Welcome back to our series on short-term disaster preparedness! Last time we talked about four main reasons why people fail to prepare for disasters, and why those reasons don’t hold up when faced with the evidence of what actually happens.
We had a great response to that post, but I don’t believe in raising awareness of a problem without offering some sort of solution. There’s no inherent value in just saying that Americans are woefully underprepared without also giving some action steps to remedy that. So instead of being a feature piece, it turned into the start of this series. We believe that this knowledge is always relevant, but right now, it’s also timely. Our nation is still recovering from three major hurricanes, and it’s our hope that one of the silver linings of those tragedies is that people will turn their fear into action and work to prepare themselves for whatever may come next. For today, we’ll be covering how to determine the most likely scenarios you may face, in order to help narrow down what you’ll realistically need to prepare for.
Let’s talk about narrowing parameters. I’ll go ahead and say that for this series, we’ll be exclusively covering short-term disaster prep. By short-term, we mean preparing for disasters that are local or regional in nature, do not overwhelm or destroy national response structures, and allow order to be restored in two weeks or less. If you’re up on prepper lingo, this isn’t about preparing for full-on SHTF or TEOTWAWKI – an EMP attack, economic collapse, nuclear war, or any other major national or global disaster that kicks the legs out from under society as a whole and fundamentally changes life as we know it. We’re all about preparing for those situations, and will cover our philosophies on how to do so in the future.
But as we noted in the last post on disaster prep, some 72% of Americans don’t have enough supplies to last them for three days. For some, it’s even less than that. So that’s where we’re starting. Which leads us to a good question: Where DO you start? If you’ve recently seen the light and realized your need for preparedness, the options and advice can seem overwhelming. Consider this series an introductory lesson. Let’s break it down with four simple questions.
1. What disasters are you most likely to face in your area?
America is a big place. The threats common to one area are not necessarily common to another. Preparing for a volcanic eruption is a pretty low priority in South Carolina, but in Hawaii, it’s paramount. Florida doesn’t have a lot of blizzards, but you’d better be ready to deal with hurricanes. If you’ve been living in a given area for a while, you probably already know what threats you’re most likely to face. For instance, where I live in north Georgia, outbreaks of tornadoes are a pretty regular occurrence every spring. There’s usually an ice storm sometime between January and March, and fall’s hurricanes are sometimes still strong enough to pose a threat this far inland. If you’re new to an area, just look it up. The information is out there, I promise you. Keep in mind as well the disasters that have historically affected your area as well, even if they aren’t so common. I never expected to see forest fires in Cherokee County, but after getting less than a quarter inch of rain for three consecutive months last fall, the woods were a tinderbox. Despite a burn ban, wildfires popped up everywhere, even within a few miles of my house. But during the late 1990s, the same thing happened. Sustained months of no rain led to sporadic fires all over the region. Lesson learned. In addition to knowing the likely as well as the possible disasters for your area, consider what threats may be specific to your exact location. If you live in a low area, even if you’re not near a major waterway, take flooding precautions. Where I live on top of a mountain, flooding is a non-issue, but the straight-line winds that often accompany heavy rain are a real problem. So take some time, do some research, ask some people who have lived in your community their entire lives, and figure out what threats you’re most likely to face. These will be the broadest set of parameters to define your preparedness plan.
2. Where do you spend most of your time?
Where you are the most often has a bearing on the plan you make and the supplies you accumulate. Do you commute a few minutes into town, or a few hours to another city? Or are you a stay-at-home mom, or a business owner who works from home? Is your home in an area that is likely to be evacuated, or are you better off staying where you are? Your answers to these questions determine what specific kits you need to assemble.
Kits and plans for four distinct scenarios will cover the needs of the majority of people:
- Sheltering in place at home
- Sheltering in place at work
- Getting from work to home
- Evacuating home to a place of safety
Each of these scenarios will have a different post devoted to it, where we’ll go over pros and cons of different philosophies of preparedness, suggestions of supplies, and ways to make a disaster plan and practice it. I’ll say it again – although there is a lot more to disaster preparedness than accumulating supplies and having a plan to use them, this will get you well ahead of the average American.
3. Do you have any special preparedness needs?
It’s amazing how many people take the initial step and prepare 72 hours of water and food to shelter in place at their home, but don’t have any of the prescription medications they need in order to stay alive. Special needs that are outside and above the standard level of preparedness often get overlooked. Do you have pets or livestock? Are you or a family member dependent on prescription medication to survive? Do you have anyone with special dietary needs? Is a member of your family disabled, be it mentally or physically? Very often these considerations get left out of the cut & dried preparedness advice that exists on the interwebs.
So here’s your homework: Given this information above, ascertain and write out your most realistic disaster scenarios based on your answers to these questions. Determine what threats you’re most likely to face, where you spend the majority of your time, and if you have any special preparedness considerations. This will form the framework of your disaster response plan, and help you determine what supplies you will need to acquire. In the coming weeks, we’ll take this framework and build it out into a workable plan, and then discuss the supplies, gear, and training to put it into action. See you then!