Planning for a Disaster
After a disaster strikes, whether it is natural (tornado, hurricane, blizzard, etc) man-made (economic collapse, terrorism, rioting, etc) or a global catastrophe (CME, asteroid strike, nuclear war, etc) you will need plans to minimize the risk to your family and yourself.
Do you shelter in place (Bug In)? Do you evacuate (Bug Out)? When should you implement your plans? How do you find supplies after a disaster strikes?
I) Shelter in Place (Bug In)
Most disasters will be best handled with a shelter in place plan. Sheltering in place can mean staying put at your place of employment, a store, or a home. It is “where you are” when the disaster occurs. Some examples are a tornado or a severe storm that you would stay where you are when it strikes. A blizzard would be example of sheltering in place at your home. Other disasters and situations will need to be looked at on a case by case basis which will depend on the exact disaster and your home. We will be covering some basic items here and have subsections dedicated to different disasters and events that will offer more information and details that pertain to the specific situation.
Core Temperature – Just because you are staying in a building does not mean this critical segment is covered. Many disasters can cause power outages, gas mains to shut down, etc; which will leave your furnaces out of commission. Alternative heating sources like a woodstove, kerosene space heater, etc are options to our normal heating of the house. Remember to properly vent for whichever source you choose so as not to poison your family or self with carbon monoxide. Prepare to have everyone move into a portion of the house by hanging blankets, reflective space blankets, tarps, etc to make a smaller area to heat. This has several advantages for security, warmth, morale, etc depending on the disaster and the reactions of others affected.
Water – Whether you live in an urban area or rural, a power outage can mean the water supply is compromised. No power shuts down city water as well as the individual well for rural dwellers. City water may still have pressure from the water tower, but a long term event can reduce this. We recommend stocking a gallon per person per day for a disaster for drinking alone. Add plenty of stored water to be used for dishes, laundry, personal hygiene, and to flush the commode. Also, you will need potable clean water if your food requires rehydration or is dehydrated for eating, as it will require more water to be consumed since the food will pull moisture from your body for digestion. You should have a water filter(s) and other methods to sanitize the water you have stored or may collect. Have systems and/or sources to be able to collect water once the primary water source is not working. A well with a manual pump, cisterns for collecting rain water, a river or stream, a pond or lake are all options to obtain this vital life support necessity.
Food – Cooking can be another hardship if a power outage occurs. Alternative means to cook food must be planned for. A camp stove, backpacking stove, grill, outdoor barbeque, fire pit, solar cooker, etc are all different methods to be used. The actual food you stock will be personal and remember a power outage means no freezers working. At first, work to have 3 days worth of food on hand for your entire family, then strive for 7 days, next 2 weeks worth, then a month, then 3 months, then 6 months and finally a year. Canned goods, backpacking/hiking meals (freeze dried), MREs, bulk rice and dry beans are ideal; just remember to stock the foods your family will eat. Watch calories, as you want to be able to have enough calories to sustain physical labor for clean up or repairs during an emergency. After a disaster strikes, use the food in your freezer and fridge first if alternate methods of preserving these items are not available.
Light – Lanterns, candles, chemical light sticks, flashlights, and headlamps are needed during a power outage. While you may be able to sleep during all darkness hours, emergencies can occur that will need to be dealt with during low light or dark, or in a more remote area of the home that does not receive much ambient light. Lanterns can be purchased in fuel or battery power, some with built in solar chargers for their battery packs and fuel lanterns (propane, oil, or white gas) not only offer light but some heat as well. Candles offer some heat along with their light, have a relatively indefinite shelf life and can be easily made at home from tallow or broken crayons. All light sources that require “burning” will need ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Every member of your household should have at least 1 flashlight and 1 headlamp. This item not only provides a valuable tool during an emergency but light helps soothe nerves and maintain good morale. Battery powered devices should all use the same battery size (AA, AAA, etc) to reduce expense and maintain rotation to fresh batteries through use. Also having rechargeable batteries and chargers that offer solar or other alternative power methods are needed for long term events or events that prevent or hinder resupply during a power outage (blizzards).
Repair Materials – During a storm, debris can cause damage to your home that will need repaired immediately, even if only for a temporary basis. A large branch or tree falling during a blizzard can damage a roof or break a window which will compromise your shelter. Tarps, plywood, tape, rope, nails, screws, staples, etc can all be needed.
Tools – Along with repair materials, you will need to have the tools necessary to fix broken items or to barricade your dwelling. Hammers, screwdrivers, staplers, wrenches, pliers, wire nuts, drills (cordless), etc will be needed to attach plywood, turn off the gas main, fix broken wires, turn off water main, etc. Tools should be hand powered or at least have hand operated tools available for all functions and alternative charging systems available for your battery powered tools. Solar chargers, 12V power inverters, etc are all options for alternative power options. All battery powered tools should be of the same brand and battery type to allow exchanges and extra batteries and chargers to be stored. You should be familiar with the location and proper procedure for turning these items on and off. By having a basic home repair manual, you will have some information for things you don’t know but also a reference guide for members of your family who do not normally deal with these items.
Power – A generator is a wise investment if able. Have one at least big enough to power your freezer, fridge, fans, a light or 2, furnace, etc. Think of the basic needs and appliances and have a generator big enough to fill their energy needs. If you are able, a whole house, stand-by generator can be a Godsend during emergencies. Several companies offer not only the generators but also professional installers and estimators to help in choosing the correct generator for your needs. Solar, wind and hydro turbines are options that can help reduce your energy bills and make your home more self efficient.
First Aid – You should have a 90 day supply of any and all prescription medicines required by your family members and self. Also stock any over the counter (OTC) medications you may need. These supplies are not part of your mobile kit, so stocking large containers and more supplies here helps with major disasters. First aid will be covered under Section VIII) Medical.
Emergency Radio – You should have a battery powered radio that either has a hand crank or solar recharge option or stock plenty of batteries for the radio. You should have at least a dedicated weather channel and having emergency channels would be beneficial as well. The two-way radios that work as walkie-talkies also have models that have weather bands as well, plus give you communications with other family members. Check with your local emergency crews and first responders to see if there is a certain channel they will monitor during an emergency.
Search and Rescue – The same items used for your kits are needed for the home as well. Whistles, air horns, chemical light sticks (Infrared as well), strobe lights, personal emergency locator beacons, etc can help rescuers find you if tragedy strikes. The advantage of home based items, they can be bulkier than what can be carried in a backpack but must be usable by all members of the family.
Safety – You should have multiple fire extinguishers located throughout your home. We recommend at the very least one in the kitchen, one in every adults bedroom, one in the garage, and at least one in your emergency/storm shelter/area. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are also needed. These should be hardwired for operation during normal times with a battery backup power supply. A security system is a nice addition to any preparations but it will not keep intruders out, just alert you and the authorities that an unwanted entry has been made or attempted. More on these items will be covered in Section IV)’s Home Fire and Section III)’s Defense subsections.
Pastimes – We need to have board games, cards, dice, books, magazines, etc that give something to do and occupy our down time. The disaster may only be a short duration but we may be stuck indoors or unable to watch TV or our normal pastimes. We need something to help keep everyone’s minds from dwelling on the hardships and concentrate on family bonding.
Important Documents – You will see this several times. You should have all important documents,; wills, living wills, insurance policies (with agent’s contact information), land deeds, bank account information, birth certificates, marriage and/or divorce decrees, licenses (driver’s and professional), concealed carry permits if applicable, etc stored in a fire/water proof safe. Also have electronic copies of all important documents stored on an encrypted “thumb drive” and extra copies stored at family’s house(s) and/or in a safe deposit box.
Codes – Establish codes to signify danger, all clear or identify friend or unknown. Every person associated with your preparations will need to know this information. Review, and change if necessary, these codes at preset intervals during family meetings.
Personal protective Equipment (PPE) – This is a wide ranging category personal to you.
Eye Protection (EyePro) – Safety glasses and/or goggles fit this category. You want to ensure they meet ANSI ratings for safety. You should have tinted (preferably polarized) and clear lenses for day or night travels or emergencies. You should also use a retention strap to keep the glasses in place even if you get hit by debris.
Hearing Protection (ear plugs) – If you have the resources, invest in either form fitted ear plugs like those used by band members that allow you to hear up to a certain decibel or invest in the electronic hearing protection/enhancement, these amplify light sounds while shutting off or reducing loud sounds.
Gloves – Leather work gloves or good mechanics gloves are essential for protecting your hands from broken glass, sharp metal scraps, building rubble, etc.
Footwear – Sandals or high heels are NOT proper footwear for an emergency. Wear shoes or have them available if you must wear a different shoe for work, that are comfortable to walk in, have good tread, fit the weather seasons, protect your foot from rubble and other hazards and offer support. The footwear should be well broken in BEFORE you need them, as an emergency is NOT the time to deal with blisters. Your footwear should also be fitted to your arch type. Remember, proper socks for the footwear and seasons as well. If your feet hurt, you will be slower, morale drops and you will actually start to lose your will to survive.
Dust mask – Flying debris and dirt can cause massive dust clouds that we do NOT want to breathe. Older homes may have asbestos laden plaster, so protecting your lungs is a must. If nothing else, wrap a bandana, Shelagh, or other rag around your face to cover your nose and mouth.
Chemical and biological protection – Rubber gloves, rubber boots and coveralls that can be worn over your normal clothes will help mitigate the risks encountered. The single use coveralls used by cleaning professionals are light weight and affordable. Chemical and biological protections for long term or needed due to a weaponized version, will be discussed under Section VI) 2- Terrorism B) CBRNE.