Flight or Fight

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We continue with a chapter entitled ..'Flight or Fight'
In a disaster situation, should you stay in your home, or evacuate to 'safety'

Flight or Fight


In a time of crisis, extreme emergency or pending disaster the majority of individuals have an inbuilt ‘survival chip’, this where the chemical in our body kicks in to inject a dose of adrenalin. The reactive condition is commonly known as ‘fight or flight’, whether to stay and combat the situation, or to use a little common sense and retreat or back off to fight another day.


In extreme and sudden examples this is demonstrated by sheer individual strength to overcome a life threatening situation, such as a mother lifting a vehicle off a trapped child, or developing a sudden ‘super power’ speed to overcome an animal attack and so on.

However, in our scenario we are dealing with a more longer-term situation, and up to a point the reactive conditioning will be similar, but coming in waves and troughs over a prolonged period and at a much lesser level


This reaction then may also be related to a situation of a communal or local disaster. When disaster strikes either, whether of natural or man-made origin, one has to decide remain in the home location or to evacuate to somewhere ‘safer’.

This decision will be one, if not THE, biggest decision you will ever make, and it comes with many caveats and complexities, The one standing major issue is that this life changing decision will be your (and your family’s) choice, and once taken will have be followed through with all its consequences. This is a decision not to be taken lightly, and depends on many circumstances and issues of preparedness that we will now go through.


One of the most common questions I have been asked in the many years I have been involved in this area are as follows;…’where is the safest location?’, where is the most dangerous situation in the event of a global disaster?’, ‘should I stay at home, or should I move to a safe location?’


The first, and major, point is that I cannot answer any of those questions with 100 per-cent reliability, but I do always offer a number of alternatives and preparedness guidelines. The whole point being, it depends on your general circumstances, your family nucleus and situation and the type of disaster or event For example, if the event involves a chemical or nuclear accident then obviously if you have warning you will need to organise an evacuation, whether temporarily or permanent. However, if you have warning of a near-future disaster then the ominous decision will have to be made, and with it whatever that brings.


Many of the issues raised below will be dealt in more detail with under the relative sections and chapters in the rest of the on-line book’ In this chapter I merely offer an overview of the many challenges and points you must consider prior to deciding whether you should remain where you are or evacuate to your safe location.


What are the circumstances present to stay in my location?


This again will be the 64 million buck question however we can go through a series of ‘tick boxes’ that may help you decide.

Can I state at the very start, all this depends on your personal circumstances and your experience of preparedness I cannot make this decision for you. If you are contented in your home, have ample facilities and stores, your family are together and you have discussed the pros and cons, then the decision to stay will be yours and yours alone.


Let us go through the list of required procedures and circumstances that may help you with your decision.



In favour of staying put in your home or ‘safe house’.


So, you have decided that you think that you and your family are able to cope with a disaster while remaining in your home situation. You now have to bear in mind the following considerations and issues:


There may be two completely different scenarios here; either you will be located in a city or suburb area, or your location may be more rural or even a backwoods type of location. In either case you will have to ‘tick the boxes’ to ensure you have the ability, supplies and the right circumstances to stay in your location.


There has been a major disaster or event that propels you into a survival situation and you have decided that the best plan for you and your family is to stay put and to prepare for both the short and long term.

What are the circumstances and options that would have made you decide to stay in your home location during this disaster?


First – we have to evaluate the type of disaster event, whether it is a natural or man-made one. Bear in mind that when the crunch comes, do not rely on emergency services or the authorities to bail you out or come screaming to your door like the 7th cavalry to your assistance. The authorities will be busy elsewhere dealing with all manner of emergency situations, and it may be many days, even weeks before they get around to helping people, if at all.


A case in point was the Gloucester floods in UK in July 2007, where they experienced the worst floods in history. Many people were cut off for days and it was some time, up to a week in some circumstances, before aid and fresh water was organised for the people. Even now, 3 years on many people are living in temporary housing as their houses have not been rebuilt due to complications with their home insurance companies.


Katrina was also another major disaster that opened the eyes of many to the fact that help would not come in time.


In the case of a localised chemical leak or nuclear disaster, then staying put would not be an option one would have to evacuate the premises. In this case it would be important to have already decided and predetermined your safe evacuation route and alternate temporary location. Bear in mind that thousands of other people would be attempting to evacuate the area also. We will discuss in detail more of this scenario under the heading of ‘so you have decided to evacuate and head to your safe location’.









  1. Do you have adequate food and water provision, and have you stocked up on general provisions, such as tools and building materials for running repairs caused by disaster damage?
  2. Have you allowed for medical provisions for your family, such as stocks of prescribed medications, especially for the very old or very young?
  3. Have you thought of the physical safety of your home and personal defence measures?
  4. Safety of domestic utilities, such as electrical and gas supplies. These may have to be turned off and it is essential when turning back on, especially the gas supply, you obtain professional advice
  5. Pets; have you sufficient food, water and housing to keep your pets safe and healthy?




  1. Food and water;


You must ensure you will have adequate food and water for you and your family for at least 14 days, and have arranged an alternate means of providing for your family for a further extended period if required. This can be in the form of a shared supply stock with trusted friends or extended family, or even in extreme cases, consideration of preparing your own vegetable plot.


With regard to water provisions on a longer term basis, check out the location of any clean fresh water supplies, such as wells, lakes or rivers etc. It may also be a good idea, indeed essential, to invest in a stand alone water filtering system, such as a Birkey (see notes for further details).

Bear in mind that you will require water not only for drinking but for toilet and washing facilities. It is recommended you allow a minimum of two gallons (10 litres) a day per person.


With regard to toilet facilities, if you are in an urban location, not many people will have been prepared for a disaster, and therefore you may witness the dumping of raw sewage out of apartments and houses onto the streets. In the case of multi-floor apartments, people may just throw sewage out of the windows, so be aware of this. This is a nightmare scenario and one which will bring many health and hygiene problems on top of an already unstable situation.


It is important to realise you will have to make alternate methods for the eradication of waste material. If you are lucky to be living in a rural or ‘backwoods’ situation, there would be a number of options open to you, such as constructing an ‘out house’ or ‘privvy’ for toilet facilities, or merely digging a deep hole (away from any water supplies to avoid contamination) to deposit the waste.

If you are in a more suburban location, you will have to arrange to have a few 5 gallon buckets with a supply of lime powder to treat the waste material.


Methods on water storage, treatment and waste disposal will be discussed in a separate chapter.


Building supplies:


Prior to, during and post disaster you will need building supplies and tools in order to ensure you have made your home safe and for running repairs. Ensure you have sufficient quantities of screws, nails, timber sheeting, tarpaulins and duct tape for temporary repairs. In addition, the right tools for the job must be on hand, such as hammers, drills, screwdrivers and so on. It is advisable to also have alternate hand tools in case of power outages over a longer period.

This will be discussed in more detail, including organising your own alternate power supply on the chapter dealing with the longer term survival and your ‘survival retreat’.


  1. Medical supplies:


Apart from the basic first aid kits, ensure you have sufficient stocks of any prescribed medications for your family, especially for the elderly and very young. When the crunch comes, it will be these supplies that will dwindle rapidly, and remember, if there is no power, anything requiring refrigeration for storage will have to be stored via alternate means.

Don’t forget your supplies of vitamins and minerals, which will be useful especially if your diet will be changing due to lack of certain basic dietary requirements


It is also a good idea to arrange some basic first aid training, attend a few sessions with the Ref Cross or other similar local community organisation, the experience you will gain may save your life and/or members of your family.


It is important to bear in mind that if the disaster is a major event, affecting many locations, there will not only be a run on chemists and drug suppliers, but as the situation worsens, there will be anarchy. This will be realised in physical assaults on drug stores, armed hold ups and violence. If you or your family members have an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, which requires regular medication, it is essential that you have adequate supplies of the relative medication.


  1. The Physical safety of your home


This issue will be of the utmost importance when the time comes, and will apply to both your current home and your ‘safe retreat’ location.


In the preface of this book, I wrote the following paragraph relating to a ‘formulaic’ outcome in the event of a major disaster:


Major event > a break down of communications > confusion > lack of supplies (fresh water, food and basic commodities) > power utility outages (gas and electric) > civil unrest >civil disorder > breakdown in law and order > loss of trust in local authority > crime = utter confusion leading to a survival “fight or flee” situation.


Once anarchy sets there will be a number of groups or individuals looking out for ‘easy pickings’. These are people who would not have bothered to prepare for such and event and taking the easy option of preying on others who have prepared.


This issue is a very sensitive area, and can be quite complex, and possibly at the outset perhaps the best option to those prepared would be a preventative option, rather than ‘cure’. By that I mean try to avoid any possible confrontation. This may not be easy, but it may save lives in the long run

For those of you who are experienced in dealing with confrontation and have the training in the use of arms and weaponry, then further options may be open to you, but remember, you have your family to think of and protect at the same time. This important issue we will discuss in a separate section.


To counter any possible attack on your home is to ensure that you have completely battened down and sealed all entry points, and to try and not advertise your presence at your location too much. So, no loud parties and drinking orgies!

If you have a pathway, drive or front/back garden that leads to your home, it is a good idea to make the access as difficult as possible. This can be in the form of barriers, wires and ‘floor traps (holes dug on the surface and covered over with thin material that will immediately break when stepping on).

Covering the entry surface with material that makes a noise when stepped upon by approaching intruders is also a good idea and is especially useful at night.


If you are confronted, demonstrate that you are much worse off than your ‘aggressors’ and do not make any menacing threats, this may end in tragedy for your family.

However, if the situation worsens and you have no other option and you feel that you have the experience in this field, then positive action may be a last resort. By this I mean the use of weaponry such as firearms, knives, cross and longbows.


I must emphasise at this point, the use of such weaponry should only be utilised when all other options have run out and that you are comfortable, confident and experienced in handling such weaponry. There is nothing more dangerous, to both parties, than a weapon in the hands of the inexperienced


If you think that you may be involved in such a scenario, it is a good idea to obtain professional training in the use of small firearms and personal protection from an accredited source.


While we are discussing safety and protection, we arrive at another issue, that of individual and communal collectives. By this I mean, the situation of safety may be a more positive one if you have a tight knit and trusted community of family and friends, bonded together in a small location. There is safety in numbers, up to a point!


One final point before we leave this area, although it will be dealt with in detail under the Longer term survival section, and that is the safety and security of your vehicle. Depending on the type of disaster event, there will be many looking for transport and go to any means and lengths to appropriate such transport. If it has been a EMP type event and you have an older vehicle, one that has no computerised electronic components, then yours may be one of the few on the road and quite a rarity and will stick out like a sore thumb.

Protect your vehicle by hiding it under cover and lock and key, take out the carburettor and leads if the vehicle is of the older type, and if a newer model try and disable it – take off a wheel or two, people looking for transport will be looking for easy pickings, anything that requires too much work to get the vehicle roadworthy, they will pass on to the next one.



  1. Safety of domestic utilities – electric and gas supplies:


It is normal practice, and indeed central to safety, that in the event of a major disaster you switch off your domestic utilities, unless of course the actual event has already cut your supplies.

Once the disaster is finally passed, you will need to check all wiring and gas plumbing in the home. The last thing you need is a loose wire sparking in or around a wet area or near a gas leak, a recipe for a major secondary disaster!


Regarding the gas supplies, in normal circumstances, it is essential to obtain the professional services of a gas engineer who will check the plumbing prior to switching back on the supply. However, in major disaster events, this may not be possible and in any event, gas supplies may have been already cut off at the point of origin. Bear in mind that gas escaping is tantamount to a major secondary event with serious and tragic consequences.


If you are in your safe location, no doubt you will have arranged alternate means of power, heating and lighting.


  1. Domestic pets


This is an issue that many people often neglect to think about. Pets are members of your family and bring much joy to the individuals in that family, and as such they should be treated with respect, care and attention when a disaster arrives.


Ensure that you have adequately stocked up on food, water and housing in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle for your pets. Do not forget to obtain a supply of veterinary medications if needed. If your circumstances dictate that you cannot cope with looking after your pets, such as illness or you are too frail or elderly, then consider giving your pets to other members of the extended family, friends or even, if possible to an animal shelter.

The well being and safety of your pets is of the utmost and they should not be ‘forgotten’ or abandoned in their time of need also.









The time for evacuation to your retreat or ‘safe location’:


So, you have weighed up the odds and you have decided to evacuate to your safe retreat, this is yet another major and life changing decision.

Again, there are a considerable number of issues and arguments for this scenario, and below we will go through these issues to help you decide what is right for you, but again, I stress it depends wholly on your circumstances and the ultimate decision is yours alone.


Head for ‘Them Thar Hills’, or ‘Get Out Of Dodge’ (G.O.D)


Just like the 1934 movie ‘Them Thar Hills’ with Laurel and Hardy who decide to move to a trailer in the hills, you are thinking on the same lines, get out of Dodge while you can.


All of the above issues and ‘challenges’ mentioned in the previous section of staying in your permanent home during a disaster are just as important and relevant to your ‘safe retreat’. Whether you make your retreat a temporary or permanent one depends on the length of the disaster and your circumstances.


I am assuming in this example you have found a place of haven prior to any disaster event, such as a regularly visited camp site or family weekend/holiday cabin. The situation in emergencies where you have to evacuate and have not prepared a safe location beforehand is dealt with in detail in the longer-tern survival section of this book.


No matter then what your circumstances are, the vital and important point being that you should select a site that you know well, have visited often, know the terrain and how to get there via different routes and by various means of transport.


When the crunch comes and a disaster is imminent, bear in mind that thousands of other people will be wanting to evacuate at the same time. Roads will be extremely busy, if not blocked completely by traffic, there even may be police controlled barriers and diversions. In addition, depending upon the type of disaster, there may be serious hazards on the exit routes, such as floods and fallen trees or debris This scenario was witnessed with Hurricane Katrina, resulting in chaos and panic.


Get to know your evacuation route/s well in advance, and plan alternate routes and meeting points to your destination. This can be practiced by organising weekend camping trips with friends and families, making it a productive and experiential event. In carrying out this preparation, when the time comes, you and your family will be able to quickly and efficiently and with the minimum of panic/stress go into ‘evac mode’ with safety and confidence.








Evacuation transportation:


In this scenario I am covering two types of commonly used transport; Vehicular (car, truck motor bike etc) and human powered, such as bicycle or on foot.


The use of vehicles for evacuation;


Although the majority of people will be using their vehicles to evacuate to their safe location, it can all depend on what the disaster event consists of. If it is a sudden event with limited warning involving mass major flooding for example, the use of vehicle ‘retreat’ may be impossible. I will be assuming here that you will have had adequate warning and are ready to evacuate prior to any major physical events (flooding etc) and mass evacuation.


Vehicle preparation:


Part 2 soon


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