Sunday, 31 July 2011

Evacuation. Then & Now.

Evacuation. Then & Now.

Some communities were lucky enough to have been able to hire a Ranger, a woodsman who would range the countryside around the settlement looking for sign of any enemy in the area. If he returned with a warning, then the militia would be put on alert. Outlying farms would be warned & the occupants advised to move into the fort for safety. Sometimes assistance in moving might be offered, towns people would help carry important items to the fort. Anything that would greatly help the raiders would be removed from the cabins, such as guns & gunpowder, shot pouches & food. Much depended on how many people there were to help with the evacuation, & what sort of transport was available. But the evacuation had to be quick, there was little time to stop & think. They had to know exactly where everything was & what was most important to take with them.

Here in Australia evacuations have a long history, from raids to floods & bushfires. Some people have chosen to stay & try & protect their homes, & some have died in the attempt. Just like 300 years ago the public facilities are often lacking in home comforts, whole communities crammed into one building with no privacy. And when the emergency is over & the people return to their homes, their dwellings are often totally destroyed by flood or fire. Certainly they are not habitable.

So how did they cope with this situation 300 years ago any differently to now? Well 300 years ago they were better prepared. Those that moved into the forts took what they needed with them to survive, to create shelter, to create privacy. Going back home after the emergency was over was no different, they had the skills & the knowledge to create what they needed whilst they worked on rebuilding their cabin. Those of us who are 18th century living historians & historical trekkers are in a unique position to practice such an evacuation many times over. There may be important papers, documents, passports, birth certificates etc that we need to take with us, but the basic needs are those that will make us comfortable whilst away from our homes.

I have such a pack already to go at a moments notice, & of course its contents have been chosen with care & thought & well tested over many years. We have the advantage over those that do not go camping, & are not a part of living history. These other people may manage to cope with short term evacuation because of chemical spills, cyclones, floods, fires, & earthquakes. But in a major evacuation there would be little help for many people, they would be on their own & quite unprepared. I think it is worth you all thinking about this.

Recently my wife & I had to make a trip to Coffs Harbour. Whilst we were there the roads became blocked through floods & fallen trees. Fortunately by the time we had to leave, the roads had just been declared open & safe to travel on. But it made me think, what if the roads had not been passable? We could have slept in our vehicle, as both our vehicles are large enough to bed down in, but we had no other items such as food, cooking utensils etc. This was not the time to make fire with a fire-bow for warmth & cooking. We had no means to hunt for food in any case. In reality we could have survived very well, & could have purchased food somewhere no doubt. Still it was a wake up call for me & I have since put together a knapsack “Bug Out” kit for when we have to go away on trips. If you would like to read more on this sort of thing, there is a blog post here: Camping as an evacuation drill exercise.


Gorges Smythe said...

Many folks who live in the country keep a change of clothes, a few non-freezable food supplies and a few tools in their vehicles at all times. Most folks should.

Le Loup said...

Totally agree, & water too. We used to carry a lot more when we lived in the Territory, but the uninhabited areas are much larger up there.

Denis Wilson said...

The people who really need to read this post are the folks living in the Tall forest bushfire zones of Victoria and probably also Tasmania.
But it is good advice for everybody.