Sydney and the Evacuation

By E. R. Haroldsen

“Grandpa, what do you do in vak-way-shun,” asked Sydney?

“Do you mean evacuation?”

“That’s what I said. Vak-way-shun. On a cartoon, they were going to vak-way-shun a planet.”

“I see. Well, if someone says you must vak-way-shun, the first thing you do is to open your mouth and shout, ‘Mommy!’”

He glanced down at Sydney. She appeared to have understood him but she was still listening. She nodded thoughtfully and then asked, “And then what do you do?”

“Well, that depends upon why you have to evacuate. Is there a forest fire or a flood or is it to give the firemen room to move. Maybe the police are looking for some bad guy.

“You have to know something about why you are leaving and where you are going. Is it just you, or you and some neighbors or is it an entire city or a planet?

“For instance, some people in New Orleans were told to gather at the stadium before hurricane Katrina. They were told to leave their stuff behind because they would be going back home in a few hours, as soon as the storm was over. But after the storm, their houses were either gone or it was under water.

“So there they were, in a big building with a leaky roof, no food, no water, no toilets. Nothing.” He pointed a finger at Sydney. “You have to have a plan.”

“So how do we get a vac-way-shun plan?”

“The first place to look is in the telephone book.”

Sydney looked doubtful. “Why a telephone book?”

“Almost everybody has a telephone book and that is a good place to put things that the family should know about.”

He flipped open the book. “It should be at the front where everybody can find it. And look,” Grandpa pointed. “Community Emergency Guidelines. It has emergency phone numbers, a how to make a disaster kit, and what to take.

“If that isn’t good enough, you can go to ready dot gov.” He turned to the computer, typed in the address, and up popped an orange and green screen. It even has a page for kids.”

Sydney looked at the screen for a few seconds. Grandpa noted that she was paying attention but didn’t seem to understand. Slowly she turned and looked at him.

“But Grandpa,” said Sydney. She looked concerned as if she didn’t know how to say something. “I don’t know how to read.”

Grandpa instantly realized, she had certainly caught him on that one.

“Well,” said Grandpa, “Sometimes people who do know how to read don’t do it. So you are already one step ahead of them.

“I heard about one guy in an evacuation . . .

* * * * *

Bruce looked at the long lines of cars what had converted a six lane freeway into the world’s longest parking lot. Everyone in the whole world was trying to escape a city that was at risk of become the world’s newest swamp. The hurricane was coming and people, remembering the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, were taking the evacuation order seriously.

A policeman on a motorcycle was slowly moving between the cars. He looked almost as hot and tired as Bruce felt. He wasn’t even wearing his helmet, but had it tied off on the back of the bike frame.

Bruce leaned out the window. “What’s happening up there? What’s the hold up?”

“Too many people. Too many cars. Not enough gas. Not enough time.”

“So where are our government officials? Aren’t you guy supposed to protect people? Why didn’t we have a better warning? Why can’t you get people moving?”

The policeman paused, as if he was debating whether to respond, or just keep moving. Finally he spoke. “The governor ordered an evacuation two days ago. The roads were open then.”

“I had to have time to board up my house and pack the car. I can’t be expected to drop everything, hop in the car and leave. “

“Were you living here last year?”

Bruce nodded.

“Then you remember the hurricane that almost hit.”

Again he nodded.

“So wasn’t that a pretty good warning about the risk?”

Bruce didn’t bother to respond.

“Last year, did you prepare your valuables, buy plywood for the windows, and get easy to load tubs so you could pack and run?

“No, not after the hurricane. I don’t think anyone did that after the hurricane.” Then he added, “And did you do that? Is your house ready?”

The policeman looked away at nothing in particular. He took a deep breath and answered almost so it couldn’t be heard, “No. I didn’t do any thing. My family is stuck somewhere on the west turnpike and things are no better there.” He looked back at the driver, and for a moment they both understood each other. They both had had plenty of time but neither had done anything. Now both were stuck in the same last minute traffic problem.

“Yeah. Sorry to hear that,” said Bruce. “Have a nice day,” and he didn’t even sound sarcastic.

The policeman nodded with a half smile as he started to pull away, “Have a nice day yourself.”

Bruce started his engine and moved the car forward 20 feet. He knew if he didn’t, someone would move into the space.


“What are you doing, Sydney,” asked Grandma.

“I’m making a vac-u-ation kit.” Her pronunciation was improving. She held up a red back pack.

“And what are you putting in it?”

“Everything I might need if I have to vac-u-ate.”

Grandma looked in the pack. “Well, Sydney. Since you are here in my house on vacation and since you brought everything you need in a suit case, you’re already prepared.”

Sydney nodded. Grandma was right. Then she perked up. “When I get home, I’ll need a vac-u-ation kit.”

“But Sydney, I’m sure you will want to put you pajamas in your kit and you want to wear them at night. How do you do both?”

Sydney could see the problem.

Grandma got a piece of paper and sat it on the desk. “Here’s what we can do. We’ll make a list of what you might need. If you have a good list and if your room isn’t a mess, you can fill your pack with everything in less than a minute. And then you’ll be ready to go.”

“But Grandma, I don’t know how to read.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll draw picture of each thing.” She made a sketched shirts, pants, socks, shoes, a bottle of water, snacks, books and her pajamas.

“And here is the most important part. I’ll write the phone numbers of who you should call.”

Sydney perked up. “I can do numbers.”

“Great! You can call for help or to just tell your relatives where you are. Who do you want to call?”

“I’m going to call you,” said Sydney. “Then I’ll call Aunt Lisa and Aunt Nicky.”

“Those are good choices.”

“Why didn’t Grandpa tell me to do this?”

“Grandpa has good ideas, but, sometime, Grandma has better ones.”


About erharoldsen

Information about Family Life, Family History, Humor, Emergency Response, Disaster Preparation, Latter-day Saint Religion (Mormon) and other stuff that tickles me. Contact me through erharoldsen at But use the @ symbol. (This helps me avoid spam.)
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