Emergency Evacuation Route Planning Part II
Continuing the emergency evacuation route planning, let’s delve into the skills needed to prepare for successful navigation. Additionally, there are some terms to define, as it’s important to understand the concept of their meaning. I don’t care what you call them, just that you understand their importance. This article focuses on route planning details and just as with many concepts, it may be easier to divide these courses of action into phases to define what and when certain items are used. There are some needed skill sets that enhance your ability to travel, especially in extreme situations where going off main routes is necessary. Some of the skills essential to your training program include:
► Land navigation - I can’t describe to you how to land navigate. Some of you may be able to read about it and learn, but most of us need to do it and take the time to learn how to navigate off road. Learning topography is an important skill that all military members know how to do, some better than others. It’s not rocket science, you just need a basic class on what it all means and then go practice using a map and a compass.
► Compass - A military type of lensatic compass is great, but it might as well be a rock in your hand if you don’t know how to use it. Take the time to read and practice using this tool. Get to a Cabela’s, L.L. Bean, EMS, R.E.I. or other outdoor store and ask questions. Some of these stores even offer classes. L.L. Bean offers many classes listed near the registers. Some are free, so there isn't any excuse not to know how to use the compass.
► Sketching skills - This costs nothing and is something you can quickly improve. Get your family outside and have them sketch area maps. Practice this over and over and you’ll improve in detail rapidly. Learn how to describe things through written expression. You or someone in your family may need to write directions; there’s a skill in writing clearly so that others can understand. It’s quite apparent that we’re losing our ability to write with the ubiquitous use of computers and smart phones (LOL, BTW).
► Communications - An area that may seem a no brainer; however, consider your normal means of communication is no longer working (iPhone, computer, land line). Radios may be your only means of communication and understanding how line of sight communications works is important. Also, basic radio etiquette is important to save on transmission time, battery life, and ease of understanding. These are not natural skills most of us have, so invest the time to understand how communication will be used within your group. This can become very sophisticated with the use of Morse code, Ham radios, and other means of communication. You can build antennas to increase your signals, but there are skills to do so and I’ll warn you now, there’s math involved.
Phases of the Route Survey
Reconnaissance Phase - This can be an electronic recon or a physical recon of the route. Most likely, we need to start with a map or computer using Google maps; this is a great place to start. You can see how far it is from point A to point B and the options. Primarily, the development of alternate and tertiary routes are highly recommended in this phase. In the most extreme SHTF situation, avoid main roads and areas with a high volume of traffic. This can expose you to delays, theft, unneeded confrontation, or ultimately jeopardize the mission (move from point A to point B). As you conduct your initial recon, first identify at least three routes. Now examine each route and look for these considerations:
► Choke points are areas where traffic becomes bottle necked; areas that cause delay and stop forward movement. Bridges, major interstate exchanges, major cities, and other possibilities that may choke our movement should be identified so that you can avoid them later. While you may not be able to avoid a choke point (crossing a river) at least you can be prepared and everyone in the team will know when you’re nearing a choke point area.
► Danger areas are where we perceive danger. These can fall in-line with the choke points with the only difference is that we perceive a real threat at these points. It should go without saying, avoid these areas at all cost.
► Caches along your route may be an important consideration depending on the variables of your travel. How are you moving? What is your range and capability in carrying logistical needs (fuel, water, food, money)? How many days of supplies do you have in your vehicle or go-bag?
► Safe havens along the way may or may not be an option. Consider adding these, which will include: police stations, firehouses, military bases, and hospitals along the route. Keep in mind this emergency evacuation route can be used in all situations; from natural disaster to SHTF, so you’ll have all this information available to you but will need to engage those 6 inches between your ears as the situation changes. The police station that was a great safe haven in a natural disaster may not be safe in a SHTF situation.
Survey Phase - The actual time where we can get on the ground and survey the areas identified in the reconnaissance phase. Here are a few of the areas that enhance the overall preparation of the evacuation plan:
► Area Familiarization is widely used when arriving to an unknown area. The first week I arrive in any foreign country I dedicate to “AREA FAM”, when I go out and drive the city to evaluate the information I received in the reconnaissance phase. It’s akin to reading a bio of someone and then going to meet them. The meeting is the most important part of the two, as it’s real but being prepared for that meeting is equally as important so that I don’t make mistakes.
► Naming key terrain features is important, as a paramilitary member we always used common names for areas in the city. We actually had bespoke maps made with our names on them. If there was a fountain in a circle and it was the only one with a fountain, it becomes fountain circle. You get the drift.
► Note changes from the reconnaissance, something that’s always going to occur. No matter how good the recon phase is there are always changes. Living in Dubai I see road changes (openings, closures and name changes) daily.
► Running the routes is what FAM is all about. Get out, feel the road, and look for the choke points, danger areas, and overall road conditions; it’s critical.
► Complete the FAM and document changes for others to read. Remember the part about writing skills, this needs to be relayed to others in your group.
► Starting Point(s) and End Point(s)
► Rally Point(s) (pre-determined locations where you’ll meet up with someone along the route)
► Friendly locations such as the homes of associates, hospitals, known remote locations (Go Points)
► Unfriendly locations such as bad neighborhoods, places with no life support such as food and water (No-Go Points)
► Choke Points (Places where you could be ambushed)
► Water Crossings
► Fuel, Water, and Food
► Terrain Association Markers (locations or objects such as water towers that will help you figure out exactly where you are once you’re on the ground)
Prioritizing is important, as your time in the area may be limited. So, select primary routes that will likely be your means of travel and work backwards from there. Additionally, consider your start points to your end points and consider your highest priority areas and your means of travel. Survey each route as time allows and analyze the area of interest through maps, imagery, and FAM observation. This is how you prioritize your routes and know that we’re looking for at least three possible routes for any given location.
Finally, you’ve got all the data you need to construct a solid emergency evacuation route plan. Take your time and produce the best quality end product you can. Make it simple and informative for everyone in your group to understand and to execute a route when needed. You can continue this project by highlighting and color-coding routes, adding code names and checkpoints. Those 6-inches between your ears is a critical part of this project, use it well.
Stay alert, stay alive!