Five Tips to Help You Prepare for a Disaster

In the wake of yesterday’s piece on building a proper bug-out bag for emergency situations, a lot of comments mentioned the growth in popularity of shows and content revolving around doomsday prepping. Instead of having just 72 hours worth of supplies in a given space, folks are making ready plans to deal with what they perceive as an inevitable doomsday that may come in one of several forms.

Polar shifts, an oil crisis, nuclear war, major earthquakes, and even alien invasions are on the lists of ways the Earth might suffer a catastrophic event destined to destroy civilization as we know it. Not the least of which is the popular assertion that the world will end when the Mayan calendar reaches the finish line of its current cycle in December of 2012.

For that matter, analysts are debating whether or not the Mayan calendar has already passed its expiration date as we take into account leap years and other adjustments made by modern man.

Either way, the threat of nuclear war, natural disaster, or even something as far-fetched as alien invasion could be possible, even if not presently plausible. The people you see building doomsday vaults and bullet-proof bunkers on TV are real folks, and most of them believe that they will be able to provide for themselves and even others in what could be an eventual downfall of civilization.

If there is one thing Hurricane Katrina taught America, it’s that nothing is certain. I’ve visited New Orleans on multiple occasions, each time hearing about the city being below sea level and the only thing keeping it dry were a series of pumps and a wall. This was a known threat facing the city, but people remained despite this very potential catastrophe. Sometimes, even the most obvious threats to your safety are the ones you really don’t expect to present themselves in your lifetime.

Here are five tips that can help you, should you survive the initial brunt of a catastrophic disaster.

Store Plenty of Food and Water

FEMA recommends that every home have at least three days of food and water stored in the event of an emergency. Prior to a hurricane coming through, grocery stores are usually flooded by last-minute preppers in an attempt to buy whatever bottled water and/or food is available. The scenes of empty shelves is more common than you might think.

I grew up near the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. When a hurricane threatened to make landfall, people would rush to the stores and buy duct tape, water, and canned goods en mass. The time spent running to the store and back could be spent preparing your home by boarding up windows, securing vehicles, or even simply getting out of dodge.

If a major earthquake were to hit, the water supply would undoubtedly be at risk. Pipes can crack or break altogether, water pressure could be lost, and outside elements could make their way into the supply, turning it toxic.

Food is another essential ingredient to life, and one that isn’t easily replenished in times of crisis. It took the U.S. government five days to get water to a location we knew people were located at en mass. Imagine how long it would take to get these lifesaving supplies to someone on their own?

Plan for Multiple Exit Strategies

No one has a home that can truly be called a secured fortress. Even the folks on TV that spend tens of thousands on dollars on their bunkers are recommended to have an exit strategy. Plan at least two routes from your current location to a secondary staging ground somewhere far away.

Roads may be blocked by debris, traffic jams may happen, and in the event of war — you have to expect resistance wherever you may go. Ultimately, you’ll want to coordinate with friends and/or family to rendezvous somewhere safe and move as a group. Safety in numbers can be a good thing.

Having a bug-out bag, AWOL pack, or crash bag at the ready for the inevitable is also a good idea. You can’t rely on your home alone to provide what you need to survive. If you need to exit, make sure you have something packed and ready to do so at a moment’s notice.

If Your State and/or Region Allows You to Possess Firearms, Get One

Unfortunately, being armed is recommended in times of life-threatening crisis. You may have a stockpile of supplies and/or a good bag of equipment at your side, but if someone feels that they need what you have to survive, you may have to defend yourself.

In the U.S., we have an amendment that grants every citizen the right to bear arms. While the meaning of this amendment is highly debated even today, the basic idea of being able to defend your family from enemy invasion is rarely disputed. It was a rule originally put in place as families faced a very real threat of an opposing military pushing itself onto their land for the purpose of replenishing supplies and/or claiming the home as a base of operations.

I’m not saying everyone should go out and stockpile guns and ammo, but when the time comes, the presence of a firearm can be a powerful deterrence to anyone that would mean you harm in desperate times.

Establish Alternative Energy and Communication Solutions

You never want to be caught in a position where electricity and/or communications is completely lost to you. Pick up a radio at your nearby outdoor supply store that allows you to communicate directly with people in your area. When emergency strikes, sometimes even those relatively inexpensive walkie talkies can save your life as the primary 40 bands are monitored and/or used by others in your immediate area.

LED lanterns, flashlights, emergency phones (old cell phones with 911 capability), flare guns, reflective blankets, and other devices that can be used to signal for help should be charged and ready at all times. Simply standing on your roof and signaling for help may not be enough to be spotted by rescuers. Even something as simple as a flare gun can mean the difference between life and death.

Establish Relationships With Your Neighbors

One problem with modern society is that we rarely get to know our neighbors. In the past, neighbors were your friends and neighborhoods would frequently know its members well. If your neighborhood or apartment complex has meetups, attend them from time to time and get to know the people who live around you.

Knowing the people who live around you makes you a community, and a small community is the one form of civilization that can endure past the worst. During Hurricane Katrina, many people felt lost and isolated, despite being surrounded by other victims. Not knowing the people around you can make you feel that way, as you don’t have any experience with that person to properly sense their intentions. There were communities that stuck together, and were better off for doing so.

We’re conditioned to be wary of people we don’t know. It doesn’t take much to reach out and establish that first contact, drastically changing that person’s point of view about you. In the event of a crisis, finding or offering help is much more likely to be well received if that established acquaintanceship exists.

Final Thoughts

I’ve lost almost everything I owned before, and it wasn’t due to some catastrophic event or even an act of nature. A water pipe leading to my water heater was improperly set and came undone. Hours of water flooding into my apartment resulted in everything becoming so saturated that the brick outside leaked. Within two days, my apartment and everything in it was covered in black mold which I had not been aware was already growing on the outside of one of the closet walls resulting from a leak that had taken place months before.

I lost furniture, clothes, computers, and just about anything else I couldn’t salvage before the mold had set in.

During the period after Hurricane Katrina and Rita, I spoke with dozens of families that had been impacted by these storms. Many of them lost everything they had and knew to this one terrible event. Some of them lost friends and family, and almost all of them lost their homes and worldly possessions.

I’ll never forget a conversation with a particular evacuee that told me she went back in to her home, despite it being flooded to the waist, to retrieve her family album. She told me that if there was one thing she regretted, it was not taking the time to prepare for what would have happened.

You don’t have to face a global pandemic or shifting of the poles for basic preparedness and pre-planning to come in handy. Even something as simple as putting some extra food away now and then or reaching out and saying hello to your neighbor can make a big difference in your life.

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