Every time a disaster happens people wonder what they could have done differently to make it through. It is impossible to predict every scenario and disaster that could happen to someone but it is possible to learn what we can about those tragedies and how to better prepare for them.
Predictable patterns of a natural disaster
The reaction people have to a natural disaster follows a pattern that is repeated every time a disaster happens. The more we study these patterns the better prepared we can be the next time one happens.
The first thing you need to consider is the type of natural disasters that you are at greatest risk of suffering. Areas on the east coast and the gulf are more susceptible to hurricanes and flooding. Other areas are susceptible to flooding, wildfires or tornados. Areas near a fault line are at greater risk of an earthquake.
Some disasters are easily seen such as an approaching hurricane. Others are more difficult to know about such as an earthquake. The reaction to any of these disasters can be difficult with the greatest difficulties suffered by those who are unprepared.
Make a plan
After considering the type of disaster you could face you need to create a plan of action to protect yourself and your family. Your plan should include communication, necessary supplies, medicines used by family members, self-defense and transportation. Make a plan today and practice with everyone in your family.
As part of your plan, you will need to know if you will be able to stay in your home or if you will be forced to leave. It is a good idea to plan for both scenarios and have adequate supplies for either of the two.
Each member needs to know exactly what to do in case your family is not together when something happens. How will you communicate with each other and how will you get emergency information? Consider these questions carefully and plan accordingly.
DO NOT RELY ON YOUR CELLPHONE! It is possible that an area that is affected by a disaster will lose many utility services including telephone and cellphone services. One way of communication is a good set of walkie-talkies. It may sound a little odd, but they can help you greatly during a disaster when paired with other parts of your plan.
If you are able to use your cellphone but are having issues connecting with others, try using text messaging or social media to communicate if your service is spotty. A text message may go through the system even when a voice call will not.
Have a meeting location
Have a meeting point where each family member is to gather if you cannot communicate. Also have a rallying point outside of your home area if you are forced to evacuate. This is one way where the walkie-talkie can help you. Depending on the range of your device, as you approach your rallying point, you can begin to try to communicate with other family members. If you cannot get to your exact rallying point but can get to the general area, a set of walkie-talkies can help you find each other much easier.
Your entire family should know the evacuation routes in your area and also any alternate routes you can take if necessary. During every natural disaster where people were forced to evacuate, the primary escape routes quickly become very crowded and travel in some areas became virtually impossible. The more familiar you are with the area you live in, the better you will be in knowing how to travel to a safer location.
Gather a minimum of three days’ worth of supplies for each family member and pet. This is a minimum amount and having more is always a good idea. You should gather them well in advance of a disaster happening because it could be impossible to get them during. Learn to rotate items you commonly use through your emergency kit. An example of this would be using canned food from your kit first.
It’s important to have the replacements on hand to keep from depleting your emergency kit. For example, when you go to the grocery store and buy canned goods, put the newer items in your kit and use the ones already there first. This keeps your supplies fresh for when you need them.
If we look at the events leading up to a hurricane making landfall we will see that stores quickly run out of necessary items like water and nonperishable foods. Gas stations run dry as long lines form and everyone tries to get as much as possible. Also, price gouging commonly happens. During Hurricane Harvey hitting Huston, gas prices went as high as $8 per gallon in some places. Water was selling for over $20 per case.
It is a good idea to have enough supplies in your home to survive for several days. Also stage some of those supplies where you can quickly grab some of them if you’re forced to leave. You need to keep at least one gallon of water per person per day. This is the minimum amount you need to keep on hand. Do not trust city services as they may become polluted or may not be available at all. You will also need nonperishable foods to sustain you and your family also.
Medication and important papers
Do you or any family member require medications such as blood pressure or diabetic supplies? These need to be in your emergency kit. Also try to keep copies of any of your prescriptions where you can access them at a different drug store if you’re not able to get to your regular provider.
Keep copies of your identification and other important papers such as insurance policies with you. These can be very important when dealing with emergency responders and insurance companies following the disaster.
Pets are more than just another position. Ask any pet owner and they will tell you that their pets are another member of the family. As part of the family, they will need to be a part of your disaster preparation plan also.
Our pets will need to be cared for almost as we would care for a young child or for an elderly member of the family. They are unable to gather their own supplies; we must gather them for them. They also do not understand what is happening around them and can be scared.
Some animals, like people, handle stress better than others and the way we care for them can be influenced by how they act. In some cases, it is better to simply put your furry friend in a pet carrier to take them with you.
Depending on the size of the animal and other needs, you need to gather enough food and water for them also. If they have a favorite toy, take it with them just as you would a toy for one of your kids.
Dealing with other people
I am someone who likes to be secluded and generally avoid large crowds. If I had the choice of being around a lot of people when a disaster strikes or being by myself, I would rather be by myself or with a limited number of people. People you know are more predictable than people you don’t know.
We’ve seen the news reports following hurricane Harvey that a disaster can bring out the best in people. Complete strangers helping each other in any way possible. And we should try to help others if we can. Unfortunately, we also see disasters bringing out the worst in people also. There is plenty of video of the looting that followed hurricane Katrina.
The longer a disaster lasts, the more desperate people become and many will do just about anything to get things they need to survive. As part of your supply kit, it is a good idea to have disposable items that you could afford to lose if necessary without affecting your primary supply needs. Having them in a separate pack and having your other items hidden from plain sight may give you not only the ability to help someone else but give you something to bargain with if necessary.
It would be impossible to discuss disaster preparedness without discussing self-defense. As I’ve said earlier, the longer a disaster lasts, the more desperate people will become. It may be necessary for you to defend yourself against someone who is trying to steal your supplies or who may just be looking for a crime of opportunity and see you as an easy victim.
Not only should you keep a weapon in your kit, you should train with it regularly to make sure it functions properly and to build your skills with it. Invest in quality training and practice regularly.
Our first responders are the real heroes. They leave their own families to try to save complete strangers. However, the reality is that they cannot be everywhere at once and it is up to us to be prepared to save ourselves, or at least stay alive until help arrives.
Learn everything you can about how to survive and practice to see what works and what doesn’t.