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Survival Discussion => Survival Planning with Family and Pets => Topic started by: Raptor on June 09, 2021, 05:59:13 PM

Title: Ok Now You Are a Refugee...
Post by: Raptor on June 09, 2021, 05:59:13 PM
What to do If you become a refugee.

I know the ZS emphasizes preparedness and many of have detailed plans and preparations to Bug in for many or most disasters. We also have Bug out Bags and various preparations to get us to our Bug out Land. Nevertheless it is within the realm of possibility that God forbid you may find your self in a forced evacuation to another city.

I am writing this based upon conversations I have had with a variety of people about a variety of experiences after Katrina. Some are lessons I gleaned from them and other parts of are my personal opinions based upon hearing their stories. Clearly Katrina's evacuations were on a massive scale and other evacuations may be different as a result of the lessons learned, then again may be not. These experiences are also not likely to apply in other than say a massive natural disaster. In short your results may differ.

Some Basic Rules:

I would have to say rule #1 is do not become a refugee and throw yourself into the "tender arms" of FEMA (or the equivalent). If at all possible evacuate yourself and avoid any assistance from governmental agencies, until you have a chance to think, research your alternatives and understand the situation and aid offered.

Rule #2 if you find your self in a public shelter, find a way out of the shelter as soon as possible either through family or friends. In a shelter you have no privacy, your sleep will be disrupted by the noise and lights (they stay on for safety 24/7), and you will experience varying levels of shock and trauma. The authorities will decide when you eat, what you eat and when and where you go to the bathroom. They will decide what news you hear and how you hear it. Your life will be regimented to suit their convenience (& capabilities). I am not criticizing these agencies, this is the only way they can run a safe shelter, and nevertheless it is not a pleasant place to live after a traumatic event.

Rule #3 you and only you can decide what is the best course of action for you and your family. Do not look to others for anything but information. People will offer a lot of advice, but strive to obtain information about the situation and your options before you turn to others for advice. A word of caution is necessary here. Do not underestimate the trauma of being displaced from your home, separated from friend and familiar places. This trauma can negatively impact your judgment. This is why you should strive to obtain information before you make any significant decision regarding your future plans. Sometimes the best decision (once you leave the shelter) is rest, get back to as normal of a schedule as possible and then in the cold light of day start to review the information.

What to expect if you are evacuated:

Most people I have met and talked to who were evacuated got to a shelter in a variety of ways. I spoke to both rich and poor, while their individual stories varied much was the same.

With regards to the people who were rescued from the flooding the story was similar. They were taken to high ground and told to wait for ground transport. There generally was no food or water provided at this point and often times little shade. Sometimes the people were brought to a railroad track and told to walk in a certain direction until they came to a check point. From this point forward it is important for your family to stay together and under no circumstances leave anyone alone. Pairs should be the minimum number for safety.

Lesson to Learn: Pack and bring a bug out bag. At the very least bring water, clothes and documents, money and good walking shoes and socks.

Once ground transport arrived (in some cases a pick up truck, 6x6 Army truck or buses of a variety of sizes and comfort {school buses to tour buses}), People were segregated for transport. Note sometimes they wanted to move the sick and young out first, other times they went by family. It varied based upon numbers, convenience to the authorities and available transport. Again my advice is that if someone is young or ill and needs to be separated from the group, that an adult should accompany that person(s). As for children my advice is to not separate yourself from them for any reason.

Lesson to Learn: Do not get separated. Do not look hostile but maintain a high situational awareness.

During the transport stage, armed troops or LEOs would search people for weapons and contraband. Most of the time when a weapon was found it was confiscated, but the person was not penalized for having a weapon or contraband unless the authorities had reason to believe the person was a "bad guy". People with rifles were not mentioned, but I suspect, but cannot prove, if you showed up looking like Mad Max or a ninja things would not go well for you at all.

Lesson to Learn: Don't dress like a ninja unless everyone else is dressed like one. Ditch weapons before you get to the checkpoint.

You can count on having someone frisk you, look through your bag and likely force you to discard some items to "make room" on the transport. Pets were not be permitted and you were forced to abandon them at that spot (note: LA now has a new law now requiring pets to be evacuated but on a segregated pet bus, so you may be able to take your pet out but may be forced to wait a very long time for the "pet bus"). Note the buses generally had water and sometimes MREs and FAKs on board. If you are thirsty, need aid or have other needs the time to ask is when you see a bus. You may or may not get what you need, but this is the best time to ask for it.

Lesson to Learn: At this point prepare to kick self for not being smart enough to have left earlier.

Some buses went to the airport where people were put on aircraft and evacuated to different cities. Often times the people on the plane did not know where they were heading until they disembarked from the aircraft. Other buses drove 7 hours non-stop to Houston, 9 hours to Dallas or San Antonio. (God bless the generosity of the state of Texas, they did more for Katrina refuges IMHO than any entity in those first dark days.)

When you arrive you will processed. That means your name, address, SS#, age, etc will be filled out on a form or entered into a computer. You were asked to provide an ID. If you did not have an ID you were still admitted but you were generally segregated (sometimes locked up) until your ID could be verified. You will often be issued an ID wrist band like they issue in hospitals and prisons. Do not lose that wrist band; without it your are SOL! People were then provided with a bag by the Red Cross or local aid group with shampoo, toothbrush, soap, disposable razor, toothpaste, etc. People were provided access to bathrooms, clean clothes (usually thrift store and donated stuff) and given an indoctrination seminar on the rules and regulations of the shelter.

Most shelters lock their doors at 10pm and do not reopen until 7am. If your are outside when the doors are locked; you are SOL. If you are inside when they were locked you are not going anywhere until 7am. Plan accordingly.

Counselors from FEMA, Red Cross, the Salvation Army and various local welfare/volunteer groups (it varied by shelter) set up a table to help people with communications, prescription drugs and various other needs. Some were great, some were useful, and others were less than useful, it varied.

Your living space was allocated based upon your arrival and your needs. Families were bedded together, but floor space was limited and crowed. It was like camping out in a gymnasium with a 1,000 of your friends. In the large shelters like the AstroDome the safest place to be was reported to be in the middle away from the corners. If you can, try to arrange a bit of privacy by hanging blankets to form a cube. Note just because it is called a shelter do not assume you are safe. Your new neighbors will steal you blind. You should always have someone stay with your things and never leave children alone or unsupervised. This environment has been described to me in many terms by many people ranging from adequate to Dantes' Inferno. Your first course of action upon arrival should be communication with loved ones to let them know you are safe that and arrange for shelter for yourself elsewhere ASAP. You will be allowed to leave anytime you want (at least during the hours the shelter is open).

Lesson to Learn: Public shelters suck and they are not conducive to good mental health after a disaster. Make sure you have basic ID, credit cards and cash.

Getting Out and Getting Away:
The best story I heard was from a person who was looking for ride from Lakeview to Baton Rouge where his wife had evacuated. He got on one bus which went to the airport and he was ushered onto a plane bound for Salt Lake City (he thought is was going to Baton Rouge, the guy is not the sharpest tool in the shed). He had only the clothes on his back, a driver's license and an American Express card. Once he got to Salt Lake City he called the American Hotel in SLC who sent a car for him, brought him to a men's store, bought some clothes and the hotel upgraded him to suite since he was a "refugee".  He flew to Baton Rouge a couple of days later.

Obviously if you have the means getting out is simple for those with lesser means there may be a delay until you can find something affordable. Nevertheless getting out and getting back to normal should be your goal.

The options are to find a hotel room, friends or family or an apartment.

Hotel Room: Many people enjoy staying in a hotel, however if you live in one it is amazing how cramped and uncomfortable it gets. If you do stay in one look for one with kitchen facilities, eating out 3 meals a day gets very expensive and can be difficult if you do not have a car or transport.

Family & Friends:This is the cheapest but it has it own pitfalls. I recommend this only for a very short term stay.

A furnished Apartment: This is actually a very good option in many cities, assuming you can get it on a short term basis. If you are staying 30 to 90 days this normally is cheaper than a hotel room larger and is actually more "normal" so it helps you get back into the normal mode and out of the refugee mode.

You should note that in cities like Houston apartments and hotel rooms were not available due to the number of refugees, while in other cities this was not a problem.

This brings up the next decision where do I go. There is no one answer to this question. It varies by individual and family. I went back quickly while my wife stayed in Atlanta for 45 days with our family.

Many people chose not to return and instead decided to settle elsewhere, some stayed in the city to which they were evacuated while other relocated elsewhere. The statistics showed though that the people who willingly evacuated themselves and chose their destination did a whole better than those plucked form a roof and transported to an unfamiliar city. There may be several reasons for this, but I suspect it has to do with a willing to accept responsibility for one's own destiny is likely high on the probability list.

Lesson to Learn:You are in charge of your life and you are responsible for keeping you and your family safe and happy. If you have an experience like this you will very likely be negatively impacted, mentally, emotionally and possibly physically. However the sooner you are able to take charge and get back to normal the better you will feel. Do not allow yourself to become an un-empowered victim.  Be prepared to seek counseling, admit and accept the trauma, it will help you to move on with your life.

In conclusion, this information is provided in the sincere hope that none of you ever needs it. The next step which is resettlement after a disaster, which if there is any interest in it will be provided for your review at a later date.

EDIT for clarity: This should not be construed as criticism of any shelter operator. Katrina was tough due to the huge numbers involved. The shelters did the best job they could under very difficult circumstances. The regimentation described above was the only to handle the sheer number so people.
Title: Re: Ok Now You Are a Refugee...
Post by: Raptor on June 09, 2021, 06:02:19 PM

My cousin left Sugar Land, drove 12 hours getting less than 20 miles. She realized she was about out of gas, so she returned home.

Some people told me it took them 18 hours to get here; I can make the trip normally in under 2 hours.

The only reason Houston did not suffer a catastrophe was the the hurricane turned, but this is not just about Rita or hurricanes. It is about having plan B and even a Plan c in the event of a failed bugout for what ever reason.

These 2 statements are IMHO the 2 most important lessons for us to learn about an evacuation of a major US city. One person spent 12 hours driving 20 mile almost ran out of gas turned around and went home on the remaining gas in the tank!

The 18 hours to go approximately 150 miles is closer to what I have seen in New Orleans evacuations. That by the way is likely a tank and 1/2 of fuel or a full gas tank and 2 gas cans.

This is also the reason people want to bug in. I agree for many events bugging in makes the most sense. However there are also situations (hurricanes, NBC incidents/attacks, Tsunami, etc) where a rapid evacuation is  the only sensible alternative.

I am sure some will say this cannot happen in my city, or live in the country so it is not an issue for me. Those of you who feel that way, you can stop reading now and please spare us those posts on this thread.  :D

Are those folks gone?... good!:D

Now for the rest of us there is the issue of "what do you do now".

Let's look at some obvious lessons here.

Lesson 1: If you are in traffic for 6 hours and have gone only 10 miles with no relief in sight, it is probably past time to execute Plan B.

Lesson 2: Every hour you spend in traffic gridlock is one less hour you have to prepare, gather supplies and/or figure out how you are going to protect you and your family.

Lesson 3: Sticking to a plan that is clearly not working can be as deadly as making no preparations whatsoever. A plan is just that, a plan. Mindlessly sticking to a plan or system that is clearly not producing the results you desire is stupid. There comes a time when you have say this is not working we need to do something different. Failure is not correcting a mistake; the mistake is not the failure.

Lesson 4: This is my mantra that I preach to everyone. "Always have a Plan B and always know where the back door is located".

What about a Plan B:
In this case going back home was not fatal for these people. That may not be the case in other situations. Clearly the type of emergency will have an impact on your Plan A, B & C.

Secondary Roads:
The most obvious solution is not to use the main route like an interstate but rather for instance the US highway systems like Route 66 or in the case of the Gulf Coast Highway 90. These alternate routes while slower and possessing stop lights may actually be faster than the main arteries. They also may be jammed with traffic. There is also secondary streets that in many cases goes for miles in a safe direction. Remember the goal here is to put as much distance between you and the danger area as you can in the shortest period of time. Listen to what the main evacuation routes are and spend a little time, (it can be done in the car) determining an alternate that is far enough away from the main evacuation routes that they may not be disrupted by the evacuation traffic. Any route that takes you away from danger is good even if you have to back track later. In these cases extra gas cans are your friends.

Alternate Transportation:
During situations like this the airlines are generally booked as are charter aircraft. However, there are companies that for a fee (a rather large fee) will arrange a special charter for group of people for evacuation purposes. This is likely beyond the means of most people; nevertheless it is an option and if you can afford it and can get to the airport in time (remember you have to drive there!).

Trains and buses are generally crowded now and will likely be jammed in an evacuation. Nevertheless trains fall into the evacuation plans for New Orleans and are an option to attempt.

If you live on a navigable river this is also an option assuming you own or have access to a boat.

A motorcycle or even a bicycle may also be an option. You could drive as far as you can, then ditch the car and continue on bicycle or motorcycle. But you will have to plan ahead and think to bring the bicycles or motorcycle.

A Failed Evacuation:
This thread started with the concept that you are now a refugee and what you can expect as one. Based upon the assumption lets assume that despite heroic and creative efforts you are now stuck behind the gridlock inside a danger zone.

Hopefully you realized early on that plan A & B were not going to work and you then redirected your efforts to plan C early. The time you would have wasted stuck in a failed evacuation you can now be directed towards your plan C.

Time to Go to Plan C:
At this point you have some very serious decisions to make. I am assuming you chose to bug out because after serious consideration you believed your home was an untenable position for the current disaster. If that is the case you should avoid saying "oh well... at least I know the area" and head home. If you do, without some change in the threat status (i.e. the tsunami is overdue and thus not likely, the NBC incident is not as bad as expected, etc.) you are setting yourself up to be casualty. Remember and review the reason why you chose to bug out, unless these can be mitigated you must move to plan C.

This is why prior to such a disaster you should identify locations in different parts of your city that could provide temporary shelter during a disaster. For instance in my case I have identified several parking garages that could provide adequate shelter for me and a vehicle in a hurricane or a tornado. The interior stair wells of parking garages, assuming they have no windows are sturdy and provide shelter from flying debris. They are not comfortable or even a plan B shelter, but they are adequate plan C shelter points. I also have identified space in my office building and made mutual assistance deals with friends in different geographic parts of the city. Clearly a plan C is a short term location and is a last resort. It will not have any supplies and I may even be turned away from such a point since I do not control access to these spots. This is why in your bug out plans you need to make sure that you have basic supplies for unprepared location such as a plan C shelter.

Becoming one of the un-washed masses
The final resort is going to a government shelter of last resort (assuming there is one). This may actually be the best option if you have someone who has medical needs that you cannot deal with for some reason.  However, I would do this only as an absolute last resort if you do not need medical assistance. All you have to do is look at the pictures of the Superdome to see why this is a fundamentally bad plan. I use the term great unwashed masses not derogatorily but rather to paint the picture of what 48 hours in a Superdome situation must have felt like. I was not there but the stories from the people
Who were combined with the video footage I think paint a graphic picture.

Final Advice:
During this time it is vital to monitor whatever information you can glean from a variety of source. Good information can save your life. If you have a group 1 or 2 people should be delegate to do nothing but gather information. I do mean simply sit in front of a TV, I means listen to commercial broadcast radio, TV, official news channels, internet and network with friends and family. Traffic reports are very important. I have a deal with friends to report traffic conditions via text messages to one another in the event of a hurricane evacuation.

Remember also the disinformation, poor information and exaggerations that occurred during Katrina. Even official sources were providing bad information. Treat information during such an as you would any raw data. It is not true until confirmed by multiple sources and if it sounds unbelievable it is likely an exaggeration and should be discounted until confirmed by a trusted source.

The final piece of advice is don't panic, but do THINK. Plan and anticipate issues and problems monitor progress and be prepared to change your plans. Do not be afraid to deviate from a plan once it is clear it is not working. Don't go A.D.D. with your changes, but be prepared to improvise and adapt to a changing situation. Preparation is great, but adaptation is better.

In conclusion I say again I hope none of you need to use this information, but I do urge you to think about your current situation and prepare accordingly.

EDIT: Note while I am using CS's statement as a quote I am not being critical of either he or his cousin or picking on Houston or Texas. The Rita evacuation is a text book of example for us of what will likely happen when you try to evacuate such a big city. I would also add that TX probably did better job than many states (especially LA) in those circumstances.
Title: Re: Ok Now You Are a Refugee...
Post by: Raptor on June 09, 2021, 06:04:04 PM
Quote... I think the thing that most seperates a refugee from a survivor is mindset and preparation.  A refugee is willing to let others (GOV or "help" agencies) take control of their destiny, where as a survivor tends to want to handle those thing themselves. 

I certainly share your desire not to be a refugee as do most UFOZS'ers. This thread emphasized that point throughout. I purposely used the term refugee since that is what the press labeled all of the evacuees from Katrina and Rita.

Nevertheless despite a person's intention not to be a refugee there may be a situation where despite a person's best efforts he/she may find few alternatives to being evacuated and hence in the government's benevolent  hands. This happened during Katrina and can happen again in a large regional disaster.

This is how it happened for some tourists:
A group of hotel guests who could not get out of the city weathered Katrina in their hotel and actually pooled their funds and hired passenger tour buses to take them out of the city on Tuesday after Katrina. The bus drove to city only to be appropriated by rescue teams and pressed into service moving people out of the city. Meanwhile the hotel  closed and asked the hotel guests to leave for safety reasons since they were without power, fire sprinklers or sanitation.

The water was rising and with no place to go, the authorities, who had taken their chartered buses, finally after several days got these people to the airport. Some of these people had tried to walk out of the city but were turned away by armed police who fired shots over their heads they had sealed off one major escape route. Here is a link to  a story:


Another way unwilling people became refugees:

There are numerous documented instances of people who rode out Katrina in their home, only to have the police or NG come and forcefully make them leave. On sept 6, 2005 an official order was given to force everyone everyone except emergency workers should be forced to leave the city These people were safe and did not want to leave yet many were forced to leave upon threat of arrest. These people too became refugees in the tender and benevolent hands of our government.


I am not sure I would classify people such as these as lazy. As for preparation this should include preparing yourself for the hopefully unlikely and certainly unfortunate event of becoming an unwilling "refugee".

Title: Re: Ok Now You Are a Refugee...
Post by: Raptor on June 09, 2021, 06:14:40 PM
There are many great ideas in this thread from many different people. I decided to do a quick summary of the key ideas from all sources in the thread since it is so long.

Like any summary it hits the key points and may omit other important ones so feel free to ad to these points if any are missed. Also be sure to read the whole thread and simply use this as the Cliff Note version of this thread.

Assuming that you find yourself in this situation I think the key points we have promulgated are (excluding the obvious rule #1 Plan ahead and do not become a refugee):

1.) Avoid copping an attitude, arguing with or pissing off the staff unnecessarily.

2.) Keep a low profile by following the rules and avoid association with the obvious trouble makers in the group.

3.) Offer to assist the shelter team if possible even if they turn you down this will make you seen as a team player.

4.) Work whatever connections and resources you may have available to get setup some place besides the shelter.

5.) Keep your group/family together and help all (including yourself) deal with the emotional issues such a traumatic experience can inflict.

6.) If possible avoid the Astrodome type shelter for the smaller church type shelter. The upside of more aid at the larger shelter is offset by the lower stress level and safer environment at the smaller shelter.

7.) Never lose sight of the fact that you are not a refugee, but rather you are a survivor tying to survive and that you are responsible for your own fate. It is not anyone else's job to take care of you.

8.) Food & Water: Eat the food provided to keep up your strength whether you feel hungry or not and stay hydrated. Drink water. You may be in emotional shock and may not feel thirsty and thus at risk of dehydration.

9.) Rest & Recover: Sleep and rest it will help you recover and think clearly.

10.) Vigilance at all times! Watch your stuff, never leave it unguarded, and don't unpack everything for envious eyes to see. Just because it is called a shelter does not mean it is safe.

11.) Personal hygiene is important: Wash your hands often, bathe & shave. Do not go barefoot anywhere, including the shower. This will help ensure your health as well as that of the others around you.

12.) Do not try to bring in weapons. If possible bury them in garbage bags for later retrieval and to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.

13.) Use the time in the shelter to study any maps you have, charge your cell phones, laptop batteries if you can. Stay busy doing something. It will help you cope with being stuck for the time being.

14.) Try to forge some kind of alliance with your neighbors but be cautious. Sharing something like gum, smokes, hard candy helps with this. "I'll watch your back, you watch mine" Be kind to children. Build empathy with your neighbors. It may only be an alliance of two but it is better than being alone. Loners tend to draw attention
Title: Re: Ok Now You Are a Refugee...
Post by: RoneKiln on June 10, 2021, 12:19:14 AM
Quote from: Raptor on June 09, 2021, 05:59:13 PM

Family & Friends:This is the cheapest but it has it own pitfalls. I recommend this only for a very short term stay.

It boggles my mind how many people don't know how to be gracious guests, much less how to actively contribute to a household. Learning how to actively contribute to any household you are in is priceless in good times, and can be the difference between having shelter or not having shelter in bad times.

If you proactively do every chore possible in the home of a family member or friend youmare staying with, it will smokth over a lot of potential tension and drama. Contribute even moderately when just visiting in good times, and you'll develop a reputation that will have your friends wanting to keep you when bad times come.

I used to travel a lot in a previous life. At one point, there were few major cities in the US and Western Europe I couldn't easily find a couch to crash on for a few days, cause I was famous in that community for cleaning my hosts kitchens. My gear was ALWAYS stowed away first thing in the morning and my hosts never had a dirty dish in their sink.
Title: Re: Ok Now You Are a Refugee...
Post by: Raptor on June 10, 2021, 10:26:16 AM
Quote from: RoneKiln on June 10, 2021, 12:19:14 AM
Quote from: Raptor on June 09, 2021, 05:59:13 PM

Family & Friends:This is the cheapest but it has it own pitfalls. I recommend this only for a very short term stay.

It boggles my mind how many people don't know how to be gracious guests, much less how to actively contribute to a household. Learning how to actively contribute to any household you are in is priceless in good times, and can be the difference between having shelter or not having shelter in bad times.

If you proactively do every chore possible in the home of a family member or friend you are staying with, it will smooth over a lot of potential tension and drama. Contribute even moderately when just visiting in good times, and you'll develop a reputation that will have your friends wanting to keep you when bad times come.

I used to travel a lot in a previous life. At one point, there were few major cities in the US and Western Europe I couldn't easily find a couch to crash on for a few days, cause I was famous in that community for cleaning my hosts kitchens. My gear was ALWAYS stowed away first thing in the morning and my hosts never had a dirty dish in their sink.

Based upon this you sir are welcome in my guest room anytime.  :)
Title: Re: Ok Now You Are a Refugee...
Post by: Blast on June 10, 2021, 12:41:53 PM
Great info, Raptor! I volunteer at a local Red Cross shelter on the north side of Houston and have been activated three times. What you say about life in a shelter is very accurate. Let me add some thoughts from my side of the shelter check-in desk.

1. You are in danger from the other refugees. They are stressed out, sick with infectious diseases, going through withdrawals, won't control their kids, don't have their psych meds, or otherwise risky neighbors. Not all of them, but enough that you need to be on guard.

2. We have minimal training. The volunteers get trained for specific jobs inside the shelter and the Red Cross doesn't want volunteers doing anything outside of their specific training. This is mostly due to liability issues.

3. Don't assume the shelter will have the necessary supplies. During hurricane Harvey, our shelter ended up surrounded by water, cutting off access to the daily Red Cross supply runs. But we weren't cut off from the high water rescue boats. The shelter was designed for 100 clients...we ended up with over 300 with minimal supplies.

4. Without the proper training and background checks, the Red Cross won't let you volunteer in any of the shelter operations. This is another liability issue for them. If you want to help and be in the good graces of the shelter workers, offer to sort the bags and bags of clothing brought in by well-meaning but clueless locals who are "donating clothes to those who've lost everything". Bags and bags of clothing.

5. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.

6. Assume any meal you're served has been sneezed on by a sick kid earlier in the line.

7. Many people have surprisingly terrible hygiene. Not just bad...TERRIBLE!

Like Raptor said, your #1 priority in a shelter is to get the hell out of there! Depending on the location, it may be possible to move to a hotel on the Red Cross's dime. Reach out to the local Red Cross HQ and ask them about such things now. Tell them you are just trying to be proactive, looking out for the safety of you and your loved ones.
Title: Re: Ok Now You Are a Refugee...
Post by: Ever (Zombiepreparation) on June 22, 2021, 02:31:58 AM
Quote from: Blast on June 10, 2021, 12:41:53 PM
5. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.