• Why You Need to Practice Your Preparedness

    Practice Your Prep - RugbyDo you know why coaches make their players run drill after drill until they’re blue in the face? Contrary to popular belief, it’s NOT because of some past transgression they had forgotten about. Instead, it’s to improve them, to make them better. So that in that moment of action, when the right decision needs to be in a very crucial instant, it will be made, and there will be success. At least, that’s what my rugby coach always said. Those running, passing, and hitting drills, over and over again, were intended to ingrain behavioral lessons into our thick skulls so when we took the field, those actions would be second nature and we wouldn’t have to think – we would just act. It worked. We won nearly all our games.

    Emergency preparation is the same way. If we don’t practice our prep, how will we know if we’re ready when game day arrives? We can always think, “Well, maybe when disaster comes, it just won’t affect me.” But then again, maybe when I’m running down the field with the ball, that huge guy coming in fast toward me will miss the tackle. As many hours of running straight into people will prove, they generally do not miss their tackle.

    Disasters will affect you, somehow, some way. But it’s what we do before those disasters come that is so important. Just like I did with my rugby team, we need to practice. Simply having emergency gear is a great start, but knowing how to use it…well, that’s the other half of the battle. The crucial half. So, practice using our emergency preparedness items.

    Practicing our preparedness doesn’t have to be a dull, boring experience. The Go Game, produced by Jenny Gottstein, is a method of teaching emergency preparedness by, well, playing games. Gottstein has designed earthquake and tornado games for California, and in a Huffington Post article, they credit her in that “some of [her] games have even used a zombie apocalypse theme, where zombie actors chase people around while they learn practical skills, such as how to find emergency radio stations and evacuation routes and how to bandage a wound.”

    Did you hear that? Zombies can teach practical survival skills! As an avid reader, I can tell you that I’ve learned a lot from books. But where I learn the most is by actually doing the thing. There’s a bunch of science behind it, including neurons in the cerebellum somehow know when an action is right or wrong, and when it’s wrong, it sends “better instructions to motor neurons the next time the same action is attempted.” That’s what Christopher Bergland of Psychology Today wrote, and is essentially “why you never forget how to ride a bike.”

    Science was never my strong point, but I have learned from experience that the more I do something, the better I get and the more it sticks with me. This goes from learning to play the piano, learning a foreign language, and yes, even learning what to do during an emergency.

    Have you ever wondered why we do fire drills, earthquake drills, tornado drills, and power drills? It’s because of this principle of never forgetting how to ride a bike. The more we’re prepared – and the more we practice that preparation – the more we will remember, and the more natural it will come.

    Practice Your Prep - CPRI’ll be honest, if I (for some reason) need CPR, I’m going to want someone reviving me that’s practiced the technique more than just once at Boy Scout Camp. And if it’s me that’s doing the CPR on someone, I’m going to be glad I practiced a lot. Likewise, if I’m going to be stuck using my emergency cooking gear – without matches – I really hope I’ve practiced with it beforehand so I’ll know how to start the fire, and how to cook my freeze-dried food in it, too. It’s not too difficult, but whenever I’m doing something like that for the first time, I’m always hesitant and unsure and hope I’m doing it right.

    And that’s another thing: confidence.

    There’s just something about actually knowing what you’re doing that brings a load of confidence. And during an emergency, you’re going to want just that. People (ie. your family) will be scared, but by quickly jumping to the rescue, they can feed off your confidence and be comforted.

    Practice Your Prep - Are You Ready?I hope you take some time to consider the areas in which you can practice your preparedness and then go out and do just that. It can be fun, and will definitely be beneficial when you actually have to use those skills after a disaster. Looking back on my rugby career, I am grateful for all the time my coaches drilled those drills into my thick skull, so I could not only have great winning seasons, but actually enjoy them while they happened. I hope that I – along with all of you – can be just as prepared for disasters, so that when the moment does come, we can all be ready to tackle it head on. They say that practice makes perfect, and of all the things to get right, disaster prep is certainly up on the list.

    During this month, I’ll be posting other articles about different ways to practice your prep. And until then…

     

    What have you done to practice your preparedness? Let us know in comments!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Planning, Practice Your Prep, Prep School, Skills Tagged With: practice, practice your prep, preparation

  • Your Outdoor Gear Is Your Survival Gear

    If you’ve ever been camping, you know what it’s like to survive away from the comforts of home. And, believe it or not, every time your sleeping out in the woods, you are also preparing for a disaster. Think about it… your outdoor gear will be your survival gear following during an emergency. The differences between camping and plain old surviving are few.

    Outdoor Gear is Your Survival GearI briefly mentioned in another blog post how you can take your family out camping in your backyard to practice using your camping and outdoor gear. This is actually a very good way to learn what more you need for your camping/survival gear. Then, head into the wilds and take it out for a field test. Go camping and see how prepared you really are! If you had to camp out for three days, a week, a month…would you be ready? If you plan ahead, you will be.

    The following is some outdoor gear and resources that you generally use while camping, and will be glad you have during an emergency.

     

    Shelter

    Outdoor Gear Is Survival GearWhat’s the first thing you do when you get to your camp site? Why, set up your tent, of course! If you’re really roughing it, you might be making a lean-to from some pine boughs lashed together with nothing but your shoelaces and dental floss. If you’re like me, however, you’ll probably have some sort of really cool tent. My dream tent is the Barebones Safari Outfitter Tent, but since that isn’t in the budget just yet (“yet” being the key word here…), I’ll be content with a regular ol’ tow-man, pop-up backpacking tent.

    While shelters and tents make camping a much more enjoyable experience, shelter for disaster situations is important for many more reasons. While camping, you might be able to tough it out for a night or two, but while surviving after a disaster, your camping tent will be where you live. It’s where you and your kids will sleep, where you’ll hunker down during rain, snow, and storms, and where you will have your privacy from everyone else surviving around you. Yes, your camping tent is more than just a temporary shelter during an emergency. It’s your home.

     

    Food and Water

    I’ll combine food and water into one category for brevity’s sake. That being said, bringing food and water for your family isn’t always convenient while out camping. That’s why we always fill up our canteens, coolers, and whatever else we carry water in before we leave. We fill up some water containers from our home faucet and put them in the car. And, before we head out to wherever-it-is-we’re-going, chances are we’ll hit up the store in search of the perfect food to cook up over the camp fire. Hot dogs and marshmallows are always a popular choice; easy to cook and the kids love them. But there’s also the thing about keeping the meat cold while you travel so it doesn’t go bad. While camping, that’s not too hard. After an unexpected disaster? That’s where it gets a little bit more difficult.

    Survival food can just as easily be the same stuff you bring camping. Tips-for-Camping.com recommends freeze dried food, because a) it’s delicious (it is!) and b) it lasts for a long time (our freeze-dried food lasts for 25 years!). All you need to do is add water to reconstitute the food, wait a few minutes, and you’ve got yourself a tasty home cooked meal! And in a disaster, isn’t that what you want…Some of the comforts of home?

    Water can be gathered just as easily during a disaster. Besides having water storage in your home (which we definitely recommend), having a water filter can supply you with good, clean water wherever you are.

    These are two things that can be a great addition to your camping gear that can be instantly used for your own survival. We’ll always need food and water, and if you already have that on hand, then you’re two steps ahead of the game!

     

    Cooking Gear

    Outdoor Gear Is Survival GearSpeaking of food and water, there are plenty of times when you’ll want to boil water or cook food that isn’t freeze dried. Enter the campfire. Cooking over a fire while camping is half the reason we go, is it not? Nothing says camping like a nice fire going, the smell of smoke in the air, while your camp stew cooks over the fire. Mmm, delicious! What are you cooking that stew in? Some sort of pot, I’d wager. Possibly even on a camp stove. Those are always fun, especially when your firewood is all soaked because it rained the night before. Thanks to your little stove, you still have a way to be the camp chef.

    After a disaster, you may not have access to a fire pit to cook with. You may not have a stove or oven, either. That’s where your little cooking stove comes in handy. Even if you’re stuck inside without power, you’ll still have a way to cook your food and prepare dinner for your hungry family. And, since you’ve taken it camping with you so many times, you’re now pretty savvy with it and can use it just like your kitchen stove.

     

    First Aid

    Outdoor Gear Is Survival GearBecause accidents always seem to happen when you’re far away from help (it’s like they plan it that way), first aid kits are a must while you’re camping. And, since disasters tend to cause accidents, you’re going to want a first aid kit around for one of those – just in case. One of the benefits of being prepared is that you can take care of yourself immediately without waiting for emergency teams to come find you. That could take a while, because disasters tend to affect a lot of people at once. And if a lot of people are looking for medical attention, they’re going to take the most serious cases first.

    But if you are fine, you can take that kit with you and help others who need assistance. A Boy Scout is always supposed to be prepared and help others. Even if you’re not a boy or a scout, you can still take that way of life to heart and be prepared with gear so that when others do need help, you’ll be ready. And who knows, it could be your own family you’re helping.

     

     

    Your camping gear really is your survival gear. And, the more you go camping and use your gear, not only will you have a lot more fun doing it, the more savvy you’ll be, making it all the easier to adapt to an emergency situation. In fact, the people at Homestead Dreamer suggest that those who are frequent campers and outdoorsy people have an easier time adjusting their mental state around a disaster when it comes. This is because they’ve already been doing the surviving gig for a long time – and they do it for fun! They also mention a wide range of skills that are developed while camping. From building shelters to starting fires, these are skills that might just save your life.

    As fun and enjoyable as camping is, it’s also a great way to prepare for survival. Practice makes perfect, and in a survival situation, you’re going to be glad you’ve already been doing a lot of practicing in the form of camping.

     

    What other camping gear, skills, and other things will help you survive a disaster? Let us know in comments!

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Emergency Cooking, Emergency Kits, Equipment, First Aid and Sanitation, Practice Your Prep, Skills, Uncategorized Tagged With: outdoor gear, practice your prep, survival gear, camping

  • Go Dark For a Day - Practice Your Prep

    Ice storm forces residents to go dark. CNN

    The North American ice storm in January, 2009 left 1.3 million people without power across six states. Kentucky was the hardest hit, with over 100,000 homes left powerless for over a week. The ice storm made running water a limited commodity. No power meant not being able to cook or heat up food. Some folks were trying to buy anything they could eat cold. Many had to drive over 15 miles just to get groceries; they were the fortunate ones that could leave.

    The Jenkins family, including my wife Jill, was caught in that storm. Living near Louisville, Kentucky, they experienced the worst that storm had to offer. They were stuck indoors, wrapped in blankets and cooking with a portable propane stove. Jill’s friend was visiting when the storm hit and had to stay for a couple of days due to the ice factor. When Jill and her family were finally able to leave, they all went to stay with friends who actually had power.

    This was a very personal example of how we can be caught unawares, suddenly unprepared for a widespread disaster. Fortunately for Jill’s family, they had a way to cook food, but a heater would have received a warm welcome, and a generator would have really lit-up their spirits.

    How would you and your family fare stuck without power for a week? Would you be safe and warm spending a few nights without heat or power? How would daily life be challenged when it comes to cooking, cleaning, moving about the house, or communicating with others next door, across town or far away?

    Although we may not know what disaster will hit us, or when, we can still prepare for them by practicing our preparedness. And one fun way to do this is to go dark for a day, go dry for a while, or go outside for the night. Gather your family, choose a day this month, then emulate the effects of a disaster.

    Here are some suggestions:

     

    Turn Off Your Power

    Practice Your Prep - Go Dark For A DayThis is a good chance to test out your emergency lights, generator, and other alternative power sources. Spend the day charging up that power pack with your solar panel so when night comes you’ll still have light for your family. Children especially need light to feel safe and protected.

    What other things are you going to have to do without? TV, video games, computers, and other tech won’t work (unless you have a generator or some power source that powers bigger devices like that). Your refrigerator won’t be cooling things off anymore, either, so if you need something out of it, make sure you close the door promptly to keep as much cold air inside as possible.

    Without power, you might not be able to cook. Do you have an alternative method for cooking? Some sort of portable stove or grill? The sun is always a fair bet for cooking in a solar oven. And what about fuel? There’s all kinds of things to think about that we normally don’t when life is fine and dandy and full of power.

     

    Turn Off the Taps

    Practice Your Prep - Water OffJust as the ice storm of 2009 made water a rarity, your emergency prep practice might include shutting off your home water (this way you won’t be tempted to cheat a bit…). Will you have enough water to get through your experience? What if it were to last longer than just a day? Check your water supply and make sure you’d be OK in the event of a disaster. Cooking also requires water. Even if you have an alternative cooking source, if you don’t have water to cook with, you might not be eating very well tonight.

    Water is used for more than just human consumption. Think about sanitary issues, such as bathing, washing, and cleaning. You might be able to go a day or two without showering, but your family won’t appreciate it very much. And of course, don’t forget the dog and cat.

     

    Backyard Camp Out

    Practice Your Prep - Backyard CampingCamping and surviving are synonymous. Do you have a tent? Why not take your family camping in your back yard for a night or two? If, during a disaster, your home becomes unusable (due to flood, tornado, earthquake, etc.), you can see how good your shelter is by testing it out first. And, since you’ll be only a few meters away from your back door, there’s no risk if you realize you don’t have the necessary tools after all.

    Once you’re out in the back yard, what will you do? Try out your new camp stove and cook up some grub from your emergency food storage. Have your kids help you set up the tent, cook dinner, and do other outdoorsy things like starting fires (maybe move away from the house for this one) so they can learn those important survival skills, too.

     

    What other things won’t you be able to do without power and heat? You’ll discover what they are quickly enough if you just use the emergency prep that you have already acquired, and see how it goes from there.

    If it goes well, congratulations! If not…well, perhaps it’s time to take inventory of your emergency prep and identify the areas in which you can improve.

     

    Did you practice your prep? How did it go, and in what areas do you need to improve?

    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios, Planning, Practice Your Prep, Skills Tagged With: go dark, practice your prep, survival gear, camping

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