you know when to switch to ‘Plan-B’? How do you know how long you should wait before abandoning the local rendezvous location and heading out to your more distant safe haven? And, how do you decide when to go looking for a missing family member vs. getting the rest of the family to safety?

The answers are in your plan. Or at least they should be. That is why it’s so important to develop your own, personalized, evacuation plan. And why it is so important for each family member and friend involved, to understand the plan so that they know what to do, and when to do it.

Developing route options and establishing a distant safe haven isn’t enough. You need to also answer “if, then…” questions because adaptability and resiliency are essential for a safe evacuation.

How to respond to disaster and emergency situations does not fit neatly into a one-size-fits-all task list.  However, there are common needs which can be addressed.


evacuation_ukEscape “From” vs. Escape “To”

It’s not enough to evacuate ‘from’ a danger area. You need to flee ‘to’ a safe place where you can ride out the danger. Oftentimes more people are harmed or killed in the aftermath of an emergency incident than by the actual event. We need to keep this in mind as we consider evacuation to a safe haven.

As important as timely evacuation is, it’s only one component of the equation. The formula for safety includes not only pre-planned evacuation routes, but also quick departure, readily accessible emergency supplies, and advance selection and preparation of a safe haven.

Unlike the masses who travel the evacuation routes prescribed by a government plan, your pre-planning gives you the opportunity to choose your destination. Don’t just plan a family rendezvous point and an evacuation route; be sure to pre-plan a suitable destination, too.

Where do you want your evacuation route to take you? Ideally to a pre-planned ‘safe haven’ retreat location which is safe and pre-stocked with emergency supplies.

Either way, it may be smart to go somewhere that is 20+ miles away from the displaced crowds who are fleeing the danger area. Preferably, a location that is not on a main road; a retreat area that is not easily accessed by those who become frustrated and leave the pack of escaping people. Increased violence, erratic behavior, and a shortage of supplies are attributes of displaced people. By preplanning, you have the opportunity to avoid this fate.

Remember too, though you may need to evacuate alone, or just with your immediate family, you cannot expect to sustain an extended emergency situation alone. Develop a team; create your own ‘community’ to deal with an extended emergency.

On the other hand, to depend on community ‘camps’ or refugee areas established by government agencies or relief organizations isn’t generally a good idea. Too often these simply trade one dangerous situation for another.

Those who pre-plan, prepare, and retreat to a well-selected safe haven, can often avoid internment in refugee or FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) camps. If you have the option, avoid these camps.

It’s far better to maintain your independence by retreating with a group of trusted friends and family to a private location: A retreat location prepared by you in advance, where your group can be self-sufficient and self-reliant; where you depend on each other for safety and security.

Notwithstanding, after taking time now to plan and prepare, when the emergency situation is actually upon you, the best evacuation advice is:

Get out early. Don’t delay.

Even if you act on this foresight and establish a group retreat and a plan to evacuate together, it’s not unusual for an individual, or part of the group, to not arrive at the rendezvous point in a timely manner. Consider this possibility now. Plan for it.

How long will you wait? Your plan needs to include this detail. If not, the delayed person may waste valuable time trying to get to you when they should be opting for ‘Plan-B’ and a different rendezvous location.

bridge-accident-bMoreover when you wait for them, your window of opportunity for a safe escape may close. You may become trapped by circumstances.

In advance, build into your plan the amount of time you will wait at your first rendezvous location. Then, when disaster strikes, stick to the plan; that way everyone knows what to expect, and what is expected of them.

For those who are elderly or with physical limitations, there is an even greater tendency to wait. Yet, this understandable inclination can make escape even more difficult. There is a fine line between waiting for family and friends who can help, and waiting too long and losing the opportunity to get to safety. This is yet another reason why it is advantageous to have pre-arranged routes, and secondary rendezvous locations, along the route to a ‘safe haven’ retreat location.

If you delay your departure as a result of waiting for someone, or to assemble more supplies, etc., you are asking for trouble. At the very least, you will likely get bogged down with the thousands of other people who waited. This doesn’t just represent a time delay; it translates into increased danger. Every minute you delay represents increased danger.

1-survival-family-child-disasters-sc4Identifying sound evacuation route options and rendezvous locations is foundational to every personal emergency plan. Regrettably, in surveys taken among both adults and children regarding disaster preparedness, most were unable to recall the details of their family’s plan, even when they remembered that a plan had been established. This is a solemn reminder that an outstanding emergency plan is only vapor if the participants can’t remember the details.

Adaptability is another attribute that must be considered. Unfortunately, this aspect is also often neglected, rendering the plan irrelevant at the time when it is desperately needed.

Complexity hampers memory and the retention of plan details. Whereas an emergency plan with insufficient depth and adaptability, can make the plan ineffective. So what do we do?


Develop a brief, written “Plan Summary”

The solution is to develop an adaptable, flexible and resilient plan that is straightforward and easy to remember; a plan that is supported by a printed ‘Plan Summary’ which includes brief but specific reminders of the key details (and maps). A copy of this summary document should be kept in each person’s GO-Bag.

Maps, routing details, addresses, notes and reference materials are all useless if not readily available when disaster strikes. Your brief Plan Summary, along with maps marked with routes and related reference materials, needs to be included in each GO-Bag.

If you have a smart phone, store a PDF copy of the plan, and maps, etc. in your phone. The screen may be small and hard to read, but this back-up copy may prove to be invaluable.

Vigilance without adequate preparation is like a baseball player stepping up to the plate without a bat. Don’t leave important details to chance, or assume that the information will be remembered during a high-stress situation.

Just as a baseball player can’t expect to score a run without coaching and practice, you and your team need to get ready, too. Pre-planning, recollection of the plan’s details by everyone involved, and adaptability (contingency plans), are all essential components of every emergency plan.

Plan now; save lives later.

If you don’t have a plan, start today by making a basic bullet-point plan or numbered list that can be expanded over time. If you do have a plan, use this reminder as an opportunity to refresh your plan, and to remind each participant of the details.

When disaster strikes, most people will not stop to read a lengthy plan. This is a trait of human nature. Don’t expect to change it. You can mitigate this problem by making sure they are familiar with the plan in advance. If they understand the plan, then they are far more likely to use the Plan Summary to find the details they need but can’t remember.


1-remote-secure-cabinDestination, home? Or, another location?

The best answer is both. But each member of your family (or group) needs to know where they should be heading, and the conditions or timing which will redirect them from the primary to a secondary destination. And, what route to take.

Invariably, when someone fails to arrive at the predetermined location, it is tempting to organize a search party to look for the missing person. Unfortunately, if you aren’t confident of the route which would have been taken, this may not just be a futile exercise, it may also be extremely dangerous.

Make decisions such as this in advance. In your Plan Summary document, be specific regarding timing, and under what conditions you will move to Plan-B.



Bugging-out from home or work to a safer, less-populated rural location

If you live or work in an urban or suburban area and disaster strikes, the best plan may be to get to a less populated area where self-sufficiency is possible. If the situation affects thousands of people, and it looks to be an emergency situation which will last for more than a few days, then you need to get out early, while you still can. You need to evacuate to a safe rural location.

If you wait until the masses of people arrive at the same conclusion, it may be too late. You may be trapped by traffic congestion, blocked roads or frustrated crowds; conditions which are often followed by violence.

Where will you go? How will you get there? What will you take with you?

Ideally, the selection of a retreat location is a decision to be made in advance, as part of your emergency plan. With advance planning, you have the opportunity to select a suitable location, make arrangements with the property owners, develop a team, stockpile supplies at that location, and to identify routing and transportation options for safe and expeditious travel.

Last minute decisions of this magnitude can often be disastrous if poorly conceived. Advance planning is imperative.

If your primary retreat location is many miles away, be sure to select a “Plan-B” location that is on the way, but within 1-2 days (or 1-2 nights) walking distance. For those who live in a major city, this Plan-B retreat may not be in a rural location, but rather a better place within the city; a location where you can congregate with other family and friends for mutual aid and improved safety.

Irrespective of whether your retreat location is rural or urban, community is essential for surviving an emergency situation that lasts more than a few days. If you can avoid it, don’t try to go it alone.

Invariably those who bug-out early, before the rest of the population realizes their plight, are far more likely to reach safety. Delay can be deadly. But to leave for an non-specific location may also be deadly. Make your plans now, before you need them.

Recommended Reading: “Strategic Relocation” by Joel Skousen.


Route Selection

In an emergency situation, the shortest distance between two points may not be the best route to travel.

Environmental factors such as the effects of a storm and storm damage, traffic congestion, traffic signals not working, accidents and choke points created by bridges and tunnels, new dangers such as social unrest, or the expansion of high-crime areas, may make a circuitous and longer route far more prudent.

Remember, a multitude of factors may make car travel, subway, and commuter bus travel impossible. You need a back-up plan to these modes of transportation.

What is your best route if you find yourself walking instead of riding? Freeway routes may be too dangerous for foot travel. Major thoroughfares may offer the shortest travel time by vehicle, but they may not be the safest or fastest choice in an emergency situation.

Importantly, your usual routes which utilize major roadways are often miles longer than a more direct route which can be utilized by those who are walking or riding a bike.

Keep in mind that railroad tracks and above ground subway tracks may be more direct but not included on maps. Tracks and power line right-of-ways may be fine for walking, but these routes may actually be more tiring as your walking stride may be affected.

Factors such as these must be taken into account. It may seem like a bother, but when legal and possible, it is better to walk these routes in advance so that you know what to expect.

It is to your advantage to walk, or at least drive each alternative route, as maps never provide all the details you need. An emergency situation is not the time to find that your selected route has become inaccessible due to road changes, construction, new security fences, or the emergence of unsafe neighborhoods.

Use an indelible-ink pen (Sharpie) to mark your maps with routing and relevant route details. After you have traveled each route, produce an updated set for the GO-Bag belonging to each member of your group. Treat each map with AquaSeal Map Seal to protect it and make it more durable.


Not just evacuation routes, but an Emergency Plan

Anyone who has been in combat is acquainted with the adage, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” And the saying, “The plan is nothing, but planning is everything.” These military truisms, which emphasize the importance of adaptability, are valid for our personal emergency plans, as well. Awareness, and an orientation to problem solving based in prior planning, is necessary for timely decision making, prudent action, and resiliency.

Developing an emergency plan has huge benefits. It provides advantages such as the ability to make strategic decisions unhampered by stress, it gives you time to do research, the opportunity to obtain expert advice, and to select participants and get buy-in from them.

Importantly, it gives you the opportunity to work on the plan together, and to obtain agreement on the details. By taking the time to actually develop a plan, all of this can be accomplished in advance.

Anticipate potential problems. Identify solutions. Build-in resiliency.

Your Emergency Plan doesn’t need to be an elaborate document. Bullet-point details that are discussed can be enough – especially if the concept of writing a plan is so daunting that you won’t do it. It’s far better to have a detailed outline that is written and discussed, then to wait until someone writes it all down.

Every thinking person knows that an emergency plan is important. Unfortunately, the tyranny of the urgent often keeps us from getting to the things which are truly important.  Don’t let this happen to you.

Start now; don’t wait until you have the time to make a plan exhaustive or professional looking. When you are done reading this, take a few minutes to outline a personal plan. Then, get a collection of maps to evaluate, and select which ones are best for this purpose.

A personal or family-and-friends plan needs to be simple yet specific, and at the same time resilient. Adaptability needs to be built into your plan. Decision making, and appropriate action, must be clear to each participant.

For example, if your spouse plans to take a certain route from work-to-home in the event of an emergency situation, then it is possible to search for them if they don’t arrive home within a reasonable timeframe. Conversely, without this most basic detail, a timely and effective search is next to impossible, and may compound the problem rather than solve it.

When ‘Plan-A’ isn’t possible, everyone needs to know when to switch to ‘Plan-B.’


What to include in a personal Emergency Plan / Evacuation Plan

Don’t delay. Take the time now to…

1. Investigate route options for getting to your gathering place, with departure points from the locations you and your family/friends frequent often. Identify at least four very different routes which will get you home or to your gathering spot, with departure locations emanating from work sites, school, church, shopping, and other places you frequent.

Google Maps and similar online map resources can be helpful for this process, but don’t limit your efforts to the high-traffic main-road type routes that computer software usually identifies. Back roads provide important alternatives. If you live in a flood-prone area, you will need to use a flood map or topographic (land features) map to help with your route planning.

2. Next, repeat the same exercise but for traveling on foot, and/or by bicycle.

3. Using a highly detailed paper map, identify your potential routes.

4. Drive or walk each route to verify viability of each. Measure time and distance for each route, and between obvious milestones, and note this information on your maps.  During an emergency situation these times will likely be very different, but these details are still helpful.

5. Use this opportunity to make additional notations on your map using a fine-tip waterproof pen (Sharpie). Mark directly on your map the location of gas stations, convenience stores, nearby hospitals and emergency clinics, and police and fire stations. Add notations relating to sources of water, places to hide or sleep, possible rendezvous locations where you can comfortably wait for others, etc.

6. Mark your map with landmarks and other land features which will be helpful if street signs are missing. Since disasters can destroy signage and buildings, be sure to include structures and landmarks which will likely remain.

7. Now, transfer your route and notes to a fresh map, and make a similar map for each member of your family-and-friends evacuation group. Coat each map with a clear, waterproof sealer/durability-enhancer such as ‘Map Seal’ made by AquaSeal. After waiting several days to make sure each map is dry, fold and store each map-set in a large waterproof plastic bag which is large enough so that the map can be used without removing it from the bag. This will help protect your maps from damage during storage, and during use.  Or better yet, use a waterproof map case such as the clear vinyl ‘Dry Doc’ Map Case made by Seattle Sports. Each vehicle, and each ‘GO-Bag,’ should have a set of these route maps.


Practice Your Plan

Walk or drive each route and alternative route.  Or, you can make it fun for family and friends by making it into a Geocaching– type game.  Most geocaching clubs utilize electronic devices, but you can create your own, similar games using just a map, compass, and ‘clues’ based on permanent land features.  It’s like a treasure hunt, but a game that provides serious benefits.


Click here: Article – Evacuation: Preplanning is Essential to download a PDF copy of this article for printing.


Additional Resources

Topographic Maps (www.USGS.gov):  U.S. Geological Survey Store

Source for Map Seal, compass, map cases, etc. (www.REI.com):  Recreational Equipment online

Tutorial on how to use a topographic map: GeoSTAC

Orienteering: How to Use a Compass

Recommended Compass: 3H Military Compass

Recommended Budget Compass:  SUUNTO A-30

Recommended Book: “Be Expert with Map and Compass: The Complete Orienteering Handbook” by Bjorn Kjellstrom and Carina Elgin

Recommended Book:  “Strategic Relocation” Third Edition, by Joel Skousen.

Note:  We do not derive any benefit from our recommendations.

TransFarming: A Sustainable Path to Food Self-Sufficiency Reply

DSC_0043-b_edited-1Our times are changing rapidly. This is occurring on many fronts, but few more rapidly than with our food supply.

Examples include the increasing number of national outbreaks of e-coli bacteria in our meat and vegetables, the growing trend towards genetically modified foods (GMO’s), ever present undercurrent of our food being sprayed with chemicals ranging from pesticides and insecticides to herbicides and fungicides, and the nutrient depletion due to modern farming methods.

Along with this are the precarious transportation issues that come with shipping produce from hundreds and thousands of miles from other states and countries. To do this often involves harvesting produce while still unripe and gassing them with bromides to accelerate ripening while still at the processing plant. After the long trip from the farm to the dinner table, much of the nutritional value of the food is depleted.

This all brings us to a personal cross-road. Do we simply continue on this path, or do we take our personal food production and thus supply, into our own hands? The growing trend points to the latter. Non-conventional food sources are cropping up all over the country. A few examples include small “mom and pop” micro-farms, CSA’s (community supported agriculture), food cooperatives, and backyard farms.

By far the most popular of all these endeavors are the backyard farms. These are ordinary backyards that have been transformed into personal farms, sometimes called TransFarms.

TransFarming incorporates the rapidly vanishing wisdom of our recent ancestors, while incorporating modern components and techniques that work in harmony with each other to support the entire growing cycle. Given a deliberate, calculated integration of these specific components and supports, a much higher “rate of return” is realized beyond each component by itself, while providing sustainability.

Backup and Redundancy

The pioneers must have done something right, after all we are here. They figured something out. They understood the importance of backup and redundancy. They used these two approaches to ensure they would have sufficient food in case of unexpected catastrophe. But how would this work in a modern “backyard” setting?

Over the past year, an organization called The Texas Aquaponic and TransFarming Group has embarked on a mission to figure this out. As a result, they have helped develop many different methods of producing clean, healthy food in a backyard setting, while focusing on backup and redundancy.

A possible backyard scenario may include plant cuttings (waste) from an organic garden being used to feed a rabbit. The rabbit’s slightly acidic and enriched litter goes to the berry bushes and gardens as highly fertilized mulch. What the bunny doesn’t eat goes to the egg laying chickens. They do their business on the hay which produces “highly-fertilized hay” which is used for ground cover in the garden. What neither of them eats is destined for the composter where mulch is made for the fruit trees. Nothing is wasted on a Transfarmed yard!

And then there is the Aquaponic system, a great addition to any food growing program. An Aquaponic system can create an unlimited supply of fertilized water for the gardens, an abundant year round produce crop, and great tasting clean fish to harvest. The occasional deceased fish fertilizes the garden also, just like the pilgrims did.

Additional supports for food growing such as worms that grow naturally in the gardens also feed the gardens, chickens, and fish, and are beneficial to an Aquaponic system itself.

Even a domesticated protection pet is part of the equation. A little dog will instinctively patrol the perimeter and keeps out squirrels, cats, possums, other vermin, especially those pesky chicken loving raccoons. Any dog will do, as long as they are smart enough not to dig up your gardens and attack the chickens.

The end of the waste chain for each system is the beginning of the food chain for the others, and ultimately ours!

In a TransFarmed setting, there can be any number of time proven approaches to food production which are integrated with “modern” techniques that take into consideration our times. Some primary components may include Wicking beds, Aquaponics, HugelKultures, Tank gardens, Keyhole gardens, as well as conventional raised bed gardens. Other ancillary supporting components may include composting, water capture, vermiculture (worms), chickens, and rabbits. These all support the primary components. Several of these components are described in further detail below.

There is one factor that is paramount to all this…water.

Water, Water, Water.

At the core of all food production is water. Without it, nothing prospers. TransFarming is about “re-thinking” traditional gardening methods to address regional and environmental challenges such as droughts, water restrictions and disruptions,while keeping in mind techniques for prosperous food production. TransFarming involves growing food in ways that conserve water.

Weather wise, not much has changed from the days of our ancestors, but they used vastly different approaches to dealing with the climate than we do today. They did not worry about watering their lawns. Should we?

TransFarming techniques utilize two approaches to minimize water use – water conservation and water retention.  Water conservation includes housing large amounts of water in a way that uses the minimal amount required to grow food. These may include Wicking beds and Aquaponic systems. Another approach is using the properties of decomposition to conserve water. Decaying organic matter such as logs and branches absorb water and release it, along with nutrients, during dry conditions. This approach may include a HugelKulture, Tank gardens, and Keyhole gardens. At times it may make sense to shade your gardens in the summer to minimize evaporation, or winter to help keep things warm. An inexpensive Monkey hut may be used.

Following are brief descriptions of some TransFarming components often used to minimize water use while growing food in the backyard.


DWicking Beds

Wicking beds have proven to be a viable solution to the Texas heat and water conservation. These simple structures, based on a raised bed garden, incorporate a reservoir underneath the bed to store water. The garden is watered through an exposed pipe which then wicks water upward through the soil to the roots where water is needed the most. There is minimal evaporation. Done correctly, watering is needed about once every three weeks, rather than twice times a day. Wicking beds are relevant in any location.

Aquaponics-b Aquaponics

Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (soil-less plant production). In a backyard Aquaponic system, the nutrient-rich water that results from raising fish in any sized tank provides a source of natural fertilizer for the growing plants. Water is pumped from the fish tank into the plant trough. As the plants consume the nutrients in the water, they help to purify the water which is returned to the fish tank to be re-fertilized. A naturally occurring microbial process keeps both the fish and plants healthy, and helps sustain an environment where everything thrives. Both the plants and fish can be harvested year-round. Aquaponics is relevant in any location.



A HugelKulture is a type of 3-dimentional raised bed garden that utilizes dead organic materials (logs and branches) that are too big to go in the compost. Decomposing wood absorbs water. While the HugelKulture can be planted immediately, over time, that is 3- 5 years, the materials in the bed decompose, and provide a slow release of nutrients for garden plants while creating an incredible mulch. Every year, it just gets better.

Because of its shape, a HugelKulture garden combines the multiple functions of rainwater harvesting, and irrigation using no cistern, pumps, or pvc pipes. Done properly, there may be no need to water all summer!

DTank Gardens

These wonderful structures are perfect for small yards and, like a Hugelkultures and Keyhole gardens, use compost as its method for retaining water while growing great food. The perimeter is simply rolled metal and available at any home improvement store. Since the border is made of metal, it will last for many years, only getting better each year due to the decomposition process.

DKeyhole Gardens

A keyhole garden uses the same principle as a HugelKulture and Tank garden in that decomposing matter is used to absorb and retain water in the soil. Large amounts of “rotting” wood and kitchen scraps are used under the soil which is stacked within layers of cardboard and paper. After completion and planting, composting matter such as kitchen scraps are added to the bed via a foot-wide chute which nourishes the entire system. A wedge is created in the circular rock bed wall to provide easy access the chute, which makes the garden look like a keyhole when viewed from above.

DHoop House/Monkey Huts

One of the major concerns with growing food (and fish) in the winter and summer is the temperature. The wind does not help much either. Greenhouses are expensive, and any constructed structures tend to be somewhat permanent.

Enter the simple Monkey Hut. These structures are by their very nature flexible, and designed to withstand strong wind and rain (dust too). Built correctly, they are easily dis-assembled in the spring, or used to support a shade cloth in the summer.

Raised-Bed-GardeningTraditional Raised Bed Gardening

Traditional raised bed gardening involves selecting the correct structure and materials for a specific outcome base on environmental factors such as shading, sun path, wind direction and desired crop. Additionally, soil composition will play a very large part in crop success.

A simple small hoop house may be desirable to protect from direct sun and winter cold. Simply hammer a metal rod into the ground at the four corners leaving about three inches above ground. Take PVC pipe and place it over the metal rods and bend it over the bed to create a frame. Then cover with plastic. Raised beds are not very water efficient.


Worm composting is an excellent way to create organic matter for gardens and Aquaponic systems. They can be added directly to gardens and Aquaponic media beds, and also used to feed fish and chickens. Worms are important in the garden because they aerate the soil which helps lock in moisture.

The Bottom Line

As mentioned above, of key importance in any sustainable food growing effort is backup and redundancy. It is highly desirable to have as many different components available in your food growing system in case of stressful conditions or a failure in any one component. These components comprise a food growing “system” which is much more stable and reliable than a simple in the ground garden.

More information on each of these components and how to construct them is available at CleanFoodSolutions.org.

Generators for Emergency Power Reply

Having the power needed to produce light and prepare food, maintain refrigeration, and to provide for heating/cooling of your home may not be essential for life, but it is nevertheless important in any emergency situation.

Though the loss of grid electrical power is not part of every emergency, many incidents do include at least a temporary loss of utilities such as electrical power.  To provide a hedge of protection against potential power loss, many people buy either a gasoline, diesel or natural gas fueled generator.  This can provide an easy, albeit temporary solution.

Despite the popularity of these generators, there is still a lot of confusion in regard to what to buy.  This article is provided to help you evaluate your needs and consider your various options for a fossil-fuel powered generator.

It must be understood that long-term failure of the electrical grid will require a different solution.  This information on generators is only to help you solve the problem of short-term outages.  The equipment mentioned in this article is not adequate for an electric grid failure lasting more than two weeks.

Long-term power generation must come from an alternative power source such as solar, wind, or some other renewable energy source.  It usually also involves the use of deep-cycle batteries to store the electricity as it is generated, so that the power can be used later.  This particular article will only address the easy-to-solve short-term electrical needs using fossil-fuel powered generators to produce electrical energy on demand.

For as little as $700, a small portable gasoline generator can be purchased to power the essential electricity needs of the average American household.  However, important components and features which some feel are important, will cost extra.

Yet, even a low-cost generator will make it possible for you to use your existing electrical equipment, appliances and power tools.  Conversely, long-term solutions involving the use of batteries, are not only much more expensive, but also often include the acquisition of specialty appliances which operate on 12-volt DC power.

Generators and Security Considerations

The noise of a generator and the use of lights during an emergency situation can have negative consequences.    If there is a concern for safety from violence during an emergency, the use of a generator may focus unwanted attention on your home.  Further, the noise of a operating generator can mask important warning sounds of approaching trespassers and impending violence.

It is important to be judicious in the use of a generator during a serious emergency.  At the very least, it may be prudent to run your generator only during daylight hours, or for a short period of time to satisfy specific needs rather than creature comforts.

If the danger is minimal but it does exist, consider using your generator during the day for a few hours, just to charge batteries and to operate essential appliances such as a freezer.  This way you can plan to have your generator turned-off before dusk.  This will help reduce the likelihood of drawing unwanted attention to your home and family at night, and it will also stretch use by consuming less fuel.

Generator Features and Specific Recommendations

The following information was supplied by Consumer Reports, a good source for reliable information on various home-related products.

They focused on moderately priced portable and stationary models that deliver 5,000 to 7,000 watts, enough for most needs. Portables cost the least and can be stored in a garage or shed when you don’t need them. A lower-priced model powered refrigerators, well pumps, and other home gear almost as well as a more expensive top-scorer.

Stationary models install permanently outside your home and start automatically when needed. And because they run on propane or natural gas instead of gasoline, they offer extended or unlimited run time.

Buying a generator is just the beginning. Many models don’t come with parts that you’d think would be part of the price. And some could let you down when you need them most or put an added load on appliances. Here are the details.

Reliability Matters

Generators are typically sold by wattage. How much they put out determines not only how many lights and appliances you can run at once but how well they run. For example, a refrigerator often requires about 600 watts, a portable heater 1,500 watts, a window air conditioner 1,000 watts, and lights 60 to 200 watts. Our wattage calculator provides an average wattage rating for most appliances and devices to help you to tally your needs.

“Batteries not included” applies. Several portables offer electric starting. But the battery required for that feature usually costs an extra $50. And if you think all portables have wheels, think again: They’re a $150 option on one model we tested.

Some slipped when demand surged. All of the tested generators met their basic wattage claims. Manufacturers also make higher surge-wattage claims for the extra power needed when fridges, air conditioners, and pumps cycle on. Subpar surge wattage lowered the power-delivery scores of some models in our tests.

Some can overheat appliances. Our power-quality test judges the ability to deliver the 120 volts that home circuits usually need. Most met that challenge although one model was more than 10 volts shy under a heavy load and voltage from another was also low–and slightly uneven. Both conditions make motorized appliances and some electronics run hotter.

How to Choose

Decide what you really need to power. If that includes a central air conditioner or an electric dryer or oven, you’ll need a larger generator than the ones we tested. Here’s what else to keep in mind:

Count on a transfer switch. It costs about $500 to $900 installed and connects a portable generator to your home’s circuit box as with a stationary model. In addition to eliminating the risk and hassle of extension cords, the switch protects the generator and appliances from damage when grid power returns and keeps the generator from endangering technicians working on the power lines.

Think about the fuel. Most portables use roughly 8 to 22 gallons of gasoline a day, compared with four to eight 20-pound tanks of propane for portable models. (A 250-gallon tank for stationary units can run 8 to 15 days.) Buying and storing lots of fuel before a storm can be unwieldy, although you can pour unused gasoline into your car’s gas tank.

[If you are thinking of using gas cans for fuel storage, be sure to read the 36ReadyBlog.com article on Specter fuel cans, the gas cans used by the U.S. military.]

Look for smart features in your generator. All but two of the portable generators in our tests turn themselves off when engine oil is low. And the fuel shutoff on all tested gasoline models lets you run the engine dry to draw gas out of the fuel system to keep it from fouling parts if it degrades during storage.

Play it Safe

Powering too many appliances will trip the generator’s circuit breakers, causing power loss. Be sure what you’re powering is within the generator’s rated wattage; most transfer switches make that easier by showing wattage levels.

And protect against carbon monoxide, which kills about 86 people each year–and sends thousands more to the emergency room. Run any generator outdoors and away from the house, far from doors, windows, and anywhere else air enters the house. Never run it in a basement or garage; even with the garage door open, it endangers people inside the house.

Types of Generators

Knowing what you’re powering is the first step to choosing the right generator. Here are the types of generators and their pros and cons.

Portable Generators

These small and mid-sized models typically put out anywhere from 3,000 to 8,500 watts. They cost from $400 to $1,000 and are adequate for many homes, which is why they’re the biggest sellers. Most portables run only on gasoline, but some can also use liquid propane or connect to a natural gas line.


They cost the least and are relatively easy to move and store. And they’re adequate for powering common plug-in appliances and lights.


Portables don’t provide nearly enough power for heavy drains like central air conditioning. And for most, you’ll have to store large quantities of gasoline, a hazardous fuel.

Stationary Generators

These large models mount permanently outside the house and are growing in popularity. Their roughly 5,000 to 15,000 watts let the largest power an entire house, including central heat and air conditioning.


Besides providing plenty of watts, stationary generators can power a bevy of hardwired items, eliminating the hassle and risk of running power cords. Most run on either propane or natural gas, eliminating the risks of pouring and storing gasoline.


All of that power and convenience comes at a price ($5,000 to $10,000 for the largest models). Stationary generators also require professional installation.

Features to Consider

Wheeled, portable generators are the biggest sellers. But whatever you buy, make sure its features help make it safe and easy to use. Here are the generator features to consider.

Alternative-fuel capability

Stationary generators often run on either propane or natural gas. Most portable models run only on gasoline, though come equipped to run on a propane tank or natural-gas line or can be converted with kits.


A single person can move a portable generator with wheels, but you’ll still need two people to lift it. Models with pneumatic tires are easier to roll.

Oil guard

This feature protects the engine from damage by shutting down the generator if the oil level falls below the minimum. It’s typically on stationary generators and on some portables.

Fuel gauge

The gauge lets you check a portable’s fuel tank at a glance. It’s especially useful during a prolonged power failure.

Electric starting

Portable generators with a battery-powered, pushbutton starter save you the hassle of pull-starting the engine. But we’ve found pull-start models relatively easy to start. All stationary models have this feature.

Inverter technology

A feature on higher-end portables, it makes wattage output smoother and more consistent via a microprocessor-controlled circuit.

Multiple outlets

Four or more outlets let you best use a generator’s wattage by spreading the load through more outlets–important if you’re using extension cords instead of a transfer switch.

Wattage Requirements

Wattage ranges:  How much machine do you need?

How much generator should you buy? Here’s what different sizes can power. Pick a model with a wattage at least equal to the total for what you’re powering. Manufacturers also suggest totaling the higher surge watts some appliances draw when they cycle on. Models that scored well for power delivery were up to that surge; for untested models, we suggest simply focusing on running watts.

To Estimate Your Wattage Requirements:

Inspect the label on your tools and appliances to determine your specific power needs.  These estimates are provided to help you estimate the size of generator that you will need.  Keep in mind that it is best to operate a generator at 75% of its rated capacity.

Refrigerator (600 watts)

Microwave (1,500 watts)

Sump pump (600 watts)

Several lights (400 watts)

TV (200 watts)

Price range. $400 to $800 for most; more for inverter models.

Midsized portable and small stationary, 5,000 to 8,500 watts

What it powers. Same as small models, plus:

Portable heater (1,300 watts)

Computer (250 watts)

Heating system (500 watts)

Second pump (600 watts)

More lights (400 watts)

Price range. $500 to $1,000 for portables; twice that for stationary.

Large portable, 10,000 watts

What it powers. Adds choice of:

Small water heater (3,000 watts)

Central air conditioner (5,000 watts)

Electric range (5,000 watts)

Price range. $2,000 to $3,000.

Large stationary, 10,000 to 15,000 watts

What it powers. Same as large portable models, plus:

Clothes washer (1,200 watts)

Electric dryer (5,000 watts)

Price range. $5,000 to $10,000 or more, plus installation.

Recommended Generators

Recommended models are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. (Occasionally, high-scoring models are not recommended due to their Brand Repair History or other issues.) When narrowing your choices among models, weigh performance, features, price, and attributes that matter to you, such as color, size, or style.

Generators that made our winners list produce smooth, steady power for refrigerators, well pumps, and other home items without losing voltage under load. Most also shut off automatically if engine oil is low.

Portable Generator Recommendations
Portable generators cost less than stationary models and can be stowed away in a garage or shed when you don’t need them. To use a portable, you wheel it outdoors and start it manually, replenishing fuel and adding oil when necessary.

Troy-Bilt XP 7000 30477

Type: Portable

Price as tested:  $900

Overall score: 100

This 7,000-watt, gasoline-powered portable generator from Troy-Bilt was tops among portables. Helpful features include electric start, fuel shutoff (which prevents leaks and keeps fuel from getting trapped in the fuel system and spoiling during storage), low-oil shutdown, a power meter (needed only with a low-end transfer switch that lacks one), a 9-gallon tank for an average 15 hours of run time, and a fuel gauge. And unlike some, it comes with the battery for the electric-start feature. It also includes the starter bottle of engine oil you’ll find with many portable models.

Generac GP5500 5939

Type: Portable

Price as tested:  $670

Overall score: 100

This gasoline-powered portable is rated at 5,500 watts and performed almost as well as the top-scoring Troy-Bilt for hundreds less.Features include fuel shutoff (which prevents leaks and keeps fuel from getting trapped in the fuel system and spoiling during storage), low-oil shutdown, and a fuel gauge. It also comes with the wheels and the starter bottle of engine oil you’ll find with many portable models. One feature you give up is electric starting (you’ll need to pull a cord, as you would with many lawn mowers), though the Generac is still a great value.

Troy-Bilt 6000 30475

Type: Portable

Price as tested:  $700

Overall score:  100

Ample power delivery is a top attraction of this 6,000-watt, gasoline-powered Troy-Bilt portable, though you might miss a couple of important features. Included in the package is fuel shutoff, which prevents leaks and keeps fuel from getting trapped in the fuel system and spoiling during storage, a fuel gauge, and a starter bottle of engine oil. Three features you give up: electric starting–you’ll need to pull a cord, as you would with many lawn mowers–a low-oil shut-off (protects the engine from overheating if the oil level dips too low), and an hour meter (tells you how long since the last oil change). But the Troy-Bilt remains a great value.

Honda EM6500SX

Type: Portable

Price as tested:  $2800

Overall score:  100

Providing ample power, cleanly and consistently, are top strengths of this 5,500-watt, gasoline-powered Honda portable–though you might balk at its price. You get a number of helpful features for the price, including electric start, low-oil shutoff (protects the engine from overheating if the oil level dips too low), and fuel shutoff, which prevents leaks and keeps fuel from getting trapped in the fuel system and spoiling during storage. There’s also a fuel gauge and a starter bottle of engine oil. But what isn’t included considering the price is surprising: a battery for the electric start (about $50 separately). There’s also no hour meter, which tells you how long since the last oil change.

Stationary Generator Recommendations
Stationary models are the most expensive but start automatically when needed. They’re permanently installed outside the home, connected to a transfer switch, and run on natural gas or propane for extended or unlimited run time.

Kohler 8.5 RES-QS7

Type: Stationary

Price as tested:  $3,200

Overall score:  100

Stationary generators turn themselves on and off when needed and run on propane or natural gas for longer run time and safer fueling. The Kohler delivered smooth, steady power and offers 7,000 watts with natural gas and 8,500 using propane. It was also quietest of the models we tested, and it shuts down automatically if the engine-oil level gets low. On the downside, it is pricey and requires costly professional installation.

GeneracCorePower 5837

Type: Stationary

Price as tested:  $1,800

Overall score:  100

This Generac stationary generator offers capable performance for roughly half the cost of the top-rated Kohler. It offers 6,000 watts using natural gas and 1,000 more if using propane, saving you the risks and hassle of storing gasoline. An added benefit: This generator was the only one we tested that comes with a transfer switch–usually an extra $400. Automatic low-oil shutoff is part of the package as well and a starter bottle of engine oil. It requires professional installation, but it’s still a great value.

Comparisons and Ratings

Portable Generators

Ratings Troy-Bilt XP … Generac GP550… Troy-Bilt 600…
Overall score (Out of 100) 72 Very Good 67 Very Good 65 Very Good
Ease of use
Power delivery
Power quality
Run time range (hrs.) 12 – 18 8 – 14 9 – 16
 Features & Specs Troy-Bilt XP … Generac GP550… Troy-Bilt 600…
Claimed output (watts) 7000 5500 6000
Electric start Yes No No
Fuel gauge Yes Yes Yes
Fuel shutoff Yes Yes Yes
Fuel type Gasoline Gasoline Gasoline
Low-oil shutoff Yes Yes No
Weight (lbs.) 270 212 204
View Full Features & Specs View Full Features & Specs View Full Features & Specs
 User Reviews Troy-Bilt XP … Generac GP550… Troy-Bilt 600…

Stationary Units

Kohler 8.5 RES-QS7 Generac CorePower 5837
Brand Reliability
Price & Shop $3,200.00No sellers available $1,800.00No sellers available
 Ratings Kohler 8.5 RE… Generac CoreP…
Overall score (Out of 100) 92 Excellent 77 Very Good
Ease of use
Power delivery
Power quality
Run time range (hrs.) 196 – 252 226 – 366
 Features & Specs Kohler 8.5 RE… Generac CoreP…
Claimed output (watts) NG 7000 LPG 8500 NG 6000 LPG 7000
Electric start Yes Yes
Fuel gauge No No
Fuel shutoff Yes Yes
Fuel type LPG/NG LPG/NG
Low-oil shutoff Yes Yes
Weight (lbs.)
View Full Features & Specs View Full Features & Specs
 User Reviews Kohler 8.5 RE… Generac CoreP…
Brand & Model Price Ratings and Test Results
Portable Approximate retail price
Troy-Bilt XP 7000 30477  $900 72 12 – 18
Generac GP5500 5939  $670 67 8 – 14
Troy-Bilt 6000 30475  $700 65 9 – 16
Honda EM6500SX 4  $2800 64 7 – 12
Yamaha EF6600DE 3 4  $2450 62 7 – 14
Champion 41535  $1000 57 7 – 11
All Power APG3560 1 4  $850 51 4 – 6
Gentron GG3203 2  $1250 50 7 – 11
Generac XG7000E 5798  $1200 49 11 – 19
ETQ PG60B12 1 4  $900 47 3 – 4
Briggs & Stratton 30468  $700 45 7 – 12
Kohler 8.5 RES-QS7  $3200 92 196 – 252
Generac CorePower 5837  $1800 77 226 – 366
Briggs & Stratton EmPower 040301  $1800 69 200 – 353

Features & Specs

Brand & Model Price Features & Specs
Portable Approximate retail price
Troy-Bilt XP 7000 30477  $900 7000 Gasoline 270
Generac GP5500 5939  $670 5500 Gasoline 212
Troy-Bilt 6000 30475  $700 6000 Gasoline 204
Honda EM6500SX 4  $2800 5500 Gasoline 298
Yamaha EF6600DE 3 4  $2450 6000 Gasoline 291
Champion 41535  $1000 7500 Gasoline 248
All Power APG3560 1 4  $850 5000 LPG 218
Gentron GG3203 2  $1250 5000 Diesel 358
Generac XG7000E 5798  $1200 7000 Gasoline 262
ETQ PG60B12 1 4  $900 6000 LPG 194
Briggs & Stratton 30468  $700 5500 Gasoline 199
Kohler 8.5 RES-QS7  $3200 NG 7000 LPG 8500 LPG/NG NA
Generac CorePower 5837  $1800 NG 6000 LPG 7000 LPG/NG NA
Briggs & Stratton EmPower 040301  $1800 NG 6000 LPG 7000 LPG/NG NA

Evacuation and Contingency Planning Reply

One of the biggest mistakes made in an emergency situation is the failure to evacuate early, before your options are gone and you’re stuck.

Though the following article was written for expatriates who live in foreign countries, this information provides us with a fresh perspective for our own planning–wherever we live.

The United States may not suffer under the same political violence as Syria, but our emergency planning nevertheless needs to be similarly comprehensive and realistic.  The bottom line is this:  It is unrealistic to expect the government to be our savior in any emergency situation.  If the government is available to help, that’s wonderful; but self-reliance is essential in any emergency. 


The below article is published with permission of STRATFOR intelligence briefings.

Evacuation Planning

By Scott Stewart /  Staff writer for STRATFOR

Evacuation plans are essential for all expatriates who live in developing countries, including diplomats, businessmen, aid workers and seasonal residents. Natural disasters, mob violence from civil disturbances, terrorism and war can all precipitate evacuations. Natural disasters, such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti or the 2004 tsunami in Asia, erupt suddenly, while other events, such as the civil unrest in Syria, develop slowly. The latter instances give foreign citizens ample opportunity to leave; in Syria, foreign governments encouraged their citizens to vacate months ago. But even in such situations, events that require evacuation can occur abruptly, which leaves expatriates little time to plan their exits.

The potential for evacuation is not confined to developing countries. Many foreigners fled Japan following the March 2011 earthquake that damaged a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, and the 2010 wildfires in Moscow prompted a sudden and massive evacuation. No one expected the fires to worsen so quickly.

Since the potential for evacuation is nearly universal, expatriates are best served preparing an evacuation plan before a crisis erupts. Foreign embassies often will assist evacuation efforts — expatriates are encouraged to register with their respective embassies and foreign ministries — but foreign citizens should not rely on their governments to do their planning for them.

The reason for this is twofold. First, it may take some time for a government to execute its evacuation plans. In other instances, governments might not have an embassy to coordinate such efforts. Expatriates should take advantage of any evacuation procedures offered by their government, but they should not rely solely on those plans.

Nor should they rely on the plans of allied governments. Countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and France often will work with their allies in evacuation scenarios. However, every country will focus its efforts on the safety of its respective citizenry. So even in friendly countries, foreign citizens need to be responsible for their own security.

Evacuation situations involve more than merely showing up at the airport or seaport and departing. Usually, evacuations entail a great deal of bureaucracy and delay. It is not uncommon for expatriates to stay at an airport or seaport for a day or longer as they wait for their governments to arrange safe departure with the host government, rebel forces or both. Moreover, evacuation procedures will depend on the crisis. In most cases, commercial airliners, sea crafts or land transport will facilitate evacuations. Despite what is portrayed in the movies, military forces and helicopters are used only in very rare situations.

In any case, expatriates will be expected to pay for their own transportation out of the country. If they do not have the cash up front, they will be required to sign a promissory note to reimburse their government. They also are allowed to carry on only one small bag and are not allowed to bring pets. Therefore, many prefer to arrange their own transportation out of the country.

Personal evacuation plans usually require departure before the situation becomes too critical to leave. Thus, an important element of any evacuation plan is to establish criteria that, if met, will put the plan into action. While it is often prudent to leave a place before the situation deteriorates and your government orders an evacuation, some people wait until the very last minute to leave or decide to shelter in place and ride the crisis out.

Another important element of an evacuation plan is preparing a fly-away kit [GO Bag]. This is a small bag or backpack that contains the basic things a person or family will require during an evacuation. Obviously, the most important things you need are your identification papers, money and credit cards (which should be kept in sealable plastic bags to keep them dry) and a cell phone or other means of communication. But a fly-away kit should also contain important items, such as a change of clothes, toiletry items, a jacket or something warm to wear, prescriptions or other required medications, a first aid kit, a smoke hood, a flashlight, drinking water, non-perishable food, duct tape, a multi-tool knife and perhaps even something to read — again, evacuation usually entails a great deal of waiting. The idea of the fly-away kit is to have most of the items assembled in the bag so that one can quickly gather any remaining items, such as medicines, documents and money, before departure.

Maintaining important papers like passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, immunization records and credit card information in one secure file allows foreign citizens to grab the file quickly prior to departure. Expatriates must make sure that their travel documents are not expired and that they have the appropriate visas if their plan requires traveling to an adjacent country. Keeping copies of important documents in a separate, secure place is also a good idea lest the originals be lost or stolen.

An expatriate’s means of departure and evacuation routes should be prearranged, but they should not be inflexible. Evacuation plans should include several routes and alternative modes of transportation. In some cases, transportation hubs — the international airport, for example — may be closed, or an earthquake may have destroyed the bridge on an escape route. Such scenarios require an alternative plan.

If an entire company or a family is vacating a country, every member of the group needs to understand the plan and know what to do in such a situation. If you are working for a multinational corporation you need to clearly understand your company’s policies and what they will and will not do to assist you. Many companies purchase commercial medical and emergency evacuation insurance policies for their employees.

Communications are frequently unavailable during a crisis, but knowing that all the members of your family or staff know your evacuation plan — and are abiding by it — will help reduce the stress of not being able to communicate with them. It also allows each individual to focus on his or her immediate tasks. If you wait to implement the plan until you have communicated with every member of your family or staff, it could be too late to make it out. An evacuation plan must also account for ways to communicate with your family overseas and to your government. Alternative means of communication, such as satellite phones, might be helpful.

While almost any contingency plan is better than no plan, a plan that has been tested in the real world, especially during rush hour or another time of heavy congestion or disruption, is better than a plan that only exists on paper. Practicing a plan will help you to identify problems and weaknesses that do not appear in a theoretical plan. Practice also helps ensure that all of those participating in the plan know exactly what they are required to do and where they should go.

Plans must be periodically checked and updated and the contents of fly-away kits inspected. Highway construction projects can render evacuation routes impassable, and flashlights with dead batteries are useless. It is also prudent to designate someone who will remain in the country and can safeguard your home and belongings and care for your pets after you leave.

Creating an evacuation plan is important because when many people are confronted by a dire emergency, they simply do not know what to do. When people are overwhelmed by an emergency, it is often difficult for them to think clearly and establish a logical plan. Having a plan in advance — even an imperfect plan — provides even a person in shock a framework to rely on and a path to follow.

This advice for expatriates who live in a foreign country, contains gems of truth for all of us. This article can help all of us as it provides us with a fresh perspective to aid our own preparations, even if we live in the United States.

The Syrian Example

Syria can help illustrate some aspects of evacuation planning. While many Western governments have closed their embassies and advised their citizens to leave the country, there are still many expatriates who remain in Syria. Others have even traveled to Syria, for personal or commercial reasons, since the outbreak of civil unrest.

Some airlines, such as Air France, have suspended flights to Damascus, but others, including EgyptAir, Emirates Airlines and Royal Jordanian Airlines, continue flights. This could change. Late in the week of Aug. 26, Syrian rebels accused Russian arms smugglers of bringing weapons into Syria aboard civilian aircraft and threatened to attack such flights. While Stratfor has no information to confirm these rebel claims, Russian arms traffickers do indeed have a documented history of using civilian cargo and passenger planes to move weapons into conflict zones, and it is therefore possible that they are doing so in Syria. If the Syrian rebels begin to shoot at aircraft they suspect of smuggling weapons, airlines may become less willing to fly to Damascus.

The rebels have also intensified their attacks against the airport in Aleppo, which was being used to fly close air support missions and to bring supplies into the city. As a result, passenger flights to the airport have been suspended.

If foreign citizens cannot leave by air, the most secure land route from Damascus is Road 1, which leads directly to Beirut. An alternative route would take citizens south to Jordan via the M5 highway. However, this route traverses dangerous areas that are rife with fighting.

Expatriates in the eastern half of Syria would likely head to the Kurdish areas in the northeast through Road 7 and the M4 motorway, exiting through Turkey. There is a lot of fighting near the Iraqi border, and the road infrastructure in the southeast is not very good.

In the northern rebel-held areas, the best evacuation method is to simply take the most secure road straight to the Turkish border, avoiding regime shelling and airstrikes as much as possible. For foreigners on the coast, the best option is to leave by boat. An alternative route is to take the M1 motorway north to Turkey’s Hatay province or south to northern Lebanon. Both of these borders are used heavily for smuggling supplies to the rebels, so one has to be careful of clashes.

Visit our Syria page for related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.

One of the worst places to be stuck is in the centrally located Orontes Valley. Roads leading southwest to Lebanon and north to Turkey are largely blocked by the frontlines of the battle. Ideally, one would proceed west to the coast along such routes as Road 50 and hope not to be targeted while passing checkpoints or during ambushes.

Currently, the Syrian government and the rebels appear to be locked in a war of attrition and there are no signs of an imminent regime collapse. However, if the regime collapses suddenly, we can expect to see a flurry of activity as foreigners flee the conflict zones and governments work to evacuate the country.

Reprinting or republication of this report on websites is authorized by prominently displaying the following sentence, including the hyperlink to Stratfor, at the beginning or end of the report.

Evacuations and Contingency Planning” is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Gas cans, long-term fuel storage, fuel transport, and the peerless Scepter gas-can used by the U.S. military Reply

Specter-Military_Fuel_Can-36ReadyBlogIf you’ve been in the military, chances are you have seen the Scepter fuel can.  In our experience, these are the best and safest fuel containers available in the general-use market. They are far superior to both the ordinary red-plastic and red-metal gas cans widely in use. In the last decade, plastic gas cans are almost the only type of gas container you can find in retail stores.  The old-style steel “Jerry-can” has become too costly to produce.  Chinese made Jerry-can knock-offs are available, but these are generally substandard in quality– and you don’t want to skimp when it comes to the storage of an explosive liquid such as gasoline. In addition to lower manufacturing cost for plastic fuel cans, they have also become popular because they are less prone to leak over time and exposure to abuse.  The red-plastic fuel cans available today, with semi-rigid sides, are generally better than the old Jerry-cans for this reason. What to Buy:  A fuel can labeled with a U.S. Department of Defense number, indicating that it qualifies as “ mil-spec” is generally your best bet.  The U.S. military has very high standards. Of course, many products claim to be mil-spec when they are not, so be sure to look for a procurement number stamped into the side of the can.  This is the best validation.  (By the way, there is even a brand name “Mil-Spec” which tries to capitalize on the mil-spec reputation of quality, and most of their goods are definitely not mil-spec).  Specter_Fuel_Can-36ReadyBlog-SmoothCapSpecter Fuel Container U.S. military-surplus 20-liter (approximately 5.3-gallons) plastic-looking fuel cans are by far the best choice.  New ones are available, too, but they are oftentimes staggeringly expensive. Positive Features:  1.  Far more durable than consumer-grade fuel containers;  2.  They don’t leak fuel or fumes, even when exposed to temperature fluctuation;  3. They are reasonably lightweight;  4. They have an internal vent mechanism which provides a smooth flow when fuel is poured from the container;  5.  They are far safer in a fire, and in a traffic accident, than consumer-grade fuel containers. The U.S. military gas cans are made by Specter, a company based in Canada.  A genuine Specter fuel container will have the “Specter” brand name, and “Made in Canada,” molded into the plastic on the side of the can.  (It will also say “U.S. Government Property” or “Military Use Only,” but don’t let that put you off.  With the winding-down of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the government auctioned thousands of these cans.) Scepter Military Fuel Containers (Gas Cans) are made out of tough injection molded polyethylene, not just ordinary plastic.  Though Specter cans may look heavy in appearance, they are actually relatively lightweight due to the advanced materials and manufacturing method used. U.S military surplus Scepter fuel cans are usually sand-color (tan) or olive drab (green), but occasionally you will find them in yellow.  The Specter cans made for the civilian market are similar in appearance, but have a high-visibility yellow check-strap attached to the lid. Caution: Blue plastic cans, including those made by Specter, are for water-only.  They do not have the same safety features as the Specter fuel cans. Also, Specter water cans can be found in the same colors as the fuel cans.  These do not offer the same design features and safety as the containers made for transporting fuel.  You can quickly tell the difference between a Specter fuel can and a Specter water can, by the distinctive small-spout built into the larger cap of the water can. specter-water_can-36ReadyBlog-Arrow (2)Photo on Left: Arrow points to distinctive spout on the water can, whereas the Specter fuel container has a plain, smooth cap (see above photo). Negative Features:  The only downside of purchasing Specter fuel cans is that it may be difficult to find a spout.  And, they are apparently illegal for use in the State of California.  Go figure. In any case, it’s easy enough to make a spout for the Specter if you can’t find one to purchase.  Another option is to buy a flexible metal gas-can spout at an auto supply store which may fit the inside threads of the Specter can.  (Unfortunately, this is a trial and error process). If you find a good deal on Specter fuel cans, but can’t get a spout from the same vendor, it is still worth buying the cans.  They are extremely popular and getting hard to find, so don’t delay. If you purchase a used U.S. military-surplus fuel can, be sure to rinse it with gasoline before filling it with fuel.  Let it sit outside for a couple of days with the lid off so the contents can fully evaporate, before you fill it.  Diesel and gasoline cans are made in all three military colors, so if it is important to you to get a can that has only held your type of fuel, follow the link at the end of this post to view a look-up table of model numbers. Other Fuel-Storage  Containers Gas_Can-NATO-wSpoutIf you can’t find a Specter fuel can, NATO fuel cans can be an acceptable alternative.  However, these other “mil-spec” gas cans are a mixed bag, and in our experience, none of them come even close to the quality of Specter.  But whether you a mil-spec NATO can or a genuine Specter, be sure to inspect it closely before making your purchase.  These containers are extremely durable, but they aren’t indestructible.  A can that leaks isn’t a bargain.  Keep in mind that a painted and scratched Scepter can still be very serviceable, and the faded exterior can often be restored using rubbing-compound purchased at an auto supply store. Gas_Can-RustAnother caution:  Most of the surplus mil-spec NATO fuel cans are metal, and used metal cans have a tendency to leak due to internal corrosion, or paint-covered rust along the seams.  With this in mind, it’s best to buy them from a store which will let you return them if they are defective. By the way, these NATO fuel cans are a risky-buy if they are second-hand (used) and you purchase them online.  This is because surplus goods are often sold by the military due to the fact that they are damaged or defective.  You can mend a torn army tent, but repairing a damaged fuel container is more difficult.  Unfortunately, it’s commonplace for resellers of surplus goods to put a fresh coat of paint on a rusty gas can.  Above Photo:  Inside of new NATO gas can nozzle (left), and repainted gas can (right) showing rust inside the freshly painted fuel can. Also, be sure to purchase fuel-can spouts from the same supplier, as it is sometimes impossible to find spouts for NATO fuel cans.  A big funnel may work, but it’s messy. Used cans made by Specter generally cost between $50-100, which is considerably more than an ordinary plastic gas can purchased at Walmart, but there is no comparison in quality.  And, no comparison in regard to safety, either.  This safety-issue is a very real concern if you intend to store gasoline, not just temporarily transport it.  Gasoline and diesel fuel can be stored much more safely in a Specter fuel can than a standard red-plastic or metal gas can. Never transport fuel inside the cab of a vehicle.  The fumes can be deadly. Only transport gasoline or diesel fuel in a container made for this purpose.  It is too dangerous to store or transport fuel in a container that is not specifically made for this purpose.   Fuel Treatment for Long-Term Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Storage PRI-G_Pint-New-LabelIf you store fuel for more than a couple of months, it needs to be conditioned with either PRI-G (gasoline) or PRI-D (diesel) stabilizer.  Be sure to purchase the right PRI product for the type of fuel you are storing. If you know you will be storing the fuel for more than a few months, be sure to add PRI to the fuel container before you fill it.  The filling action will help to thoroughly mix the PRI treatment compound with the fuel. Similarly, if you plan to store a vehicle or fuel-powered equipment, it’s a good idea to add the PRI to the tank and then top it off with additional fresh fuel.  This will not only help the PRI mix with the fuel that was already in the tank, it’s also a safer way to store the equipment.  With gasoline, it’s the fuel vapors at the top of the tank that are combustible.  As a result, a full-tank is generally less of a fire hazard, and a full-tank will also diminish destructive moisture condensation. Another fuel-treatment product, STA-BIL, is more readily available but it does not provide nearly the same level of protection.  In our tests, gasoline treated with STA-BIL was marginal after just 18-months, and completely unusable after 24-months.  Whereas with PRI, independently conducted tests indicate that PRI-treated fuel can be stored for 5-6 years if it is re-treated annually.  Consumers have reported successful use of PRI-treated fuel after 12-years of storage. Also, with PRI, even old fuel can sometimes be brought back to life.  Just give it a double-dose of the appropriate PRI product, and make sure it is well mixed with the fuel before trying to use it.  If the fuel is in a vehicle, the fuel lines need to be purged of the old fuel before trying to start the engine. As to the PRI fuel-treatment product itself, it will remain fresh for decades, as long as it is properly stored and the container remains unopened.  Once opened, PRI should be used within three years. Fuel Transport and Dispensing Remember, if you are transporting fuel, the container needs to be strongly secured. Bungee cord attachment is not enough.  The container needs to be held securely, so that even in a traffic accident it will not become dislodged.  In most States, you can receive a traffic citation if a fuel container is inadequately secured.  But that’s not the main concern.  More important is that traveling on-road or off-road, a loose fuel container may become a deadly missile and cause injury or death. Gasoline weighs around 6.59 pounds (3.9 kg) per gallon, so a 5-gallon gas can that is full of fuel, can easily weigh 35-pounds (16 kg) or more.  So a dislodged gas container can be more dangerous than a duffer with a sledgehammer. Dispensing:  Be sure to test your fuel-can and nozzle, together.  Don’t assume it’s going to work, nor that you can handle the weight of a full can of fuel. Even if you can handle the weight and you are able to pour the fuel into your vehicle, you may want to use a siphon instead. Self-priming siphons (with an anti-static hose), such as the one illustrated here, are an easy solution for fuel transfer.  With minimal training, even a young child can manage this task, but they should be supervised as fuel transfer can be dangerous.  For the syphoning process to work, remember that the fuel container needs to be higher than the tank of the vehicle.  The siphoning process depends on gravity to work. A funnel with a long neck (illustrated in the photo on the left) is also a handy addition to your fuel-transfer kit.   The long neck of the funnel simulates a gas station’s fuel-pump nozzle, and this can help un-restrict the flow of fuel during the transfer process.  This is noteworthy because most modern cars have an anti-theft device in the neck of the filler pipe.  Though some siphon hoses may be rigid enough to bypass this anti-theft device on your vehicle, it may worth having one of these long-neck funnels, just in case. Be sure to test your fuel-transfer method and equipment before you actually need to use it.   Links to Manufacturers and Additional Information: Specter – Manufacturer’s Website:   http://www.sceptermilitary.com/ Specter Fuel Can Look-Up Table by Part #:  http://www.sceptermilitary.com/fuel_containers/product_table_1/ Article with additional detail on Specter fuel cans:  http://www.pangaea-expeditions.com/scepter/index.html PRI Fuel Treatment Products:  http://www.priproducts.com/preparedness.cfm Fuel Siphons:  Only use a siphon device which is actually made for the transfer of gasoline, as other siphons may have parts which can cause a fire-creating spark.  Not all self-priming siphons perform the same.  We recommend that you purchase a siphon with a semi-rigid hose that has a large diameter, as it will transfer fuel much faster. Super Jiggler:  http://www.superjiggler.com/#pro Safety Siphon:  http://www.safetysiphon.net VDP Super Siphon:  http://www.vdpusa.com/universal/super-siphon.php