No, The Sky Ain’t Falling

But just in case it does…
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Most of us live on power grids which are increasingly subject to massive system failure. Ninety percent of you reside in areas susceptible to hurricanes or tornadoes; metro, forest or wildfires; earthquakes, flooding or avalanches; severe lightning, ice or snowstorms. Consider too, there’s no sizeable American city with resources to self-sustain for a week before its shelves are empty, prompting riots and looting, martial law or anarchy.

That’s not “scary talk,” it’s reality talk. Bad things happen with monotonous regularity—just not to all of us, all the time.

Essentially, my main point is to start from the right place in emergency planning; “from the inside out,” addressing basic health and safety needs for yourself and family for a short-term low-threat situation before launching doomsday plans. Kinda like, if you’re not sure your spare tire’s inflated, don’t start looking for a survival sanctuary 400 miles away.

I ran across some notes from past interviews with survivors of several natural and man-made catastrophes; their 20-20 hindsights on how they really should have planned for virtually any emergency, and what they didn’t have that they really needed. Aside from common sense stuff like batteries, candles and canned goods, they had some suggestions you may not have thought of:

“Shoulda Hads”

A wrench for the gas meter valve: The event was an earthquake. Structural damage took its toll, but fires and explosions from busted natural gas lines wreaked far more havoc.

“My house was damaged but still standing; almost all of our things would have been salvageable. I smelled gas right away and knew to shut it off at the meter, but I didn’t have a wrench that fit the shut-off valve!” They had to evacuate the house, and it burned with all their belongings.

“The mains up to the meters are buried and strong,” he said. “The real danger is on the house side of the meter. Now we have four (meter wrenches); one for us, three to give to neighbors—fast!”

Water filters, purifiers & containers: In the aftermath of a flood, “There was water everywhere, but it was polluted, filthy and dangerous. We had no clean water to drink, clean wounds with, bathe with and it was three days before (bottled) water got to us. Everybody got sick. One guy had a little hiker’s purifier, but we didn’t have containers to put water in and keep it clean, so everybody had to line up for one mouthful at a time. Another ‘must-have’ is a small hand pump. They’re cheap, but worth a fortune in an emergency.”

Dust masks—lots of them!: Following a tornado and fires, “You wouldn’t believe how much crap is in the air—dust, fibers, organic stuff, heavy smoke full of oils, asbestos and God knows what. The movies show people with scarves over their faces, but they’re about useless. You need house-painting or medical dust masks; cheap and effective.

“We had to walk miles to an aid center through clouds of choking crap. Our daughter went into respiratory distress and we were all coughing up black stuff for weeks. Now we have Breath of Life Emergency Escape Masks and a couple dozen regular dust masks.”

Dental Emergency Kit: During an earthquake a former EMT with a volunteer fire department fell through his buckled bedroom floor to his ground floor. “It’s embarrassing,” he said. “I of all people should have thought of it. My two medical kits were almost perfect, but … my injuries weren’t bad except I broke a tooth and lost a big filling. The pain was excruciating and constant, 24/7, and horrible every time air hit it. All I needed was some dental wax, a temporary filling mix … for Pete’s sake, the kits are only 10 bucks at the drug store!”

When disaster strikes, an old crowbar beats a Platinum VISA card hands down.

Mundane But Mandatory

Crowbar and shovel: Laughing, another earthquake survivor said, “You’d never believe how valuable a common, ordinary crowbar and a good, hefty shovel could be. I lived in a townhouse! What would I need with those? But I also lived on a fault line. I should have known.” Whether affecting a rescue of victims trapped under debris or trying to salvage possessions, a crowbar and shovel can be of inestimable worth.

“I had a big screwdriver and a butcher knife—pathetic. I didn’t even have a good pair of work gloves. When search and rescue showed up, what did they have? Pry bars, crowbars and shovels! I paid a lot of attention to stuff they had and later, made a list for myself.”

Tarps, lines, bungee cords: Laughter came easily for a hurricane victim too, but only long after the fact.

“Have you ever tried camping out in your own house, with the roof gone, cold rain pouring in and wind howling through? We had food, water and a white gas stove, but we needed shelter! How stupid was I? Heavy duty tarps and lines are really useful anyway, and heavy rubber bungees! If there’s no flex, no give-and-take on your lines, the wind will rip everything to shreds. Now the whole family knows how to make a storm shelter from tarps. If it happens once, it can happen again.”

Charged extra cell phone batteries or power backup: In disasters, cell phone service is often the first utility to go out, and the first to come back online. But if your phone is dead when that happens ….

“A dozen of us had cell phones,” a survivor reported, “And we never thought to turn them off when the service went out, to conserve their batteries. We could have taken turns checking every hour. When it came back on all our phones were dead. Have spares charged and a DC charger too!”

And finally, zipped lips: I’ll let this one stand on its own.

“I never should have told my neighbors about our emergency supply caches. I envisioned myself as the good guy, helping them out. I never imagined they’d come, scared, desperate and angry, demanding everything or they’d kill us for it.”

That kinda leads to the need for guns and guts—but you’ve got that covered, right?

Connor OUT