When is it time to get out of Dodge?

by | Jan 12, 2010 | Emergency Preparedness | 12 comments

Do you LOVE America?


    Deciding when to get out of Dodge and bug-out of your current location is one of the most difficult decisions that you’ll have to make during an emergency, disaster or crisis. If you are waiting for a crisis to occur before you make a plan of egress, then you’ll likely experience high levels of stress when the time comes. Tess Pennington discusses action planning for evacuating your primary location and things to look for that should provide clues of how serious the emergency is perceived to be in When to Bug Out: Knowing the Signs:

    Waiting until an evacuation order is issued is considered too late for many people who consider themselves prepared.  Knowing the signs and acting on them is the key to bugging out at the best time.  If a person knows what to look for, they can prepare to leave ahead of the hoard of evacuees.

    Some signs include:

    -When people begin buying emergency food and water supplies.
    -Hearing the news sources talking about a possible threat is the time to begin preparing to leave.
    -Seeing long lines at the bank where people are withdrawing money is a sign that something is up.
    -Long gas lines is also an indicator of people beginning to prepare for a possible evacuation.
    -Increased military and police presence in the streets and the community.
    -Long lines at home improvement stores from poeple trying to buy supplies to prepare homes for  disasters, buying generator needs, etc.

    If a person is already prepared for such a disaster, they will not have to wait in lines full of stressed out people, not have to fight their way through a grocery store or get into a possible altercation trying to fill their cars with gas.  In times of crises, many are not prepared, and the stress levels are increased exorbitantly.  Everyone has one thing on their mind – getting supplies and getting out.  If a person already has their supplies in order, getting out ahead of everyone will put them at a greater advantage.

    As a resident of Dallas, TX, I saw first hand the refugees, as they were called, after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. A majority of the people coming out of NO into Dallas did not have anywhere to go once they got into the city. They had no food, no reserve cash and no bug-out location where they could stay with family and friends.

    A month later I saw first hand the traffic jams coming in from Houston when Hurricane Rita. It was literally a 175 mile long traffic jam, as millions tried to evacuate all at once. Gas stations along I-45 were out of gas, food and water. Emergency responders, also stuck in traffic, were unable to respond to accidents and violent crimes that were reported along the escape route to Dallas. The drive from Houston to Dallas normally take about 3 to 4 hours — during Rita, that drive was 10 – 15 hours.

    Having moved to Houston in 2008, I experienced the other side of the disaster. Complete loss of power for 20 days, all grocery stores empty and unable to stock their shelves due to supply line cuts, empty gas stations, and a contaminated water system. It was surprising to learn that many did not have simple basics like clean water and even a two day supply of food. Again, those who evacuated were trapped in traffic for 10+ hours trying to get out along major arteries.

    The amazing thing about the hurricane evacuations described above, is that I would consider them to have been mild emergencies, in that the people knew days in advance they were coming and emergency responders had time to plan the evacuations down to zones which would evacuate at certain times. So, one could argue that it was a coordinated emergency with local and state officials and personnel on-site to assist.

    The two most important things I came away with in these emergencies is:

    • Being prepared with reserve food, water, medical kits, gasoline and physical money (not an ATM card) can be a life saver
    • Having an evacuation plan is absolutely essential

    Point one is pretty clear cut, and if you have that one covered, then you should move on to point two, having a plan.

    While thousands of panicked neighbors are spending hours navigating local traffic to get to the grocery stores trying to acquire food & water, pulling money out of their bank, gassing up their cars, and organizing the packing of their vehicles with personal belongings, if you have an evacuation plan you can be out of Dodge within an hour or two.

    Though I am not sure of the exact statistic, as all emergencies are a bit different, I would venture to guess that every minute you waste in an emergency costs you many more minutes sitting in traffic as you try to bug out.

    Be ready for anything, that’s all I’m saying.

    Click here for more tips on Knowing the Signs for Bugging Out and Threats you may face…

    Recommended Reading:

    Are You Ready Series: 72 Hour Kits discusses items you should consider putting in a 3 day emergency evac pack.

    Emergency Items: What Will Disappear First provides lists of items that you’ll see fly of the store shelves at the first signs of trouble.

    Survival Priorities: The Rule of Three provides insight into the mind set of what a prepper should be thinking about before and during an emergency.

    Emergency Exits: Getting to a Safe Place in a Crisis provides some ideas on preparations to make before an emergency hits.

    As a follow-up, I’ll also direct readers to my article on Hyperinflationary Depression. Though the occurence of such an event may be unlikely, knowing the signs can be a life saver – literally.


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        I would assume that forward-looking people automatically have reserve food and water. They have extra batteries, extra car fuel, an extra heat source, maybe a generator, taken CPR courses and have a game plan to weather a storm whether natural or man made. Call me a cynic but this is the kind of “health insurance” the government doesn’t openly want the people to have. I’d guess that a well-stocked “safe room” for natural disasters would be openly supported and encouraged but this puts the power in the hands of the people rather than the government. From what I’ve read of the Katrina ordeal, the government was inept at dealing with anything. Pretty scary. There are many sites and books that address these issues.

      2. Right on Brian — the real problem is not with emergency responders, who were ready to rock at the first sign of emergency.

        The real problem is with the bureaucracy of government management during crisis. They all want to be the hero on TV and could give a sh%t about the people dehydrating and starving in the streets.

      3. If I may let me expand on this a bit .  Yes by all means have a plan …BUT , also have an alternate plan !   Practice driving your primary and alternate routes , time yourself then add more time , drive it at different speeds . look for trouble spots , choke points .  Get and keep a topographacal map , they show secondary and dirt roads as well.  Make a plan , Work your plan , modify your plan .  Expect the unexpected . No one plans to fail but some fail to plan .  HAVE A BUG OUT BAG READY TO GO ! Good Luck, May GOD bless all of you .

      4. One sign that you see CASH FOR GOLD businesses all over the place is a good indication of where our currency is headed

      5. I was recently discussing this exact thing with someone at work…

        Their “plan” if the SHTF is to run out and buy a gun, food, water, etc., at the first signs of the S really HTF – no joke.

        They obviously don’t “get” what a legit SHTF ordeal could look like.

      6. Not to make a joke about it, but the S just HTF in Haiti.

        A 7.0 earthquake…

        Let’s all say a prayer for the people down there.

      7. The shtf a long time ago in Haiti, if you had ever been there or studied the history you would know it. People make charcoal out of wood scraps for a living. This is what western influence did for them over the the last couple hundred years…. These people either have a remarkable faith in god or place their faith in vodoo magic… this could be the future of Amerika  

      8. Just to throw in my two cents – these are some of the lessons I learned.  Make sure you share land line numbers with friends and family of the locations where they (and you) are headed.  In Katrina we found ourselves with useless cell phone numbers (many entire exchanges were down for several days) and knowing that someone is staying in Dallas at “Aunt Annie’s” does you no good. 
        Text messages will go through when calls may not. 
        Evacuating at night will shave some time off and kid’s will sleep which eases things a bit. 
        Make sure you have real cash on hand – I used a small local bank and lost use of my ATM for a couple of weeks. 
        The people in our country are wonderful and amazing but our government can fail in all sorts of ways. 

      9. Rick…Tel your friend that as soon as the emergency hits the first thing that happens is all sales of guns and Ammo STOP on the spot . ATMs and checks become worthless it will be cash only ! Good luck to him .  JAIME : the night move may work  , But most of the time you have to go no matter what time of day it is . 

      10. Re: the Haiti quake & recent CA quake, I was reminded of the New Madrid Quake Series of 1811. These quakes occurred on the New Madrid fault – roughly at the intersection of KY, TN & MO.

        4 main quakes occurred ranging from magnitude  8.1 – 8.3 over approx 6 weeks. Yep – Four magnitude eight earthquakes, with hundreds of intervening aftershocks. Chuch bells rang in Boston from the shock waves……

        Just something to consider.

      11. With all due respect, most of the signs listed would indicate to me that you are probably too late. 

        At the point that there are military people in the street and lines at gas stations, banks, and hardware stores…..the roads will be filled with unprepared people who are in panic mode. 

        Proper preparation will always give you better odds of getting away quick…..but you will have plenty of “company” on the road regardless of how quick you are.

        I have a well designed BOB bag containing: small bullion coins, first aid, food, weapons/ammo, survival gear,etc.  However, I have decided that there are very few scenarios that will prompt me to leave my well supplied and fortified suburban home.   
        I just believe that a person is more vunerable as in individual on the road.  

        There are those who have property in the country.  What if you bug out only to find there are 10 armed men living in your country retreat?   The law won’t protect your rights during shtf times.

        Part of my prep work now involves developing relationships with like minded people in the community.   I have a defensible home, but if I have five neighbors who prep together….I have a defensible neighboorhood……

        Don’t get me wrong.   I realize that there are a number of disasters that demand that you get out fast.  Proper preparation for that possibility is important.  It is just as important to put some real thought into specific scenarios and make a rational decision and plan of action for each case.  In times of emergency, you don’t want to rely on a hastily thought out action.

      12. For those who are unprepared, use the division of labor. Have one family member get gas, cash, and food while the other packs the GOOD BOB.

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