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.

 

AppleMark

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.

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

You need a headlamp, in addition to a flashlight. Reply

Black Diamond "Storm" Headlamp, $50

A headlamp is a good choice for walking at night, and when you want to be doing something else with your hands, other than holding a flashlight.  They are also a good light for things around camp, and reading at night.

These headlamps don’t take the place of a flashlight for searching in the distance, but they are practical for most other night uses.  LED models  won’t break as easily if dropped, and bulb-life is usually more than 10,000-hours, so be sure to get an LED model.

A headlamp which incorporates several levels of light output, and also a red-only beam for retaining night vision, is best.  If you are looking for something in the distance, a brighter light is nice, but for reading a map a low setting is far better.  You can easily spend a $100 for a powerful headlamp, but the Black Diamond model illustrated here is only $50, and does a great job.

Another important consideration is weight.  Some of these headlamps utilize a heavy battery-pack, which can make wearing it bothersome.  When possible, you also want to select a headlamp which uses the same type of batteries as your other electronics.  Being able to share the same type of batteries between your different electronics, makes logistics much easier.  And, recharging a more viable option, too.  There are a lot of poor-quality headlamps on the market, so be careful what you buy.  A reliable source is Recreational Equipment, Inc.   If you don’t have one of their stores nearby, visit their website (www.REI.com) to find a good selection of quality headlamps at various price points.

The 100-lumen model illustrated above is more than adequate for most uses.  When selecting a headlamp, remember to pick one which uses only LED bulbs.  Your batteries will last loner than when using other types of bulbs, plus LED bulbs are far more durable.  Selecting a model with a light output of at least 75-lumens is probably optimal for headlamp use, and it should have at least two brightness settings.

Be sure to use the lowest setting which matches your need for illumination.  this will let you get more life out of your batteries.  Use the “Specs” tab when comparing headlamps.  http://www.rei.com/product/814301/black-diamond-storm-headlamp#video-inner

Below is a link to the one I purchased, and I’ve now used it for a number of months.  It cost $90 at REI, and I love it, but I really wish it had the option of switching over to red LEDs, so that I could retain my night vision.  What I do like is that the super bright 200-lumens output is bright enough to light up the trail, even when I’m biking in the dark.

On a side note, certain LEDs are either bright enough or somehow reflect animals eyes at night. I actually prefer this, especially when I take the dogs on a walk in the dark, because I can see if a cat or other animal is ahead.  It would make night-hunting in a survival situation easier, too.  Be sure to check the weight of the headlamp (with batteries) before ordering, as a couple of extra ounces can make a big difference in comfort.  Most of us aren’t used to carrying weight on our head.  …. http://www.rei.com/product/808147/princeton-tec-apex-led-headlamp-2010

–  Erik S.