“Ditch The Kit”. For years, disaster prepper companies have hawked kits designed to help you “prepare” to survive for three days or more after a disaster. For the past twenty years, I’ve looked on in amusement at the ads selling peace of mind in a bag. The recent fallout from Superstorm Sandy, along with the announced demise of the Twinkies, got my bloggin’ juices flowing, especially as it relates to disaster preparation and response efforts. The notion of disaster prep “in a bag” needs to go the route of the old civil defense preparedness mantra “Duck and Cover”.
Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we have our share of weather events; floods, high winds and winter storms on an annual basis…and oh yeah, the rare earthquake or volcanic eruption. Now, I’ve lived up here for over 40 years, and as an emergency response professional was responsible for trying to mitigate big weather events affecting my region and family. Along the way I’ve learned a few things that can’t be stuffed into a kit that goes in the trunk of your car;
- Forget about preparing for three days. Accept that the larger the event-and the impact on critical infrastructure-the more likely you will be without basic public works services for a week or more.
- With that in mind, realistically assess your physical situation, vulnerability and resources to be able to safely stay put during a pending storm and the aftermath. Can you stay warm (or cool) for an extended period of time? Is reliably clean drinking water available? How do you plan on flushing your toilet? (Think about how many of those 8 oz. foil emergency water packs you would have to use to flush!). If you can’t, make arrangements to bug out and stay with out of area friends. Make sure you empty your refer/freezer before you go, or you’ll come back to a pretty stinky house.
- Folks will come out of the woodwork to help. Altruism runs rampant early on during disasters. But, interest can quickly wain relative to the location of the resources mobilized. Remember, all emergencies(and politics) are local, and the immediate and sustained help will likely come from those closest to you, and often in ironic ways.
- Accept that if your power goes out, it may be a looooong time before you get it back. As we become increasingly reliant on technology we must accept our vulnerability when the electrons stop flowing. If you own your own home, get a generator sized to run your furnace, refrigerator a few lights and a couple of outlets to charge your electronic devices. If you don’t have this option, find someone who does. Electricity is the lifeblood of crisis response, communications and community. Losing these connections during an event can be a very lonely feeling, but is also an excellent opportunity to get to know your neighbors without relying on an avatar. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have been unable to convince my better half to let me buy one. But, I’m still workin’ it!)
- Don’t blame the power company. We must accept that power grid is vulnerable to the forces of nature. The bigger the storm, the greater the damage and the longer it will take to get things back up. I have nothing but admiration for the line crews working in God awful conditions 24/7 to get the lights back on. It’s not just about replacing poles and stringing line. There is no big “on off switch” for our nation’s power grid (unless you’ve seen the new TV show Revolution). Th power is always on and must constantly be balanced to keep the whole system from failing. Restoring power while maintaining this balance is a dangerous art form, and takes methodical and careful work to get the lights turned back on.
- Get some camping gear, and hit the trail. Spending a few days outdoors with limited access to basic amenities is both enlightening and calming. It tends to make you focus on meeting basic human needs, and makes you work for it. The gear also comes in handy when things go haywire back home too. Tent, sleeping bag, white gas stove, water filter pump, freeze dried foods, along with other things that make up the “ten essentials” of hiking are things that can help sustain you after a disaster.
Now, where does the pending demise of the Twinkie come in? Well, I think this E-Card from my friend Marie T. Matson sums it up perfectly