Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

The Every response is a variation on

The first, and most important, thing to do in the case of a disaster is to avoid dying.  After you have avoided dying in the initial phase of the disaster, it is important to keep on not dying.  This may seem obvious, but it is amazing how many people do not have any sort of plan for keeping themselves alive during a disaster. What is “Emergency Preparedness?”  It is a term that covers quite a large area, but essentially it means preparing for disasters–from an individual level up to a multi-national level.  These disasters can be natural or man-made (there are even some programs that involve preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse).  At a fundamental level, the response to any disaster is relatively similar, and preparing for the worst case scenario will allow for a response to lesser events.  This article is the first in what I hope will be a series of articles covering various aspects of Emergency Preparedness. In this article, I will focus on preparing for the individual or family level.  This is the foundation of Emergency Preparedness.  If you and your family are not taken care of, how can you be expected to respond to help others?  There are some excellent resources at www.do1thing.com which help to break down the process into manageable chunks. Before beginning your personal plan do some research on your area.  What are the major weather risks?  What kinds of natural events are most likely in the area?  Is there a recent history of civil unrest?  What about chemical plants, railroads, or major highways–these could be a potential source of a chemical spill.  All of these factors should be taken into account when making your plans. I’m sure you are all familiar with fire evacuation plans, those of you with families probably already have a plan with a designated meeting spot.  This is a good start, but what about flood evacuation, or being forced to remain in your house for several days due to severe weather?  These should also be considered in your family’s emergency plan. There are basically two responses for the individual or family in a disaster, “bugging-out” (leaving) or “bugging-in” (staying).  Every response is a variation on one or the other of these. Bugging-in is also called sheltering-in-place.  Essentially, it means staying in your home for the duration of the event.  Most commonly, this would be the response to severe weather, such as heavy snow or ice, but it could be the response to a toxic chemical spill as well.  General preparations would include having a supply of food and water that will last for the duration of the event.  A 72-hour supply of water (typically 4 L. per person per day) and food is usually recommended, as well as having the means to purify more water if needed.  A three day supply of food and water should be considered a minimum, especially if it typically takes a long time for repairs in electrical or water service in your area.  Personally, I keep about 3 months worth of food on hand, but that is a bit extreme (In my defense, there was a good sale–and I also use the food for camping). Bugging-out can be a bit more complicated.  When you shelter-in-place, you are in your own home, and your supplies are easily available.  When you bug-out, you only have what you take with you.  It is a good idea to have a “bug-out bag” (also called a “go bag”) prepared for this sort of emergency.  While an in-depth guide to preparing a bug-out bag is beyond the scope of this article, there are many resources available online (and it might be the subject of a future article).  In general, a bug-out bag should contain at least 72 hours worth of supplies.  Make sure to pack any essential medications (at least a 3 day supply), as well as a first-aid kit.  A change of clothing is also important, as well as food and water.  Usually each member of the household would have an individual bug-out bag, although young children will not be expected to carry much (maybe just clothing and a favorite toy).  Normally a backpack would be used as a bug-out bag to make it easier to carry, and it should be stored somewhere that allows easy access. You should have at least three routes out of the area included in your plan–and at least one should avoid major roads (which may be clogged with other people evacuating).  Also consider which roads may be unusable due to the disaster, such as flooding of low-lying areas.  There are also some routes that are a bit more non-traditional, which might not normally be available for drivers.  These could include railroads or large hiking trails.  Both of these would depend on the vehicle you are driving, and in the case of the trails, at least a basic familiarity so that you know it will remain large enough to navigate. Your plan should also include options for evacuating without a vehicle.  This is one of the advantages to using a backpack for your bug-out bag, it is designed to carry for long distances.  You might also need to abandon your vehicle during the evacuation, for any number of reasons. Have a destination included in your plans.  Ideally, you would plan to go to the home of a friend or relative a reasonable distance outside of the disaster area.  You could also go to a vacation cottage, if you have access to one.  A campground would be an option if you have camping equipment, but keep in mind that campgrounds and hotels will likely be filled with other people evacuating as well.  Finally, your destination should be within the distance you can drive without refueling.  A good practice is to refuel your vehicle when you still have half a tank left.  This will mean that in a disaster, you will at least have half a tank to get out of town, rather than trying to find fuel before you can leave. If you have pets, your evacuation plan will need to include them.  You will need to carry food and water for your pets, as well as for the humans in your party.  In the case of dogs, you might be able to get a dog harness with packs on it–that way the dog can carry some of the dog food.  Consider also including a favorite toy or blanket to comfort the animal in unfamiliar circumstances. I hope you found this informative.  In future articles I hope to go into more depth about the bug-out bags and workplace preparedness.  I also plan to write about preparedness beyond the personal level, such as some of the basics for being on a response team.

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