Jason Charles knows the exact moment he will lead his wife and five kids out of their Harlem home, pile into a car, and take off for the wilderness. It will be not long after Ebola reaches the population of New York City, hospitals overflow, and looting begins—when the first riots break out on the streets of Manhattan.
“Right now it isn’t bad, but if the first case happens in New York, you start hearing about hundreds or thousands of people getting sick and it shotguns through the city, then you want to start getting your plan together to leave,” says the 37-year-old fireman and dedicated prepper. When that happens, he says, “it’s a free fall, that’s the system breaking down.”
But the moment of evacuation is delicate. Skipping work, pulling the kids out of school—all of these decisions have lasting consequences. “If you leave too early, you look like an idiot; if you leave too late, you could be dead,” Charles says.
Nationally, the number of Americans concerned that Ebola will shoot through the population is skyrocketing. According to a Wednesday poll by the Harvard School of Public Health, 52 percent of Americans surveyed said they believe the country will experience a large outbreak in the coming year, while 38 percent said they believed they or a family member would be infected.
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