When I first heard the news that a bomb exploded in Nashville, my thoughts quickly went from wondering who caused it, to “how would I have reacted had I lived in that neighborhood?” I have no control over who caused the bombing or why. What I can control is how I prepare for such emergencies, physically and mentally.
The explosion took place in the early morning hours of Christmas Day. I think of Nashville as a place of music and entertainment, and would never have considered it a likely target for such violence; yet another reason to always have a plan.
I also watched the surveillance footage, where you can clearly hear repeated warnings to evacuate the area immediately. This is a unique situation, and I asked myself how would I respond and also how could anyone prepare for an incident where immediate evacuation is necessary?
Reaction: Best Immediate Response
Many times one must react before all of the information becomes apparent. After watching the surveillance footage, I watched a local resident and entertainer, Buck McCoy, share his eye witness account of the event. His statements confirmed much of what I had jotted down in preparation for this blog.
Mr. McCoy said he heard gunshots at approximately 5:30 am; because he had heard them previously in this neighborhood, he was not overly concerned – in fact, he went back to sleep! He said he heard a second round of gunshots, but did not go to the window, and this turned out to be a very wise decision. At this point, co-host, Jeff Johnson, stated that this scenario presented the age-old preparedness conundrum: do you shelter in place, or escape (aka, bug out)?
Warning to Evacuate the Area
In the surveillance video, you can hear the repeated warnings to evacuate the area. How many people would run out of their homes not knowing what is going on? The number one rule of survival is to get out of harm's way. But what if you don't know the source of the danger?
Let's pick this scenario apart, starting with gunshots heard in the immediate vicinity. The last thing I would do is run outside having just heard shots fired. Police, upon arriving on the scene, will not know if you are a perpetrator or a bystander. I would also want to know the source of the message: was it pre-recorded? Was it from government officials ordering a mandatory evacuation in response to a credible threat? I would want to know why an unknown entity would want people to rush from the relative safety of their homes – is there a reason they want them exposed and vulnerable? And where would one escape to? Not knowing the cause of the danger, it would be easy to find yourself running into the danger zone, rather than away from it. The blast happened almost simultaneous to one the final warning to leave the area.
When considering how to react in this scenario, I thought about how I would respond to other threats, like a tornado. When faced with a tornado, if you can't get to a shelter, find the safest interior part of your home. Get away from any windows. Mr. McCoy stated that had he gotten back up to look out his window he would have been “ripped to shreds” and that “nobody would have survived” – the explosion shook his entire apartment and blew the windows into the next room, and his front door was completely unhinged. Debris and water fell all over him. Once the structural integrity of your shelter becomes compromised, and remaining in place is no longer safe, it is time to move on. The problem becomes, how to do so safely.
Making Your Escape: HAVE A PLAN!
For this means of evacuation (think little or no warning, like an earthquake or tornado) it is important to have a plan. Having lived in California for most of my life, I had to be prepared for an event that would happen without notice – earthquakes. If the “Big One” hit, I realized I might not have an opportunity to grab Go Bags and grab other treasured items, we would have to GET OUT OF THE WAY!
If the structural integrity of your structure is compromised, and/or it is no longer safe to remain, be it from an earthquake or an explosion, some heavy-duty shoes are required. Keep some by the bed, as broken glass or other materials will cause injury and hamper your ability to keep moving. Some of the footage shows a man carrying a large child, who was barefoot, down the debris-ridden street.
It is a good idea to plan ahead and have a rally point, a place agreed upon by your family members where to meet in the event you must leave or can't get to your home. Have the basics easily accessible; consider keeping keys and wallet handy by the front door in a small pack. Mr. McCoy's neighborhood has been cordoned off, and he did not anticipate being able to return to his home for the foreseeable future.
At some point, you will need to deal with financial issues. If you were unable to take your wallet, you may have trouble contacting your bank or other creditors. Plan for this ahead of time; have their contact information saved to your phone, along with account numbers, passwords, and any other information they may require. You may also want to send yourself an email or store this in a place you can access it if you lose your phone; at some point you will be able to access the internet and then you can retrieve your information and order replacement cards, identification, etc. Scan copies of important documents such as birth certificates, deeds, insurance cards, titles to vehicles, passports and other identification.
Consider also having arrangements with friends or family so that if something happens, you have a place to go and can depend on each other. Remember, at times like this, all the stored preps in your home will be unavailable. Confusion and shock are normal reactions to situations with little or no warning, high damage and high risk of injury or death. The more you plan ahead, the less you will have to cope with and try to gather before making your escape. Have a plan, and get out of the way – survival is your primary goal; the rest you can deal with later, so do yourself and your family a favor and be ready.