Are you prepared for when disaster strikes?
And no, I’m not talking prepper status with an underground house and MRE’s to survive the apocalypse. Just general common sense plans. Most people don’t think about what happens when the thin threads that hold our society together are cut. Most people don’t have a disaster plan. In the days and possibly weeks following a disaster law and order as we know and understand it will disappear.
Sounds pretty fucking bleak doesn’t it? Well, it doesn’t have to be.
For this article, I’m going to be discussing some kind of regional disaster. Think of an earthquake, massive wildfire, major riots, a devastating hurricane, pandemic disease, or zombies. I’m not talking about tornados or some other incident which only affects a small area. No matter where you live, you have the potential to experience some kind of disaster. The more urban the area you live, the greater the effect felt. It all comes down to more people in a smaller space vying for a finite number of resources.
So what are you waiting for?
Prepare now. It’s not difficult, and the cost is quite small if you do it now, the cost can be unimaginably high if you wait until after.
What to do before disaster strikes?
Make a Disaster Plan
I can’t stress this one enough. Have an actual disaster plan you discuss with others. Remember as a kid and you were talking about what would happen if your house caught on fire? You’d draw a crappy map of your house and where you’d meet outside in case there was a fire. That’s good when you are 8, however, this is much more serious. You need to be sure that everyone in your household, and possibly nearby family members understand your plan. A few points to discuss are:
- Where will everyone meet? What is an alternate location?
- Who will pick up the children from school? Who is an alternate?
- What is a safe bug out location if the emergency persists?
Meet up plan
See above – this step isn’t optional. Create a disaster plan and discuss it with all of the involved parties.
Humans can survive about 3 days without water, so making sure you access to good drinking water is the first step in any survival situation. The general rule of thumb would be to have, at the very minimum, 1 gallon of water per person for a MINIMUM of 7 days. I recommend having water bottles for this – you can do the larger 1-gallon bottles or the smaller 16.8-ounce ones. Or even better some combination of different sizes.
Keep in mind if you go with the smaller bottles you’ll need about 8 of them per day. Which comes out to over two 24 packs per person for the week. Having the bottles can come in handy for other uses as well. If you are super prepared you can buy one or two of these cool 55-gallon drums to keep in your garage, just be sure to get a water stabilizer so you don’t get bad things growing in the water.
Emergency Water Sources
These water sources are not your go-to methods. These should be utilized AFTER you run out of your primary water source. The first emergency water source is right in your house, your water heater tank. Water heater tanks are a good source of emergency water. Just open the drain at the bottom and you’ll have 20-80 gallons of water.
Very close water sources. Think of places that are so close you wouldn’t mind walking to and from with gallons of water. Unless you have control of the water source, assume that there are bacteria, chemicals, and other bad things in the water, so you’ll need to purify it somehow. I’ll discuss a few methods below. Yes, even if you have a pool you’ll need to remove all of the chemicals before you drink it.
Purify – If you already have clean water, but you aren’t totally sure how clean it is, use 8 drops of bleach per gallon and let it sit for 30 minutes to kill any critters in it. This works well for a nearby stream or lake water. There is also a really cool device called a SteriPen that eliminates any bugs in the water as well.
Boil – If you have access to an abundant heat source, boiling water is probably your best bet. Make sure you boil the water at a rolling boil for 1-5 minutes.
Distill – This is probably the best method for the cleanest water. Most methods requite some sort of heat source, but what you end up with is some high-quality H2O (Waterboy reference intended). This is a great commercial emergency water distiller, however, there are free ways to distill water in an emergency as well (video here).
Emergency Medical supplies
For most people, Medical supplies mean extras of your prescription medications and some bandaids. I’d like to go a little further than that. Expect that during an emergency, hospitals will not be available. They may be too far away or so inundated with critical injuries they are not available. The medical kit you choose will depend on your level of training. If you are a Medical doctor or a nurse, having a kit like this will probably suit you. For the rest of us, this basic kit will do quite well.
This is the part where people go off the rails. Don’t overthink emergency food. You can get super complicated here, but the bottom line is that when disaster strikes, simple is best. If you have food in the fridge, eat that first. If something is questionable, its not worth the risk. Some of the best other options are:
- Bulk cans of beans or pork and beans cans.
- Manual Can opener
- Jerky/nuts/dried fruit
- Any pre/prepared food that doesn’t require heating
Protection here is a broad term. In your disaster plan, you need to account for several elements. I’ll discuss each one below.
Elements – You need to have protection from the elements, hopefully, you are at your house and it is structurally sound. But if you live north and this disaster happened in the winter, you’ll need a lot of blankets and warm clothes just to stay inside your house. Make sure you are protected from bad weather and are as comfortable as possible.
Violence – This one is one of the hardest parts to think about in any disaster plan. The longer an emergency goes the more likely society is likely to break down. There will be those who will steal from stores, and eventually from you. It’s not that hard to put yourself in their shoes. If you didn’t follow any of the guidelines in this article, and you and your family were starving, how far would you go to get food/medicine/supplies for them?
In the United States, there are only about 2 law enforcement officers (federal, state, county, local) per 1000 residents. If you believe that 0.2% of the population will keep you safe during a disaster, I know a Nigerian prince who needs your help.
Now since you are prepared, you also have to mentally prepare yourself to defend from any bad actors. The police will NOT be there to protect you. If the officers aren’t already protecting their own family, they will be protecting critical infrastructure. How would you signal them anyway? You have to be ready and able to be self-sufficient in your protection. The great equalizer is a firearm. If you don’t own a weapon, please go get some training and buy one.
If you’ve ever been in a power outage you realize how you take light for granted. You can easily buy a large pack of flashlights like this, but ideally, you should have a small solar/hand crank flashlight like this.
Your debit cards and credit cards aren’t going to work. Make sure you have enough cash to buy what you need just in case. Small bills are best.
The next set of items are really nice to have and can make dealing with a crisis easier, but you only move on to these AFTER you secure the items in the needs section above.
There are a couple of ways you can go with this, either you have solar panels WITH a battery backup or you have a generator with extra gas. Both have positives and negatives to each, and in most cases neither are necessary.
Solar with Battery backup
Many newer homes these days have solar panels on the roof, most houses don’t have any sort of battery backup, however. If having electricity is part of your disaster plan, this is probably the best way to go. It is also by far the most expensive way to get power.
Generator and fuel
Buying an inexpensive generator and having enough fuel on hand is a cost-effective way to have electricity. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to go to the gas station and refill your gas cans. You will likely need to keep many gallons on hand for this to be useful.
*Note on electricity. IF you choose to have a generator or Solar, you will likely be one of the only ones in your neighborhood with it. This could make you an interesting target for people who would take advantage of you, or just looking for a handout.
I’m putting transportation in this section because if you have planned accordingly above you’ll have everything you need, and will be able to stay put at your house until the emergency subsides. As part of your disaster plan, you should at least consider being able to leave the area if necessary and desired.
½ tank rule – This is more of a lifestyle change for most people, however a very important part of any disaster plan. This is also the most simple thing you can do, fill up your tank of gas when it gets to ½ tank – don’t go below. Simple right? But think about it, if the power goes out and you are running on fumes, your car doesn’t mean anything, and now you are on foot. If everything in society is fine, you’d just call AAA and someone would come to bring you gas, no problem.
Until it is a problem.
There is a reason this is common practice with emergency service vehicles. Many of the cops I know do this with their personal vehicles.
Besides this rule, you also have a couple of other methods of transportation to consider. The best would be some type of off-road vehicle. A 4×4 pickup or SUV would be ideal, however, a dirtbike or other motorcycle would work as well. Basically you want something that you could take-off of the main roads and be ok. I live next to a huge population center, and the mass exodus a large scale disaster would cause could make traveling by normal roads less than ideal.
The last option, right above walking, would be a bicycle. If you are in even halfway decent shape you can do 50 miles in a day on a bike. That is certainly better than walking 50 miles.
What to do when disaster strikes?
This one is all about mindset. After you have checked your house, made sure your family is safe and no one is injured, you must flip that mental switch. You may not have wanted this to happen, but it did. Ensure that you keep your family safe and rely on the disaster plan you made to persevere through the disaster.
The most important takeaway here is to develop a disaster plan. A little planning ahead of time will go a long way in case something really negative goes down.