(Reuters) Authorities in the North Dakota city of Minot told up to 12,000 residents on Wednesday to evacuate immediately because the rising Souris River is about to overflow flood levees.

A chain reaction which began further up north in Canada, is now cascading its way south through the US while waters overflow levees which are desperately being patched to add precious time for evacuees to escape.

(Rueters) Heavy rains over the past six weeks have swelled Canadian reservoirs in the Souris River basin, forcing unprecedented water releases. In turn, U.S. officials must release water from the Lake Darling Dam above Minot at a rate more than double what the recently fortified protections can bear.

To put a positive spin on the disaster that is unfolding in North Dakota, we can all learn a lesson from what is happening. That is, ask yourself, ‘Where would I go if I were told to evacuate?’ ‘What would I take with me in the time that I have, and what is my plan?’

I’ll bet that the people of Minot, North Dakota didn’t think that this would happen to them. Now I wonder how many of the 12,000 had a plan of action.

Here’s an exercise, and let’s make it easy. Let’s say that you knew that you had 24 hours to ‘get out of Dodge’ because of an unfolding local or regional disaster. What would you do, and in what order?

Here are a few ideas off the top of my head…

1. Determine where you will go. Knowing the approximate radius of the disaster and how far away may be ‘safe’, call a friend or family in the safe-zone if this is your preference, and if you believe that it will be OK with them. Otherwise, as quick as you can, reserve a hotel room somewhere – before everyone else books everything solid. If you wait too long, you will have to travel further for lodging.

2. Contact and gather all household members to coordinate the evacuation.

3. Immediately go out and fill your vehicles with gasoline (spare gas cans won’t hurt either) and return home to plan and pack.

4. Depending on how many vehicles will participate in your caravan, determine the space you will have to bring items with you.

5. Determine a priority plan for the items that you will take. This will depend on whether or not you expect your home to be damaged or destroyed (flood, hurricane, etc…). What you take with you will be personal decisions based on available space, survival, and monetary/sentimental value. Even though you expect to have access to food and water outside the danger zone, you should always pack some with you. Enough for a 72-hour excursion is a good rule-of-thumb for a vehicle kit. Having a roof carrier is a valuable preparedness item to have on hand ahead-of-time.

6. Pack efficiently. Put things inside of things if there are air gaps or spaces in the ‘thing’.

7. Shut off your electricity and gas to the house.

8. Beat the crowds and get out early if you can (If you have already ran this scenario and documented a plan, you will certainly be ahead of the pack).

Covering more detail about an evacuation plan could easily consume thousands of words, or even a small book! However the key here is to use this news story to inspire you to think about these types of things ahead of time.

Have a ready-made plan. If you already know where you would likely go during a given disaster scenario or evacuation, you will beat everyone else to the reservation, and to the streets!

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