Can You Evacuate in 20 Minutes?

This morning I was watching the news showing scenes of devastation from the tornado that swept across Joplin, Missouri, a city of about 50,000 people.  I last heard the tornado killed at least 116 people, and an unknown number are injured.   Many people have lost everything.  My prayers are with the residents who are still trying to get in touch with loved ones, and are dealing with the aftermath of this disaster.

This got me to thinking if you have all your emergency supplies in room or closet at home, and a tornado hit, the supplies would not do a lot of good.  I had thought that most  residents living in tornado prone areas have basements where they can run to when a tornado hits, as well as store emergency supplies.   Unfortunately, many of the homes in Joplin did not have basements as most of the houses were built in the 1960s.  The only recourse was to hide in bathrooms and bathtubs.  I had read that apartment complexes were also destroyed.  Similarly, many apartment dwellers do not have basements.

Emergency sirens went off 20 minutes before the tornado hit.  If I put myself in that situation, if we were home, my family would have to get everything together in 15 minutes, with the other 5 minutes getting to a safe area in the apartment, like the bathroom.  However if we were not at home, that’s 20 minutes to find a tornado shelter and hope for the best.   Our area is not prone to tornadoes, however there are other disasters that can occur that would only provide a short amount of time to get everything together.  I think one hour was my estimated time we could get everything together, but that is not good enough.

I saw a good article over at Advanced Survival Guide.com:  “How Quickly Can You Evacuate” I really need to re-evaluate and improve our ability to evacuate in a hurry.

8 thoughts on “Can You Evacuate in 20 Minutes?

  1. My family has a special tornado bag that is part of our overall bug out bags. It is similar to many 72 hour kits but unlike what we have in our car or garage it lives in a hall closet near the bathroom that we plan to take shelter in. This bag would go with us in a bug out situation to , but is really for sheltering in the event of a tornado.
    We live in a tornado probe part of the country and let me tell you that trying to evacuate before on hits is a mistake. Take whatever shelter you can find in your present location, in a car that means getting out an hiding under a bridge or in a deep ditch, trying to outrun a tornado is a losing battle.
    With a good bug out program including bags, reliable vehicles, and locations, my own families time is down to 30 min assuming we are all home. Of course this goes up if we are spread out at school and work and so on.

    • Thanks for the comment John, I am glad to hear from someone who lives in a tornado area. I can see how that tornado bag, in addition to the bug out bags would be essential.

  2. It’s been well over a decade since I’ve lived in Tornado Alley (Joplin is about 60 minutes’ drive north of my hometown), but I can explain at least some of what you’ve observed…

    First off, most modern houses are built w/o basements for one reason: In the Ozarks, you practically need dynamite to dig a basement, and a house with a basement will cost quite a bit more than one without. That said, if you can afford it and have the property, have a tornado shelter dug. If you live in an apartment (yup, my case) and live in an area with tornadoes, check with the landlord… many localities require apartment complexes to have one, or ready access to one. OTOH, many more do not. Sniff around is all I can suggest.

    In an apartment complex, your biggest danger is being buried under the building. A good building layout will have a solid inner ‘core’, usually where the bathroom is located. If you don’t feel comfortable with how your apartment is constructed, I’d strongly suggest looking around for the nearest publicly-accessible shelter. If it’s within five minutes’ walk, you’re good. If not, consider a bicycle.

    • d’oh… hit the enter button accidentally…

      I mean to say – get a bicycle or something that can get you there ASAP, though don’t spend too much time thinking about it if you can run there in pretty short order.

    • Thanks for shedding some light on a question I had in my mind, as to why the homes don’t have basements. Good to know some apartments do have access to shelters. Appreciate the comment!

  3. Great article. I learned years ago to always, always have a go bag at home, in the car, and at the office. For the few dollars it costs- will save you in an emergency. I live in Houston, and wierd stuff happens all the time- refineries, petroleum tanks, freeways cramed with Hazmat filled 18 wheelers. Keep up the good work!

  4. I have been a dyed in the wool survivalist since 1986. Bugging out is my one big weakness. I live in an area where the only real threat is a forest fire. So I’ve not really given much thought to leaving my retreat, other than to make sure I have carrying cages for my ferrets if nature forces my hand and I have to flee. But I feel like in a big breakdown, I’d be insane to leave. Here I have everything I need, to the extent that is possible. On the road, I’d just be another old guy wondering where he was going to sleep tonight.

    • Yes, in a big breakdown I would not leave the retreat either. Probably wouldn’t hurt to have a go-bag just in case of (hopefully unlikely) forest fire. Just a few basic supplies like clothes, food, water purifier, prescription meds, ferret kibble, to tide you over “just in case” I used to live in an area that was prone to wild fires, and we had one just a few blocks away at one time.

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