• Prepare to Prepare

    We talk a lot on this blog about current events, disasters in progress or recent emergencies. While world events serve to remind us of the importance of proper preparation, by the time catastrophe strikes, it’s too late to prepare. So, assuming you’re not under six feet of snow or facing an oncoming tidal wave at this precise moment, what can you do today to begin prepping for an emergency?

     

    In answer to that question, here are some key initial steps. Or, as we like to call it…

     

    Preparing to prepare.

     

    Time to PlanDepending on where we live and time of year, we all have specific natural disasters that could potentially affect us. And while I’d need to prep a little differently for a flood than you might for an earthquake, there is a common set of first priorities. According to experts, those first priorities boil down to 1) having a kit, 2) making a plan, and 3) informing yourself.

     

    Have a kit. No matter whether you’re cut off by a mudslide or a blizzard has taken out the power, you’re going to need to eat, drink, and stay warm. A basic stash of supplies for the whole family will get you through those crucial first 72 hours. Office organizations like FEMA, the Red Cross, Ready.gov, and even the CDC offer helpful checklists of what to include in your emergency kit, but all of them include these basics:

    Emergency Kit

    • A three-day supply of water, figuring one gallon of water per person per day
    • Three days’ worth of food for the whole family
    • First aid supplies
    • Flashlights and batteries
    • Knife, can opener, wrench, or other multifunction tool
    • Extra clothing and shoes
    • Toiletries
    • Medications
    • Infant or pet needs
    • Blankets
    • Cash
    • Important documents

     

    Ideally, every member of the family should have their own pack, and packs should be stored somewhere easily accessible. We like the idea of working on these together and keeping a checklist like this one out where kids can check items off as you acquire them.

     

    Make a plan. There are all sorts of reasons your family may have to evacuate. And as FEMA puts it on the introduction to their fantastic Basic Preparedness guide, “You plan only once, and are able to apply your plan to all types of hazards.” Begin preparations for bugging out by talking about possible scenarios. And remember, circumstances may require leaving your house or leaving your town! Prep for each eventuality by determining:

    Family Disaster Plan

    • The safest place inside your home to hunker down, as in the case of an earthquake or tornado
    • Best escape routes out of the house (have at least two!)
    • Two designated meeting points: somewhere close, but clear of your home; and an out-of-town location for larger-scale evacs
    • A communication strategy—who will call whom, by what point does everyone need to check in, and how will we reach each other if cell towers are down?

     

    We really like the specific emergency plan templates available at Ready.gov, or we’ve compiled a comprehensive Emergency and Evacuation Plan template you can fill in with your specific information and plan.

     

    Inform yourself. To be truthful, this is kind of a catch-all designation. The first two steps will see your family through the initial days of a serious disaster; after that, you’ll have to depend on your knowledge, skills, and ingenuity, which is why education is such a key ingredient to preparation. Pick any one of these areas to start, and build your repertoire of personal resources over time.

     

    • Know which natural disasters are likely in your area, and learn disaster-specific preparation.
    • Learn about your community’s notification systems and protocols for emergencies, including schools and hospitals.
    • Sign up for local or national text alerts.
    • Certify in CPR.
    • Learn how to use a fire extinguisher, shut off utilities, and prepare a home for severe weather.
    • Organize a neighborhood emergency response team.
    • Beef up your survival skills—building a fire, constructing a shelter, cooking outdoors, etc.

     

    FEMA’s guide, mentioned above, is a great, basic starting point. Another treasure trove of information is the Education tab on our website, which includes a searchable archive of all our blog posts.

     

    Remember, preparedness is less a state than it is a process. And, like any endeavor, the most important step is the first. Start today with these ideas, and build on your skills and resources as you progress. And don’t forget to keep us posted along the way—what are you doing today to prepare for tomorrow?

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Emergency Kits, Planning Tagged With: Prepare, Emergency plan

  • How Can Your Facebook Be Used for Emergency Communications?

    For about a year now, Facebook has been utilizing an emergency communications tool that helps friends know if each other is safe during disasters. Having experienced some disasters myself (albeit minor ones), I can see where this can come in very handy indeed. I’ll go into more detail on Facebook’s disaster tool in a moment, but first, join me as I flash back about ten years ago.

    Philippines Rice Field (Bukid)So there I was, living in the Philippines. One day, we got a pretty nasty tropical storm in the area in which I was living. I was quite a ways south of Manila (the capitol), where cities cease to exist and there’s a whole lot of nothing (except rice fields. There’s a lot of rice fields).

    Earlier that day, I had traveled up to the nearest town to do some much needed shopping and intended to hit up an internet café whilst there so as to let my family know I’m still alive (I would only email them once a week). Before I could get to the internet café, however, the storm blew in and I took shelter in the home of some friends.

    After a few hours of holing up inside, the storm finally subsided. When I went outside, I was shocked to see the damage that had taken place. Large trees had been uprooted, blocking roads and being a general nuisance. Power lines were down. The streets were absolutely flooded. Public transportation wasn’t going back down to where I lived because the roads were blocked with fallen trees.

    Worse still, there was no Internet to be found. That’s right, the storm broke the Internet.

    At this point, there was nothing I could do to contact my family. Fortunately, the storm wasn’t hurricane-strength, so chances are they wouldn’t even know I’d been hit by a storm and suspect a problem.

    But what if it had been something more severe? I didn’t have any way to keep up to date on the news of what was happening or where the best place to go was. Most importantly, how would my family know I was OK?

    Well, I was OK, and the next day I was able to find a place with email, and all was well. This was before the days of smart phones and Facebook (more or less), but since then, technology has increased in such a way that social media had become an effective way of making sure family and friends are safe during disasters.

    When the world turns on us and unleashes disasters on its surface, lots and lots of people turn to Facebook for answers. People want to know if their family and friends are affected, and if they’re OK. Noticing this trend, the good folks at Facebook have created a new tool to help its millions of users check up on others. This tool is called Safety Check.

    Here’s how it works.

    Once activated, Safety Check will use its superior intellect to know if you’re in the affected city or not. That superior intellect will determine where you are based on which city you’ve listed in your profile, the last place you checked in, and the city where you are using Internet. So really, Facebook’s Safety Check will determine your location based on the information you supply.

    Facebook SafetyCheckIf Safety Check determines that you are in the affected area, it will send you a Facebook notification asking if you’re safe. You can then select the “I’m safe” option, or if Facebook got your location wrong (because it’s not omniscient after all), you can select the “I’m not in the area” option. Once selected, your safety status will be sent to your friends, so they can know you’re safe.

    Communications are very important during a disaster. How will you know your family is safe? How will they know you are safe? Or how about getting the latest information during a disaster when power is out and the TV is down?

    Being safe during a disaster can require more than just food and water storage. Knowing what is happening can give you the upper hand when deciding what to do. Facebook has adopted emergency safety into its repertoire. But if you don’t have Facebook or access to that sort of technology, what other options are there?

    I give you three ways in which to communicate during an emergency (without using a phone).

     

    1. Whistles
    Whistle Give a little whistle...

     

    Let’s start with the good, ol’ fashion whistle. Having a whistle during an emergency is an easy, energy-efficient way of signaling for help. I say energy efficient in terms of your own energy (although, whistles are also great at saving electricity because, well, they’re whistles). While yelling and hollering can be loud and get attention, it takes more energy to hoot and holler than it does to blow into a whistle. The whistle will also produce a much louder noise than you may be able to produce (unless you’ve got the pipes of an opera singer, then in which case you probably win).

    I used to be a rugby referee, and let me tell you, the only way those players are going to hear you is if you have a really loud whistle. I can yell until I’m blue in the face, but nothing works better than my whistle. I have since re-purposed my ref whistle to be my emergency whistle for my emergency kit. I’m a believer.

     

    1. MirrorSignal Mirrors

    Another option for communication would be archaic signal mirrors. If you’re lost in the wilderness and looking for a rescue, enlisting the brightness of the sun to join your cause can help others find you in a…flash.

     

    1. Radios

    RadioRadios are a great option for any emergency. For one thing, radios allow you to tune in to local broadcasts, which means you won’t be left in the dark when you need to know important information. Speaking of not being left in the dark, some radios are even equipped with flashlights! Also, you don’t always have a power source, and there are many hand-crank and solar radios out there that charge up without the use of electricity. Very handy in a pinch.

     

     

    Getting the information you need during an emergency can help you prepare, know where to go and what to do, and give you peace of mind that your loved ones are safe. Facebook has seen the need to help people communicate during disasters and have created a tool to help those around the world stay connected during those difficult times.

    Whether you’re a Facebooker or not, it’s important for all of us to know how our family and friends are faring during disasters and other emergencies. Be prepared with a plan for emergency communications during these times.

    Like

    What communications devices do you prefer to have during emergencies? What would you recommend to your fellow preppers? Let us know in the comments!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Emergency Kits, Planning Tagged With: SafetyCheck, Emergency communications, facebook

  • 2 Things Japan Teaches Us About Disaster Preparation

    Dark water surges from the sea, the 40 meter wave crashing down upon anything that stands in its way. Streets become rushing rivers, and then an extension of the ocean itself. Boats take to the flooded streets, belly up as they careen through the city. Entire buildings are uprooted from their foundation, tossed and battered as the tsunami waves push them farther and farther away from where they had once rested.

    This may sound like something out of a fantasy novel (because really, a 40 meter wave?), but this is exactly what happened to Japan only four years ago. This video gives you just a taste of the destruction that took place:

     

     

    The Great East Japan Earthquake How do you prepare for the unexpected?

    Four years ago, Japan was rocked by the Great East Japan Earthquake – a 9.0 magnitude – which was followed by a devastating tsunami. Now, the effected regions have had time to recoup and rebuild. Japan is now teaching the world what it’s learned from this disaster.

    Every 10 years, the United Nations holds a World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. This year it was hosted in Japan. In particular, the conference was held in Sendai, which, according to the Japan Times, “is a city that is synonymous with resilience to disasters for its remarkable recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.”

    There are two things in particular that stand out from what Japan is trying to do.

    1. Cost effective prior investment
    2. “Building back better” (creating nations and regions that are more resilient than they were before the disaster)

     

    Cost Effective Prior Investment

    I think the key words here are “prior investment.” Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, the government took aims to make their nation safer when it comes to disasters.

    Richter ScaleThis earthquake registered at 9.0 on the Richter scale, and when talking about it they use words like “unpredictable.” But guess what? It happened anyway, predictable or not. However, despite the unexpected quake, Japan already had preparations in place. Well, maybe not for a 9.0, but they get a 7.0 or 8.0 about once a decade, so earthquakes are something they have prepared for. That’s why they’re urging other nations to get prepared, just in case one of these “unpredictable” disasters strikes again. If something of this magnitude doesn’t strike, there are bound to be other disasters instead. As the saying goes, prepare for the worse, hope for a lesser disaster instead (or something to that effect).

    Japan has also put into place a Disaster Prevention Law. Don’t be fooled, this law isn’t to meant to illegalize disasters (thereby reducing them through incarceration), but to find ways to make them less devastating. One way is through construction. Their high-rises sway like trees when the ground starts shaking. Because of their construction requirements, these buildings can withstand heavy quakes, thus saving countless lives within the buildings. Another way Japan prepares is by having homes and businesses stockpile food and water.

    Sound familiar?

    We talk all the time about storing food and water for those “unpredictable” moments. Fortunately for Japan, it was before the disaster that these preventative measures were put into place. If they had waited until after this massive disaster, many more lives would have been lost. Of course, we’re talking about a global scale here, but we can definitely shrink it down to fit your personal life.

    Tsunami Evac Tower (nikkei) Do you know where you can go when disaster strikes?

    For example, how can “prior investment” relate to you? Well, in the same way the Japanese are gathering a supply of food and water for emergencies, can you do the same? Japan has also constructed tsunami evacuation towers to give people a place for refuge during such storms. Do you have your own personal evacuation tower? Where will you go when your tsunami crashes against you? Do you have preventative measures in place to weaken the blow, or lessen the damage?

    Prior Investment now is the only way you will weather an earthquake, hurricane, accident, job loss, or any form of disaster that could affect you.

    There are several ways to get started with your prior investment. Here are some pre-storm preparations to consider:

    1. Emergency kits
    2. First aid kits
    3. Food storage
    4. Water storage
    5. Contingency plan

    There are many different kits available (pre-made) for your convenience, and at a good price. There are also plenty of individual kit items available, so you can build your own kits or add to existing ones (check out the links above for options and ideas).

    There is time to prepare before those “unexpected” disasters strike. That time is now.

     

    “Building Back Better”

    OK, so maybe you were caught off guard when disaster struck. What should you do now?

    Well, I’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t sit around thinking lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. Just ask the folks in Kissimmee, Florida who had three hurricanes pass through in 2004, or the people in Moore Oklahoma, today digging out from their second tornado in less than 2 years. These are people committed to “Building Back Better.” We should be, too.

    Lightning ThunderThe odds of you getting struck by lightning twice is statistically very low, and the odds of you getting struck even once in your lifetime is 1 in 3000. So if it can happen once, it can happen again. Remember Japan’s 9.0 earthquake? The odds of an earthquake of that magnitude occurring was once in several centuries. Who could have seen that one coming! But come it did. Just because the odds are in your favor, it doesn’t mean you’ll come out the victor.

    When it comes to “building back better,” take a look at Japan’s example. They have become the leaders in helping countries be prepared for disaster.

    There is a saying that goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

    I’d like to change that up, if I could, to something a little more…human:

    “Fool me once, shame on me for not preparing for it in the first place. Fool me twice…well, maybe I’ll get lucky? I hope.”

    We should never let ourselves be fooled, not even once. It shouldn’t happen, since we can all be prepared for anything. But being fooled twice is downright unacceptable. We need to learn from the past, be it our own or the past of others, like Japan. Lightning has struck in the same place twice, after all (or for one (un)lucky man, seven times).

    We can learn a lot from The Great East Japan Earthquake. If you’re prepared before unforeseen disaster strikes, you will be so much better off. If you haven’t prepared…it’s time to take the next step and begin working on preparing yourself and your family.

     

    Has disaster ever caught you unawares? What happened? Looking back, what could you have done better? Share with us your experiences!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Emergency Kits, Planning Tagged With: be prepared, Japan, Tsunami, Earthquake, emergency preparedness

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