In an Emergency – Part 4

As we continue the overview of self-preparedness it is important to realize that nothing, absolutely nothing will go as planned. If it does congratulate yourself on your success, but at the same time look and see what is about to fall that will change what has worked so far. At times, it seems that once you’ve been knocked down by the fury of nature, she is not satisfied until everything is destroyed. It makes it sound like we are talking about a living, breathing, thinking entity, which we are not, but at times because of the way things go down you would swear that it is so.

We left off with food in the last post in this series, and here we will begin again at this point. In that apartment setting because of the very limitations that you face, something along the lines of MRE’s would be a simple solution. They are available almost everywhere. Unfortunately they have a shorter shelf life, but even stale it is still food. Whereas the people who live in the single dwelling homes have the ability to store more, and it would be easier to get a few months, to up to a year of the emergency supplies that generally have that 25 year shelf life. Remember, the difference between these two products are that MRE’s self heat, can be eaten immediately, and the other products do not self-heat, and require preparation.

Shelter. If the structure that you are living in becomes destroyed this will leave you exposed to the elements. So camping tents, something that is meant for the elements, allow you a way to escape to a place that is dry or out of the sun. And if nothing else those plastic tarps that most hardware stores sell can be formed into temporary shelters. Add to this sleeping bags because your bedding will not generally work for this need, and again these bags are meant for this kind of use. Extra line, extra poles, extra tent pegs all critical in this emergency supply. Again everything is finite, nothing is available, so you must do with what you have on hand. Do you have a hand axe? One that will allow you to split wood for a fire if necessary, and at the same time allow you to drive those tent pegs into the ground? If you are an avid camper, as many are, then this portion is simple. After all you face this every time you camp. If not talk with someone who is. In fact talk to more than one. Each who camp have their own ideas of what is necessary. And if they are avid campers, it won’t take much to get them to talk about it. The real problem might be in shutting them up.

Medical. You should have a complete first aid kit on hand. And you really need to keep it up to date and add to it since the ones that you purchase usually are lacking in many areas. Get a first aid handbook and be sure that it is part of that kit. If you are on serious prescription medicines make sure you will have a source available if this emergency becomes long-term. And if you have the time, take a Red Cross first aid course. Understand what you need to do to save a life. After all, even though none of us necessarily want to be in that situation, we can find ourselves there. And it is better to know what you need to do then kick yourself later because you didn’t. And if the one you could have saved dies, you will be reliving it for the rest of your life.

Now, how can I say that? Because for me, I have 2 incidents where people died, and while I could not have saved at least one of them, and the other I’ll really never know. But there was a great possibility that I was the only chance this other had. And to this day, I look back at both of those incidents and wonder if I could have made the difference and if at least one of those would be alive today. Of course there’s really no way of knowing, but that doesn’t prevent me from wondering. And in a sense, at certain times, they do come back to haunt me.

Clothing. It may or may not be something that one thinks about, but is very necessary, yet many die of exposure everyday. If you are one who must wear a suit, with the accompanying shoes, then for the job this is fine, but not for the survival situation. What you normally wear will not hold up, or protect you when you are out in the elements and under harsh conditions. So you need to consider what would be important to survive either heat or cold, and whether you’re under a monsoon, heavy thunderstorms, heat, humidity, the dry heat of the desert, or the freezing temperatures of winter. Whatever your most likely situation then the clothing you need is already known to you – have it available. Oh and footwear is critical, have a good pair of boots with a non-slip sole.

Sanitation. Remember that many die because of the diseases caused by improper sanitation. And women out there remember to include a good supply of what you need for your monthly cycle. It is something that is easy to forget about until it arrives. And this must be disposed of in a trash bag and not flushed. If you are fortunate enough to have 2 toilets and both are still functioning then one should be used strictly for liquid, and emptied occasionally, while the second for solid waste and emptied each time, using water that you have from your bathtub that was filled before the disaster for this purpose. And of course, be sure to have a bucket on hand so that you can use only the amount of water necessary to flush the toilet. This isn’t pretty, nor does it smell nice, but it works. And if broken and unusable there are relative cheap portable solutions available for your kit.

And you will find that getting your cooking equipment clean and sanitary is a problem also. Think about using paper plates and bowls with plastic forks and spoons, with a specific area with trash bags designated for specific garbage. While this may not seem to be good for the environment, it still allows you to help keep the diseases away caused by improper sanitation and disposal of trash. We talked briefly about water availability and when we consider the need to clean those pots and pans after cooking a meal, for health reasons they need to be cleaned. Use as little of the water as possible and you will find that many times the wash and rinse water can be used more than once. Be careful and err on the side of caution. Getting sick during such a time is a fast way to getting yourself into trouble.

Remember that these emergencies can strike without any warning. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be nature that unleashes her fury. It could be an industrial disaster, terrorist attack, civil unrest, and so many other unanticipated events that can leave us homeless for a period of time. Any of these mentioned can be devastating and if unprepared, in danger of dying. None of us can be prepared for everything, but by being somewhat prepared it will leave you with a better chance to survive than the one who isn’t. And there is nothing wrong with going out and assisting wherever you are needed. It is during these times that there are many unknown heroes who are out doing all they can to assist those in need.

But, to be able to do this, you must first save yourself, your family – otherwise you cannot join the many who are out there trying to make a difference. And once the situation changes, the emergency is over, and everything returns to a semblance of normal, they, the ones who assisted, return to their lives satisfied with what they accomplished, not looking for praise, or recognition for where they helped. After all, it is enough that they were there.

I mentioned in an earlier post that while this disaster that fell upon you caused you hardship, it seems that once the immediate danger is over that the local politicians come out, set up town hall meetings, answer questions, and promise everything that is asked. Then, at a later time, when you try a pin them down to those promises it like talking to a brick wall. Many, including myself believed these empty promises and found that they weren’t going to honor any of them. And once we had to face the county administration everything that we tried to do was refused. Then this same county board of supervisors passed regulations further restricting what the ones who lived in the backcountry could do with their properties. Restricting it to the point that one could own land in the backcountry, but could do no more than that other than to pay the taxes on that unusable land.

Remember that the American people are a generous people, and when something major happens – the donations, the assistance, and the outpouring is overwhelming. It can leave you, as a victim of the disaster, humble. Realizing that strangers that you will never meet, and have no knowledge of you personally, have given all they can to help. So while there can be much negativity during such a disaster, there is still that positive outpouring that keeps us believing in our fellow-man.

So, in conclusion let’s go over once again what we are looking at for one’s personal survival. As always it is the same for your everyday life. Food, water, shelter, medical, communication, protection, a working plan with alternative ideas, and in all cases using the KISS principle. After all too complicated invites failure. And you will see enough of that happening with what you’ve planned anyway. And finally, remember that these events do not usually happen when you expect it and Murphy will always play a big role in the outcome.

Good luck with your own emergency planning, and do not put it off because something else seems to have more importance at that particular moment. Because procrastination can lead to failure. And failure here could mean your death. I don’t know about you personally, but I choose life if I have the option. In most scenarios the cities do create evacuation centers for the ones most affected by these events. But, again, one cannot necessarily count on this, or being able to reach one of these shelters. So in the end, it is better to be prepared and self-sufficient then find yourself in an untenable situation.

The earlier posts on this subject can be found in the sidebar under April 2014.



In an Emergency – Part 3

Again what I’m writing here is a personal view on the subject. Partly because I’ve lived through a natural disaster and do understand what must be faced, and also I had a number of failures within this disaster that allowed me to look back on what was done wrong.

Before I get into what I think is important to have on hand I want to talk briefly about attitude. This is a tough one because the wrong attitude can lead to mistakes, not that you won’t make many anyway, but the types of mistakes that can really change the outcome of your circumstances. If your attitude is such that you expect assistance, then you have a greater chance of failing. When nature unleases her fury, there’s nothing humanly possible one can do but ride it out and hope for the best. And as stated earlier – if it is your time, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change it.

Here is an overview of what transpired in our situation. Before this fire approached we were preparing to defend the property. After all, we were confident that with the clearing we had done in the past that we would be successful – wrong. We weren’t and because of the intensity of this fire everything was lost. Lesson 1: Do not become overconfident because of your preparation for such an event. If you are, then some of the things you should or must do will not be accomplished and you will pay the price for this overconfidence. Fortunately for us it was loss of property and not life.

Here we were positive, because of the work that had been done before hand, that the planned defense would work, our homes would be standing and the fire would pass us by. Sure it would get crazy for a short period of time, and we’d be uncomfortable, but in the end, we would be able to congratulate ourselves on our successful defense. This meant that items that should have been removed from those homes were not, and when we could not defend as planned these items were lost forever. And one of those critical items was our emergency kit.

I’ve found that this same attitude of over-confidence can easily exist within the volunteer search and rescue teams and the individuals who make it up. They feel, because of their experience, their training, and the exercises that they run that they can tackle anything, any emergency, any situation and will come out whole. This attitude creates a blind spot that allows them to place themselves into situations where they do not have the expertise. And by not having the expertise find themselves in trouble because what should have been recognized as critical and dangerous was not.

Okay, lets look around our home for a moment and see what works now, and what will not be functioning during an extended emergency. Electricity, water, sewage, cook stove, building buttoned up against the elements, lighting, heating, cooling, communications through either the media, telephone, or internet and so many things we don’t ever think about because they are always there and as a result we take all for granted. Yet, if the disaster is big enough absolutely none of this is guaranteed. In this mix we can add security since the law enforcement that patrols the area and keeps crime down by their presence will, most likely, in such a scenario, not be available for any assistance at all.

And if you’ve never lived without these modern conveniences then you are in for a shock. So it is important to take each and every aspect of what you see and find out exactly what you need, and what can be ignored. Use the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle. After all, the more complicated one makes it the more chances for failure. And have a contact out of the area so that once you are able to make contact once again, they can relay the information on to all who are concerned.

Okay, lets begin, and for you pacifists out there you will not like this one: Protection, plain and simple. There will be no one to call, no one to be able to come over and take away the bad guy who happens to want what you have. There was a Twilight Zone episode that in its way reflected this very issue showing how quickly society breaks down and the resulting chaos that ensues. So get a weapon of some kind, and learn how to use it. For those who aren’t very good or accurate, then I recommend a shotgun. Not many are going to argue against one. And most of us, including me, hope never to be in a situation where such a thing is needed, but if faced with it, then you had better be prepared. And, of course, be sure that you have plenty of ammunition, cleaning equipment, and such for your weapon of choice. After all you cannot go down to your sporting goods store after the fact and get what you need. And if you are uncomfortable with these weapons get a gun safe or something similar where they can be locked up until needed. Remember that when society breaks down chaos and anarchy reigns supreme. And until order is restored – good or bad – the strong will control, and survive.

Now that we’ve begun to think in the direction of survival, what would be next on our list? Food and water, and the latter would be more critical than the former because you can live longer without food. So a couple of ideas for water comes immediately to mind. First off having bottled water stored somewhere in your home is a start. But if this becomes a long term event, eventually you will run out of this source. So having a way to purify that water to make it safe is just as important. There are a number of products on the market that can fill this need. But there are other ways that can work if necessary. Examples would be boiling all of your water, or setting up a simple filtration system like what nature uses. There’s a few videos that shows how to construct and use such on the internet, and I believe, available on YouTube.

But, if your stove is down, how are you going to boil your water, let alone cook your food? Hmm, a problem for sure. That means a part of your home emergency kit must include a portable cook stove, like is used for camping. I recommend one that uses white gas or camp fuel and not the ones that use those small propane bottles. It’s so much easier to keep a few gallons of the fuel on hand then trying to store numerous bottles of propane. And while on the subject of fuels, add some kerosene – good as a fuel for those kerosene or oil lanterns to provide light. You’ve all seen them used in those old westerns, although do not expect the amount of light seen there. And, of course, that same fuel, white gas, can be used in what I’ve always known as Coleman lanterns. (Be sure to have lots of extra wicks.) Oh yes, be sure to have a funnel, it reduces spillage. Critical information here: Remember that all of these units produce carbon monoxide, so ventilate properly. Plus we are dealing with fire here, so an extinguisher would be as important, as well as placing these items in areas where they will not get knocked over. Oh yes, do not mix up the fuels as this could lead to a spectacular failure.

And I can say, other than camping, that I’ve had quite a bit of experience using the above mentioned items. As has been stated, I was raised in the backcountry on a small ranch. We had part-time power, no phone, and used wind to pump our water. There was a period of time where we had no power because the generator died, and for a couple of years we used those Coleman and kerosene lanterns for light at night. No forced air heating in that poorly built and poorly insulated home, we heated by a wood stove. And after everyone was in bed, a couple of the kerosene lanterns were left burning to allow any to walk through the house without killing one’s self. One was placed in the bathtub and the second on the kitchen table. Between the 2 they provided enough light to be able to make that trip to the bathroom if it became necessary.

As far as your food consider something that has already been created for this purpose. There’s been a lot of work that has gone into the preparation of these emergency supplies including up to a 25 year shelf life. Again, where you are living at the time could have an impact on what you keep and store for such emergencies. Here I’m referring to your actual residence. If, for example, you live in an apartment, your needs and space available will be somewhat different than the one who lives in the country with acreage. And this is why what I’m writing in this series of posts is more of an overview than getting into lists of what is required. Again, there is much out there that you can find and use to get those answers. It is important to keep yourself educated, and truthfully until you ride out such a disaster you will never know if you have it right.

As we will move on to part four I will continue to cover what I see as important – so until next time, please read and reread what is here so that you can gain an understanding, an attitude, so that you always are looking at what may be necessary. It can easily become a habit that sits in your subconscious mind always seeing the many possibilities that are available, so many things that can help you survive a disaster. You will find, in the end, that it takes little to keep one comfortable, and feeling safe. You learn that while all those modern conveniences are nice, they are not necessary to live or to stay alive.

Again in the side bar April 2014 will have the complete 4 part series in the near future. So if you missed parts 1 and 2 it is there presently. And next week wraps up this series on surviving a disaster. I hope that what I’m presenting will never be needed, but if so, that it is helpful in your personal preparation.

In an Emergency – Part 2

Remember, as we go through this subject in this series that it will be more of an overview, thoughts on the subject, and personal experience. Because each of us live in a different place, face different disasters, and have different needs, what you can or should put together and have available, will differ. Overall the purpose of this series is to get you to think about your personal survival, your situation, and the factors that will give you the best chance to ride out whatever disaster you are facing. If you have no experience, then look to the available resources, which could include public information from such places as the Office of Emergency Services, libraries, the internet, and even your local volunteer search and rescue.

As we look at a possibility of such a thing happening it is important, even critical to remember that everything that you will be working with is finite. You will be limited to what you have on hand, or what you have cached. While, many times after a disaster, supplies become available and believe me it’s nice when they do, you cannot necessarily count on that happening. And because of our ability to rely on the supposedly infinite availability of goods and services it is difficult to realize that these will not be available at all. In other words, you cannot go down to that local store and purchase something that you need or have forgotten once that disaster has happened.

So immediately one must change their mindset and really look at what they have, and if what they have is adequate for their needs. And needs is the critical word here. Wants to do not apply. Mindset or attitude is probably one of the most important aspects of all of this. This includes before, in your preparation, during, when the event is happening, and after, how you respond to your own personal recovery. And you must not expect police, fire, and rescue to be there for you. Everything must be covered by you personally – and this means everything.

In such an emergency you must realize that if you must abandon where you are, or happen to be away from your home that the roads will not handle the traffic, even if they were undamaged by the event. These roads were never constructed with the idea that they could handle every family, and every vehicle within a short period of time. So one must have more than one way to move, other than the known or lesser known arteries. And at all times, we must be looking at the basics, the very things that will allow us to survive this disaster. Unfortunately even with the best planning it can be for naught if you become one of the victims. All the planning in the world will not change anything if it is your time.

An example of this is what happened in one of those large wildfires in the west. In this particular disaster the fire was at many homes before the owners realized that it was even close. In the backcountry a family began their run in their personal vehicles down one of the many backcountry single lane roads with the father leading and the mother and part of the family following. Again, because of the rapidity of the spread of this particular fire there had been no warning. So they were driving through areas where the was fire burning – but what else could they do? And while there was never much separation between the vehicles, he made it out safely, and the rest of the family perished.

We need to look at what is required to survive. Yet, at the same time we have to remember that there are others who have gone through the very same disaster, didn’t plan for it, expected immediate rescue and support, and when none of this arrived, have nothing. In those desperate situations, when life is on the line, the ones who didn’t do what was necessary, will be out scavenging, and many could care less where they get what they need. And with law enforcement overwhelmed, the ones who have always worked in the shadows will be out to steal whatever they can, and if it means they hurt or kill someone – so what.

Survival can bring out either the best in people, or the worst. So in these situations you can only trust yourself, your family, and whoever else you’ve included in your group. Consider them your tribe, if nothing else. And until order is restored it can be just as it was in our primitive past. One tribe against another. You rarely hear it in the news, and because of how we live, we do not expect it, but look at any place in the world where refugees are common. Really look at what’s going on, and you can see that behind what is being reported is this dark side of all of us. After all, if I am to live one more day, and it requires that I steal to do it, taking that chance away from another – so be it. At least that seems to be the attitude for many. Remember, when society breaks down it leaves the strongest behind. And just because they are the strongest, doesn’t guarantee that they are good people. Generally most are good people only wanting to help, but ask anybody who has survived a disaster and see how many tell you of the flim-flammers and such that came into their communities to sell a false bill of goods. When a disaster strikes the predators will soon arrive.

Remember that there’s no guarantee that what you’ve put away for emergencies will be available to you when that disaster strikes. In our case we had emergency supplies saved, had just finished a shop for groceries and necessities that previous Friday to the tune of over $300, and lost every item to the fire. So even preparation, the  planning, and believing one is ready, is no guarantee that it will work the way you have planned. Still it is better to have a plan in place than to go willy-nilly about running in circles yelling “woe is me”. Because, if nothing else, by having that mindset you are still better prepared than the ones who believe that it will never happen.

So as we look at this overview of what is possible, what will not be available, and how one should act, react, and prepare, I’ll continue next time on what I believe is necessary. This again is a personal view, and with all that is out there covering this subject there will be other views, admonitions, requirements, and suggestions. For each of us it is important to look over much of what is available on the subject, look at your own particular situation, and work from there. There are no perfect solutions or answers to any of this, and you must be prepared to change your direction, your plans in a moment of time.  Because when such a thing strikes, it’s never as assumed. And do not count on what is being broadcast to be accurate or timely, because it is usually filled with misinformation, misdirection, and inaccuracies that could lead you to personal disaster. Yes, it’s important to listen, but using what is heard for an overview of the situation and that’s all.

We become used to the facts we are given by our media, but it is important to remember that most of the time in these situations they know no more than you. And because of the situation they are making it up as they go, just as you are. Unfortunately because of this, rumors, innuendos, false information, and other inconsistencies, are passed out as fact. And what is relayed changes by the minute. To be honest and I repeat myself, they really don’t know any more than you do and are grabbing at anything themselves. And because they have the airwaves all this bad information reaches far too many.

For any who are picking up this series look to the month of April 2014 in the side bar. There, the series will complete by the end of the month, and be available.

In an Emergency – Part 1

What is written below, and in the continuing posts are personal observations and thoughts on this subject. These posts are dealing with major events and not the daily small emergencies that we all face. Personally I have lived through one such emergency or disaster and the resulting chaos.

Where will you be? Now that is usually the question that is asked, but why, since we never plan to be involved in one – a disaster that is. So why would we even know where we might be at that very moment? When they do happen Murphy usually has a great influence over the circumstances and where we might actually be. And even if you have that home emergency kit all set to go, if you happen to be at work, or miles from home what good does it do you? And if you truly think about it, we spend equal to more hours away from home than we do at home. And we can add to this the costs involved in setting up an emergency kit, and necessary supplies. So it can leave us with the question – why should I invest the time, effort, and money, when there are equal odds that I may not be close to where my emergency supplies are located or find that I never have need of such?

For most of us money is an issue and even though it is something that all of us should have (an emergency kit), for most, me included, it is a luxury that one cannot afford. Still it is important to have one. Although, like my protagonist in the book, The Woman in the Snow, I have made sure that my wife has a 3 day supply of emergency goods in her vehicle. That way if something happened that kept her separated from home then she would have enough supplies to cover a minimum of 3 days. And speaking of 3 days, just where did that often quoted, ones in the know always seem to use, arrive at that number? I know from personal experience that 3 days is rarely enough unless it is a minor emergency such as a storm that has come in and knocked out power. But if it is worse than this then 3 days can barely touch what is necessary to survive.

In a real true emergency it can be weeks, and even months before things return to a semblance of normal. And while much of what is suggested for your kits are great, I have a tendency to shake my head at some of those suggestions. It becomes obvious to me that we are dealing with people who have lived in the city all their lives and haven’t a clue to what is necessary to actually survive off the grid. And in a sense that’s exactly what you are doing when the infrastructure collapses because of an event. While it is important, if it is possible, to count on the help of others, you cannot expect or anticipate that it will be that way and thusly you must plan with this scenario in mind. In other words, look at this from the perspective that you must depend on yourself alone.

There are assumptions made that are based in fiction, and expectations that just don’t happen when the event causes major damage. For the very short-term yes – long-term no. So when you begin to put together your emergency kit (and just because you have one doesn’t mean that you won’t lose it before using it) you must think about needs, protection, temporary shelter, sanitation, medical care if necessary, food, water, and some type of plan so that your family knows where to go, and where to meet. And on this last point, alternate points if the primary one is unavailable. You also need a way to communicate, and here you can forget about your cell phones. They will be no more than dead weight.

Most believe that cell phones use the airwaves to keep those lines open. While this is partially true, most cell towers also use landlines to keep those conversations moving. And, of course, those cell towers require power to operate. And if we are dealing with a major event, power is usually gone as well as the landlines. So you need something like those handi-talkies, or some other device that doesn’t require the existing infrastructure to operate. And they should have multiple channel choices, again with specific channels marked for your family to use. And here multiple is the key. Because you will not be the only one using these things. And it is surprising how often that the channel you have selected turns out to be the one most used by others. I don’t understand how this works, but it just does. So having more than one set of channels preselected is critical.

To understand the importance of what I just stated I can give you a personal example. Where we used to live wildfires were a problem. And in one of those years of severe fire danger we were burned out. We had to abandon the property, and with what we could carry in our vehicles we left when it became obvious we could not defend what we owned. We had decided on a meeting place if we were separated. Now on this property we had multiple families, all related, living in 3 homes. In my immediate family we were driving 4 vehicles, while there were numerous vehicles for the others. We were the only ones with the handi-talkies.

Again, because of the area of this disaster, once out of the area where we lived we ran into gridlock from people evacuating. This separated the caravan and it was only through these devices that we were able to keep in touch. The first area chosen to meet and get all of us back together failed miserably. In fact the other 2 families were separated from us and from that point on we never saw them again until after the event back on the property where all was a total loss. With those handi-talkies we were able to communicate and set up alternate areas to meet eventually bringing us together. Without them it probably would have been days before we found each other.

Once we were able to return to the property it was there we found the rest of the family and learned what had transpired after all of us had left and then became separated. Now, one of the many points being made here is time, as well as the importance of communication. First off, it was months before power was restored. Shelter for the families was tents and camp trailers. And with the damage done we had to reestablish water, and use generators to pump that water. Over time we had to replace water tanks, run new pipeline, and power lines underground. In other words, before any new building went up all the infrastructure had to be rebuilt. So a 3 day supply of anything, while helpful, actually fell pitifully short of what one truly needs. This is not to say that after a period of time had passed that some of what is required did not become available because it did. But it was well after that 3 day period that is stated so often. So when you look at what you plan be on the pessimistic side. Which simply stated means: Plan for the long-term and hope for the short-term.

And when I continue this in part 2, and further on in the additional posts on this subject, I’ll look at what I’ve found to be important, and to understand that your local politicians will promise you everything during your attempt to recover, but will not actually come through with any of those promises. And if you do not believe this, ask any who have been through such a disaster, and you will find that the most difficult times were the recovery and dealing with either the city or county administration. Basically all of us who had lost everything found it almost impossible to deal with the bureaucracy, and for those that had insurance, more than one were screwed over by those companies, no matter what their commercials may say.

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