It’s highly unlikely the world will fall to the likes of the walking dead. I read an article the other day explaining the logistical impossibility of a virus triggering the kind of symptoms common to Hollywood zombies, and if the Internet says it’s impossible, it must be true, right? Then again, who needs hungry corpses when there are enough real world scenarios to turn our world upside down?
Consider the following quick facts:
- More than 8 million homes across 17 states lost power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
- In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina most major roads into and out of New Orleans were damaged.
- It took at least 3 days to partially restore cell phone service in New York City after 9-11.
- The Chernobyl nuclear explosion contaminated 56,700 square miles of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, a region larger than New York State.
- 11 hospitals treated 98 victims in the first 40 hours after the Mississippi River Bridge collapsed in Minnesota; 13 people died in that incident.
The immediate takeaways from these examples are self-evident. Emergencies can happen anywhere. Nature is not the only culprit, and you don’t need a thousand casualties for the incident to be a personal tragedy.
Then there is the matter of advance notice. In the case of hurricanes, tornados, and wild fires, you may have a little time to prepare and possibly evacuate. Mass shootings, terrorist attacks and other forms of large scale violence could happen at a moment’s notice.
Consider these questions to gauge your current level of preparedness:
- How much food do you have in your house right now that could be prepared without electricity?
- Are you likely to want to eat that food?
- What will you use to prepare the food?
- How much water do you have stored up?
- How much of that clean water could you easily transport?
- How much clothing do you have to meet the temperatures of the current season?
- What kind of light source can you count on, such as candles or flashlights?
- What kind of heat source can you rely on?
- What kind of access, whether battery-powered radio or HAM radio, do you have to news services?
It’s safe to assume a blind person’s usual modes of independence could be disrupted in the wake of a widespread disaster. One could possibly use a cell phone to navigate with GPS, but an earthquake could reshape the topography of one’s local surroundings. Besides, with the power out, it may not be so easy to run a Google search on nearby emergency shelters. Of course, navigation and technology of any stripe could be of secondary concern if you rely on medication that needs refrigeration.
Disabilities introduce their own set of priorities in the aftermath of an emergency. In such a scenario it is best to follow the tired flight attendant admonishment to help yourself before you help someone else.
Consider these questions if you have a disability:
- Do you have extra canes and cane tips?
- Do you have extra dog food for your service animal?
- If the service animal is on medication, do you have some stored up?
- What about your own medication?
- What is the list of mobility equipment you rely on a day-to-day basis, and do you have backups?
To start, people who live in urban areas should, at the very least, maintain a 72-hour kit. These are essential items that could see you through a few days of uncertainty.
Items could include, but should of course be customized to your needs:
- Water bottles
- Canned food
- Can opener
- First Aid Kit
- Hand crank radio
- Currency in small denominations
- Sufficient change of clothes
- Sleeping bag
- Basic hygiene products
Follow the steps in this article to avoid 10 72-hour kit mistakes.
Don’t forget to store bartering goods. You may not drink or smoke, but whiskey, coffee and cigarettes could make for good bartering chips. Silver and gold are another option, but collecting and securing these requires such a specialized coverage as to warrant their own blog post.
First, it seems like a given, but don’t forget to factor in your pets! You don’t want to be put in a position where you have to pick between your kids or your pooch. No one really knows how long kids could survive on their own.
Second, your family should agree on a primary and secondary assembly point. This could be your home, a known shelter location, a hospital or some other well-established facility. In the event of a disaster, everyone will know to report to this location without being told, because cell phone and Internet access could be out of service. Once there you can decide if you are equipped to hunker down for an extended stay, seek shelter, or evacuate to a safer region.
Third, use this opportunity to think of how you’re going to store water. Remember, you will die of thirst before you die of starvation. The basics include storing one gallon of water per day per person per pet. A minimum of 3 days’ supplies would be great. 2 weeks would be better. Rotate the supplies every 6 months. Check out this CDC article for excellent information on emergency water storage.
Fourth, establish an out-of-state contact. When you are able to get past the cell phone congestion, you should have one point person who can confirm you’re okay to the rest of your family.
Next, self-sufficiency is essential. Take the time to learn how to hunt or fish. The fruits of this labor could be your family’s primary food source on the go. Otherwise, learn to start and maintain a garden. Consider canning for extended food storage.
And, don’t forget your labor will be for not if you have no means of protecting it. Consider firearms training and self-defense. In the aftermath of disasters, rule of law can be elusive. No one is above learning how to guard their families and their belongings. If you find that extreme, consider the civil disobedience in Ferguson. Moreover, learning to protect yourself is key in micro emergencies you could encounter while out and about.
Mormons are well-known for incorporating emergency planning into its culture. In fact, the bulk of this article was written based on notes from a recent church lecture. It’s no secret the church maintains large stores of food in central locations for grim eventualities, but the advice herein ought to be of value to you no matter your faith, or lack thereof.
If I could offer two major points for your consideration, the first is to start planning now. A disaster may never happen, and my writing may only amount to the mad rants of an over-enthusiastic prepper in the making. Still, the impact of disasters is compounded by our instinct to make rational decisions in the midst of irrational situations.
Think now about what you would do, or what you would need, if: Fill in the blank.
Second, building an emergency store can become something of an addiction when you tune into the news. Any number of climate shifts, political developments, or brewing storms could create chaos. My favorite theories are those dealing with economic collapse, but you cannot live your life planning for the worse. It would be financially irresponsible to throw money at books, bullets and bomb shelters out of fear of disaster. Think carefully before you create an avoidable financial crisis before the true crisis comes knocking.
Did you find this article helpful? In 2015 I am working hard to double up my own emergency stores, and if there is enough interest, I will maintain a column documenting my progress, review the products and services I use, and delve deeper into the points I raised in this introduction. Trust me, we have not even scratched the surface.