When it comes to disaster planning and preparedness strategies, naturally you may zero in on assessing and determining where to go to seek safety and shelter. However, it’s equally important to know which areas to avoid during a disaster. Some places will without a doubt be overwhelmed by panicked individuals who didn’t plan ahead of time...increasing the chances of mobs, looting, and violence.
Take Hurricane Katrina for example, or Caracas, Venezuela. In both cases we’ve seen citywide looting and violence as everyday citizens fight to seek basic necessities, whether it be food, medicine, or cash. There’s also been recent fatalities stemming from unsafe evacuation routes once natural disasters have hit an area and weakened city infrastructure.
To minimize risk and increase your family’s chances of survival, you’ll need to know which areas to avoid before, during, and after a disaster. That’s why today, I’m highlighting three places to avoid: supermarkets, tunnels/bridges, and banks. Read on and take note...you never know when this information is going to come in handy.
Most people are unprepared when it comes to having enough food to weather a disaster. It only makes sense that supermarkets and grocery stores are going to be the first places overwhelmed with crowds.
If you’ve ever attempted to visit a supermarket in the hours before a hurricane or blizzard makes landfall, you know it’s eerily similar to the intensity of shopping madness on Black Friday. Imagine shoppers diving for canned food items or snatching products out of each others’ hands. It’s an easy recipe for rioting, looting, fighting, and unexpected trips to the hospital amidst an already chaotic time.
You’ll be a lot better off if you shop and prepare your food supply in advance -- before word of a disaster has even arisen. In preparation for a worst-case scenario, I recommend you consider…
- Growing your own produce at home.
- Stocking up on an emergency supply of nonperishable food.
- Canning and preserving food items to make them last longer.
At the very least, the government says you should keep a three-day supply of portable food, water, medicine, and other necessities. That’s simply not enough. We recommend having a three-month food supply per person as a solid preparedness foundation.
Beyond safety, waiting until the last minute to stock up on food and other items leaves us less able to be strategic and thoughtful in our decision-making. As consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow explains, “I think our natural inclination to protect ourselves in these situations gets us into the grocery store in the first place, and then what we encounter in the grocery store, crowds of people, cause us to feel a little bit of panic. When we feel a little bit of panic, that makes us less rational, less able to evaluate our purchasing decisions, so we’re shopping with heightened emotions. Then we get to the shelves and we see that they’re empty, and that’s what causes that sort of crowd panic reaction. It’s just sort of like this kind of snowball of situational factors that leads to the irrational purchasing.”
Take the time now to make your list, check it twice, and stock up on the items you know you’ll need when the unexpected hits.
#2: Bridges and Tunnels
When natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes strike, local infrastructure is easily affected. Staying off the streets in general during and after a disaster is overall a good call--especially when they involve bridges and tunnels.
It’s difficult to know how stable these kinds of structures are, and even if they didn’t collapse during a disaster, it’s highly possible they can collapse after the fact. When planning your evacuation route, it’s best to avoid these structures as much as possible.
For example, during the 1989 earthquake in San Francisco, California, the Cypress Street Viaduct, a raised highway, collapsed, causing most of the the earthquake-related deaths. Additionally, the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge was also damaged when a span of the top deck collapsed.
If you live in an area with various bridges, tunnels, and other transportation structures at risk, you will need to find various alternative evacuation routes ahead of time. In these situations, it’s best to be safe rather than sorry.
Bridges and tunnels will also be easy structures to set up blockades or checkpoints around. Stopping at a blockade creates another opportunity to run into fighting or theft.
When society starts to unravel, people will be worried about their finances, and the lines to withdraw and access cash from ATMs and banks will be long. In desperate times, you’ll easily become a target if people know you may be loaded with cash (or gold/silver from your safe deposit box) after withdrawal.
In preparation, stock up on a supply of cash money in advance and safely hide a supply that you can use in case of emergencies. A trip to the bank once disaster has hit will only increase the chances of putting yourself in harm’s way. Additionally, when your reserves of cash run dry, you’ll want to have barter items available, such as food, fuel, tools, water filters, medicines, precious metals, and more.
If you desperately need to visit an ATM, The Balance shares that “ATMs located inside of bank branches are generally the safest: the bank is locked at night, and the machine is under 24-hour video surveillance. As a result, thieves are less likely to tamper with or loiter around those ATMs--they don’t want to appear in security footage, and there’s less opportunity to physically access the machine. On the other hand, ATMs located on the street are more suspect.”
Of course, beyond supermarkets, bridges and tunnels, and banks, there are a lot of other perilous places to find yourself during times of disaster. Take the time now to reflect on places that will be...
- Inundated with people, such as hospitals, hardware stores, and airports.
- Weakened or destroyed after natural disasters, such as nuclear power plants and prisons.
Avoid these places if you can, and take caution if and when you need to use or visit them. Keep the tips I’ve provided in mind, stay aware, and be safe.
Please add to our list locations you also believe should be avoided in our comments below.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply