Because bad things happen to good people….
Less than two months ago, over a 13-day period, 1/3 of the nation’s population was impacted by natural disasters and emergency conditions. Hurricane Irene forced hundreds of thousands from their homes, and left millions without power or potable water for a few days, to two weeks or more. Wildfires in Texas and California’s mountains destroyed over 3,000 homes, 1,939 of them over the Labor Day weekend alone. “Storm fringe” tornadoes tore up towns and rivers hit 500-year flood levels. Then all the lights went out in San Diego. Thirteen days, folks.
The lucky ones had 24 hours to evacuate their homes. Thousands had only minutes, and hundreds had seconds. Some weren’t fast enough. Millions had to hunker down in their homes, and most were miserably unprepared, lacking enough water and food for even two days, with no alternate light or heat sources at all. Mercifully, it was warm in the Northeast. When the San Diego grid went down, spreading throughout southern California, Arizona and northern Mexico, it was a balmy 85 in San Diego, but 115 degrees in the Imperial Valley when the air conditioners rattled and died.
It could have been a lot worse. Irene had fallen from a Category-3 hurricane with 140+ mph winds to a Category-1 before hitting the US coastline, then skipped offshore and fell to Tropical Storm status before smacking Coney Island, N.Y. Had she remained at Category-3 and hugged the coast, “catastrophic” wouldn’t have covered it. The monster fires, terrible as they were, could have been far worse with a change of winds. And now as I write this on the night before Halloween, 3 million people in the Northeast are without power because of an early winter snowstorm. Yeah, I’ve received a lot of questions about preparation planning.
Threes & Fives
In the May 2011 issue, I talked about some other peoples’ experiences in disaster situations. I would urge you to go to www.gunsmagazine.com and reread it in our Digital Editions for suggestions on products and hardware. This recent wave of questions is more general, essentially asking about the principles of preparation.
The following comments presume you haven’t done much prep, you’re responsible for a family, and when I refer to “stored” or “storage,” I mean stored in a relatively cool, dry place with a fairly stable temperature, away from sunlight. Think basement rather than attic, interior closet rather than against a wall subject to direct sun or deep cold.
You can’t prepare specifically for every possible situation, but you can prepare for a wide range of emergencies. Don’t run out and buy a year’s supply of “survival food,” typically sold in large containers and requiring preparation skills and hardware like grain mills, etc.—at least, not before you’ve prepared for threes and fives!
First, prepare to evacuate your home on three to five minutes notice, presuming extended help is out there somewhere, and you’ll be able to return. Second, prep for 3 to 5 days inside your home, without power, communications or other support. Third, prepare for 3 to 5 days outside or in your damaged, weather-compromised home, without support. Now add, “without showing light or making noise after dark.”
Concentrate on the basics: Water, food and shelter. You must be hydrated, nourished, warm, dry, rested and protected from infection, pests and predators, both 2- and 4-legged. Hydration is critical. Most Americans routinely run at a chronic low-level state of dehydration simply because they don’t drink enough water, wait until they’re thirsty to drink, and then gulp liquids rather than sip them. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Even mild dehydration leads to poor judgment, enervation, headaches, small-motor muscle failures and worse.
Stored canned goods last longer than you think. With those and single or 2-portion, freeze-dried “pouch” foods, first focus on foods which can be eaten without preparation, then those requiring only warming, then “just add hot water” foods. Smaller units are more easily moved, portioned out and shared.
A friend who lives in an all-electric condo in a deep-winter area just bought a 23,000 BTU portable kerosene heater and 5 gallons of fuel for under $200—a potential lifesaver. Another found a canned-fuel cooking system and supplies for 3 weeks for less than $300. The deals are out there if you look for them.
Apply the “Airline Oxygen Rule”; the rule that says you put on your own oxygen mask before trying to mask others and children. Make sure you are taken care of so you can better care for others. It’s not selfishness; it’s sensible. You’re the one who will burn the most energy, get the least sleep, experience the greatest environmental exposure and run the most risks while protecting your family. Get quality foul-weather gear and high-energy supplements for yourself!
Follow the rules of Economy, Charity and Survivability. Examples: A 24-ounce can of long-storage emergency drinking water costs $4.50, and a $30 Blast Match and WetFire Tinder is a good thing. But I recently bought four cases, 24 units each, of 16.9-ounce bottles of water for $10, and well stored, they’ll last for years. A pack of seven disposable butane lighters cost me $4.99, and that’s hundreds of lights. Now consider first, which is best for sharing with others less fortunate (“in extremis,” wise sharing creates allies, not enemies), and the value of spreading smaller, less expensive units out in different, convenient positions.
In The Aftermath
Post-disaster, infection and insects are serious threats. Use sanitizing gels liberally; clean, antibacterial-treat and bandage even minor cuts, scrapes, stings and bites assiduously. A little mosquito netting and insect repellent goes a long way toward health and comfort. Warm, protected (mosquito-free) sleep is critical; create it and enforce it. Mylar space blankets multiply the thermal value of even cheap blankets and sleeping bags.
Don’t assume kids will “eat what you give them,” hydrate themselves properly, or stay silent when they ought to. You and your mate can share a can of green beans and a tin of tuna, but for “modern kids,” provide the yummy, tasty—and expensive—freeze-dried hiker’s meals. The effect on your nerves will pay off—and help validate your sudden “bossiness.”
“Confidence calms and skills soothe”: Practice lighting that camp-cooker, erecting that tent and using emergency tools, so when your family sees you confidently, skillfully doing it, they are assured they’ll be all right.
I hope I’ve provided something helpful here. If just one of you deals with disaster better as a result, I’ll be dancin’—badly, but happily! Connor OUT.