Monthly Archives: October 2012

  • I Made a Paracord Bracelet. Now What?


    During the first week of Preptember™, we published a guest post about making a paracord bracelet. I followed the instructions and made myself a bracelet. It was fun, easy, and it
    felt good to have some back-up cordage.
    We received a comment on the blog post that said, “Not to sound stupid, but what would I use this for?” That’s a great question.  Remember that a paracord bracelet is supposed
    to be extra cordage. It’s good to keep at least fifty feet of paracord in your emergency kit.
    Paracord has seven thinner strands of nylon string inside a sheath. Each inner strand is made of two or three strands. This gives it a tensile strength of 550 pounds. Theoretically,
    you could get about 120 feet of cordage from the eight feet of paracord in your bracelet (if you take each inner strand apart). Of course, the strength of the cord diminishes as you take it apart.

    Tip: If you need to cut the cord but don’t have a knife, you can use paracord to cut itself. First, find the point you want to cut. Next, tie the cord to two sturdy objects with the cut point in the middle (leave plenty of slack). You can also use your feet for this; just make sure the cord is held firmly in place. Take a length of cord and run it behind (or under) the point you want to cut. Pull against the cut point with one end of the cutting section in each hand. Rub the extra length of cord back and forth vigorously at the cut point until the friction melts through the cord.


    So, what can you do with a paracord bracelet? Here’s my surely-not-exhaustive list in no particular order:
    1.   Tying just about anything to just about any other thing. Like a bottle or knife to a backpack or belt, or a rack on a bike, motorcycle, or car.
    2.   Repairing broken items like bootlaces, belts, backpack straps, rifle slings, zipper pulls, camera straps, or just about any kind of strap.
    3.   Lashing things together. This would be particularly handy for building an improvised shelter, raft, spear, etc.
    4.   Carrying stuff. I learned the hard way that carrying a heavy bundle by a single strand of thin paracord can be very painful. Try braiding or improvising a handle if you need to do this. If you have other paracord with you, a paracord bracelet actually makes a nice handle.
    5.   Traps. There are several types of traps you can make to catch wild animals. I don’t know how to make any, but there are plenty of books and videos on the subject.
    6.    Making a bow for a bow drill. See #5 above to find out what I know about making fire with a bow drill.
    7.   Hanging stuff. You can hang food up in a tree to keep in away from sneaky critters. I saw a guy rig up a hammock with paracord and it actually held his weight.
    8.   Making lanyards and “dummy cords.” Attaching useful items like keys, cell phones, flashlights, knives, compasses, etc. to your pack or clothes can help you hang onto them longer and keep them easily accessible.
    9.   Making a net. You’ll need enough cordage and some skill to do this. You probably couldn’t make a very big net just from your bracelet, but the seven inner strands add up to about 56 feet of cordage plus the eigh-foot-long sheath. Dave Canterbury (of Dual Survival fame) has made an instructional YouTube video on making a rope hammock (which is essentially a net).
    10. As a guyline or ridgeline (the main support) for a tent or tarp shelter.
        11. Anything else you can think of.
    The point is, paracord is useful. You can find tons of information and instruction for making paracord items on the internet—some more practical than others. I don’t like wearing bracelets, so I watched a bunch of videos online and was inspired to make my belt. It took a lot of time and trial and error, but it was worth it.
    You can make plenty of useful items out of paracord. I think it’s fun. If knot-tying isn’t your thing, it’s easy enough to wrap the cord in a bundle and throw it in a bag. Either way, you’ll be glad to have cordage in an emergency.  

    - Prep-Daddy

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: paracord

  • Planning for an Emergency

    A well-thought-out emergency plan can help your family face a crisis with confidence. Because a disaster can devastate most, if not all, aspects of a person’s life, it’s important to prepare for the worst (while hoping for the best, of course). Disasters can occur on a small scale, such as a house fire or downed power line, or on a regional scale as with a hurricane or an earthquake. Whatever the disaster may be, a thorough emergency plan will cover all your bases.

    We can’t predict all disasters and they often strike without warning. Fortunately, if you’re prepared for one type of disaster, you’ll be prepared for almost anything. This is because human needs are the same in almost any situation—we need clean water, food, shelter, and protection for our families and valued possessions.

    This includes things like:

    • Storing food, water, and other needed supplies
    • Storing extra copies of important legal documents, photos, digital data, and irreplaceable items in a safe place
    • Making plans for evacuating your home
    • Designating an out-of-state emergency contact to help your family communicate if you are separated during a disaster.

    Gaining knowledge is the key to planning:

    • Learn about emergency preparedness.
    • Gain more knowledge about your family’s physical and emotional needs as they relate to potential emergencies.
    • Learn about the potential disasters and hazards you face in your home, your town or city, your state, and your region.

    The more you know, the more prepared you can be.

    To learn more about emergency planning, check out the Insight Articles and other resources linked below:

    Posted In: Insight, Planning

  • Evacuating from Home in an Emergency

    |1 COMMENT(S)

    Unfortunately, there are times when an emergency evacuation from your home is absolutely necessary. When the time to evacuate comes, make sure you’re prepared with the information and emergency supplies you need. Here are some questions and information regarding emergency evacuation.

    Question #1: Where should I go when I evacuate?

    It’s wise to make a plan with your family to meet at a designated location or locations during an evacuation. You will want a destination far enough away to provide protection but preferably reachable on one tank of gas. Experience teaches us that in times of emergency the lines at gas stations are notoriously long and in the worst case, no gas is available to purchase. One to two hundred miles is usually a good distance, but in a huge storm you may need to go farther. If at all possible, don’t plan to rely on motels or hotels. They fill up quickly and often in such circumstances operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. It’s best if you have a friend or relative that you can stay with. Perhaps you could make a reciprocal arrangement with them so that they would also be welcomed at your home if they were forced to evacuate. If weather permits, a spot in a campground would probably suffice, especially if it offers restrooms and showers. If you have access to a vacation cabin away from the danger area, that would also be a good option. Some people prepare ahead of time by stashing extra supplies at such a place or in a closet storage unit close by. Bedding, clothing, toiletries, and extra drinking water are good items to store in such a place. Storing sleeping bags, blankets, seasonal clothing, and pillows in vacuumed bags will save space and have the additional advantage of being water and insect-proof. Having supplies away from home will also help if your home is destroyed in a fire or other disaster.

    Question #2: What about a public shelter?

    Sometimes this may be your only choice and you’ll be thrown together with strangers and in a high-stress situation. So, if you must go to one, take some precautions.. Keep your children and belongings with you at all times. If there are two adults present, make sure one stays with the children while the other goes to the restroom. Take turns on watch duty, even during the night. Don’t flash your emergency supplies or money around where all can see. Keep your car locked. On the other hand, if you see a real need and can share, quietly do so. Try to team up with other families to form a mini-community, and watch out for each other. Be a good citizen. Try to keep your children quiet and occupied. Don’t play loud music or talk loudly. Keep your area neat and don’t take up other people’s space.

    Crises bring out both the best and the worst in people. Everyone will be stressed to one degree or another. Try to be a part of the solution rather than a problem. Only a few shelters accept pets, and if you have one with you, be extra sensitive to the needs of others and take responsibility for your animal. Take pets out as often as weather permits and discourage other people’s children from overwhelming your pet with attentions. Keep smaller animals in their carriers except when on a leash for exercise. Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date. Ideally, a friend or relative who lives out of the danger area would keep your pet safe for a few days.

    Question #3: How can I prepare my car for an evacuation?

    Your car may be your new home for a while. A few small things may make all the difference.
    Keep a detailed map of your area in your car. A GPS device can be a lifesaver, but can also fail if it runs out of power. In the case of a mass evacuation, the main highways might be the most direct route to your chosen destination, but they may also be clogged with traffic. If you are familiar with alternative back roads, they might be a better choice. Practice using these routes ahead of time so that you’ll be familiar with them—especially if the weather is bad.

    Keep your car in good condition and with at least a half-tank of gas at all times. If you drive a truck or a large SUV, three-quarters of a tank would be better. Make sure your tires are in good condition and that any regular maintenance is taken care of on time. Have an emergency auto kit to handle minor repairs and provide emergency supplies. Also remember to have a spare tire and jack. If you know a storm is approaching and you may need to evacuate, park your car facing the street so that the back is available for quick loading and you’re poised to pull right out without having to back out into traffic. Keep your keys in your pocket if evacuation seems likely and always have a "hide-a-key" in case you lose yours.

    Question #4: What mental and emotional preparations can I make now to help my family?

    If you have children, it’s a good idea to hold evacuation drills. These are much like fire drills except everyone can leave by way of the door closest to the car, picking up their emergency or evacuation kit on the way. Another good habit to develop with each child is clearing a path to the bedroom door as part of the bedtime routine, so there won’t be any tripping hazards to slow them down in the dark. A pair of shoes and a flashlight, or a chemical light stick beside each bed is also a good precaution for every family member.

    Remember to review and update your emergency kit supplies regularly. April and October are good times for this because of seasonal changes. The season will influence the kit’s contents. If you don’t currently have emergency kits, consider buying pre-made kits or making your own. For more information see our [Insight Articles on Emergency Kits] and our [Kit Checklist].

    Question #5: What if the nature of the emergency requires evacuation to be on foot rather than by car?

    This is slow and more difficult, especially with children or the elderly, and you won’t be able to go as far. If it’s your only choice, go with it. Bicycles for everyone might seem like a good solution, but bikes can present as many problems as they solve. If you must walk, it would be good to have some kind of wheeled carrier for small children or to help transport packs. A sturdy wagon, stroller, shopping or laundry cart, luggage carrier, or a wheelchair could help in transporting your gear. For a small family, motorized bikes or scooters might be a good solution as they can maneuver around blockages and go quite far on a tank of gas. However, you would not be able to carry as much with you.

    Question #6: What else should I think about?

    If a possible evacuation is looming, be prepared ahead of time and leave as early as you possibly can to avoid the rush of evacuees. Many people try to stay at home for as long as possible, hoping they won’t need to leave; Hurricane Katrina taught us the lack of wisdom in that approach.

    If you have to leave your home for an extended period of time, it’s important to leave your house in good order. Just packing up and leaving can put your home at risk of damage you don't want to come home to. Frozen pipes in cold weather will cause an indoor flood, and fires can leave your house in ashes. When you practice your evacuation plan with your family, go through a checklist of turning off all lights and appliances (everything but the refrigerator), and, in cold weather, turning on your faucets to a slow drip (to prevent the pipes from freezing). Show your family where the house's central switches and valves are for turning off all of the utilities in case main city pipes have been damaged by the emergency.

    Be pro-active, prepare ahead of time, and don’t lag behind hoping to be rescued if things get really bad. If they do, emergency services will be overwhelmed and possibly unavailable for days or weeks. Organization and planning are the keys to a successful evacuation.

    Take some time to think about things that would be crucial to you should you have to be self-reliant for a few days or a week. Plan to have the following supplies for you and your family: Water, food, warmth and shelter, extra clothing (shoes, hat, coat, gloves, rain gear, etc.), light sources like flashlights or headlamps, tools, first aid, medications, communication, personal sanitation, money, important papers, stress relievers, and a car preparedness kit.

    By having a plan of action and your supplies ready you will be better able to survive an emergency. Remember what the former director of the National Hurricane Center, Max Mayfield, said: "Preparation through education is less costly than learning through tragedy."

    Posted In: Insight, Planning

  • Communicating During and After a Disaster

    Even though we can’t prevent earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, or other disruptive events, learning what communication options are available during and after a disaster will help you better protect yourself and your loved ones. Establishing a meeting place where family members will gather in an emergency is vital. You may want to select a local school or church. You should also have a communication plan in case you can’t meet. An out-of-state contact can be key to sending and receiving messages during an emergency. This should be a friend or relative designated to handle messages if you can’t call or locate your local family members. While most local private phone lines may be out of order for hours after a disaster strikes, long distance lines are usually operable much sooner. The out-of-state contact can receive and relay messages from family members so you will know they are safe.

    FEMA recommends using text messaging, email, or social media for non-life-threatening emergency communications. They also recommend calling 9-1-1 only in life-threatening situations . In situation when power is out for extended periods of time or you need to evacuate the area, a solar battery charger like the GoalZero™ Nomad 7m Solar Panel will charge your cell phone and other battery-powered devices.

    Tips for Communication

    Establish who your out-of-state contact will be ahead of time.

    Family members should carry cards in their wallets or backpacks with the following information: (1) emergency meeting place with the address (outside the home); (2) alternate meeting place and address (outside the neighborhood); and (3) name plus day and evening phone numbers of out-of-state contact. Make sure you inform your children’s teachers, baby sitters or daycare, and parents of friends about the out-of-state contact, so they can communicate with you if you can’t contact them directly. Each family member should carry a phone card or enough change for several phone calls if there are pay phones in your area.

    It may be helpful to find out in advance if you have a ham radio operator in your area. They are very helpful and can deliver messages from both private and community sources during and after a disaster. If a pay phone isn't available, and your out-of-state contact is several states away, you can communicate using this type of relay system. Your local ham can contact another ham that will contact another ham, and so on, until they find one within your out-of-state contact's area. The ham operator closest to your contact can then phone the contact and deliver any messages.

    A battery-powered or hand crank radio is helpful in monitoring the status of the disaster. Be sure to keep a fresh supply of batteries on hand. Check expiration dates on the batteries and rotate them regularly. Do not keep batteries inside the radio because they expire more quickly and may leak.

    When charged, most cell phones are able to call 9-1-1 even when they are not active. It is wise to have a cell phone (even not activated) when traveling or for emergency use.

    Remember that preparation brings confidence. When planning for an emergency, don’t forget that communication with your family members will be especially important. The tips provided in this article will assist you in creating a plan to contact loved ones during unexpected events.

    Posted In: Insight, Planning

  • Preparing by Developing Your Skills

    Use the variety of resources available to you to increase your preparedness skills

    By learning some basic and needful skills, you can become your own best resource in an emergency situation. Keep in mind that not all emergencies are major natural disasters. Smaller but significant personal difficulties such as job loss, greatly reduced income, loss of transportation, being snowed in, having a broken-down washing machine, loss of electrical power, or having a health need when far from medical care are just a few examples of emergencies that many of us face at one time or another. Having emergency supplies is great; we also need to know how to use them. It’s important that all members of the family (as appropriate for age) acquire skills. Here’s a list of emergency skills that could help you better deal with an emergency situation:

      1. Filter and treat water to make it drinkable
      2. Meet your daily drinking, cooking, and sanitation needs with one gallon of water per day
      3. Perform basic first aid or CPR
      4. Make a fire without matches
      5. Cook outdoors without electricity
      6. Set up a tent or tarp shelter
      7. Evacuate home on foot
      8. Change a flat tire
      9. Make bread from scratch
      10. Make “wheat meat”
      11. Heat an MRE
      12. Have your child open a Calorie Food Bar or water pouch without help from an adult
      13. Entertain your children without modern technology
      14. Plant a garden
      15. Can fruits and Vegetables at home
      16. Wash clothes by hand.
      17. Repair or make clothing for your family
      18. Light and/or heat your home
      19. Use a bucket toilet
      20. Use cloth diapers

    How do your skills measure up when you look at the above list? If you feel helpless and horrified at the idea of needing to use these skills, how can you develop such skills? What resources are available? Fortunately there are several cookbooks and preparedness manuals available. It would be a wise choice to collect a small library of these helpful books.

    It’s best to learn skills hands-on from a knowledgeable teacher (especial those related to first aid), but you can learn a lot on your own. Excellent free articles are available at and Watching online tutorial videos is another way to educate yourself. Emergency Essentials has its own YouTube channel:

    Posted In: Insight, Skills

  • First Aid for Wounds

    For most people, the sight of blood coming from a wound, whether it is yours or someone else's, can be very upsetting.  To prepare for this possibility, it’s wise to study first aid in advance, so you can stay as calm as possible and take proper action if the need arises.  It’s also wise to keep your first aid kit well stocked at all times.  The following are some basic guidelines for different types of wounds.

    For more information on first aid for wounds, see the book First Aid: First on the Scene by St. John Ambulance.

    Minor Cuts and Scrapes

    Wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water, removing any foreign material such as gravel or dirt, which can cause infection.  Cover with a sterile dressing and bandage, and keep it clean and dry at all times.  Wash the affected area daily (without scrubbing) and reapply a clean dressing until it is completely healed.  Sponge the area lightly with disinfectant to keep it clean.  Some experts feel that applying products like hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and iodine directly onto the site may delay healing of the affected tissues.  Use your judgment and if you are hesitant, you can swab the area surrounding the cut instead.

    Puncture Wounds

    Usually caused by a sharp, pointed object, such as a nail or needle, puncture wounds can be serious.  Punctures are usually small, yet deep and microorganisms can be pushed into the wound with the puncturing object.  Puncture wounds are difficult to clean.  If the object has penetrated the bone, it can abscess.  A common type of puncture wound is a nail in the foot.  This is especially risky if a nail has gone through a tennis shoe.  The foam in tennis shoes is known to harbor a type of bacteria called pseudomonas, which can cause infection of the tissues.  To treat, flush the area thoroughly with water, cleaning well.  Elevate the foot, and if signs of infection manifest (redness, swelling, persistent pain, pus, or fever), contact a health professional (these signs of infection apply to any type of wound).  Wear a clean sock and shoe to protect the area while it is healing.  Make sure you are current on your immunizations against tetanus (lockjaw).

    Major wounds

    For severe bleeding, apply constant pressure to the wound with a sterile dressing, if available.  Hold for up to twenty minutes.  If there is a foreign object in the wound (such as glass) don't press directly, but apply pressure along the wound area.  If broken bones or dislocations are suspected, do not move the affected limb.  Immobilize it by a splint, if possible.  If you’re sure there are no breaks, you can gently elevate and support the part while keeping pressure on it.  This action should minimize bleeding.  Dress the wound with sterile non-sticking material as soon as possible and obtain professional help.

    For large, open wounds:

    • Contact a health professional immediately.  Surgical sutures may be required to close the wound.
    • Check frequently for signs of infection, as outlined under “puncture wounds.”
    • Keep emergency phone numbers by each phone in your house
    • Review first aid procedures with family members on a regular basis
    • Keep first aid supplies well stocked in your home, as well as your car.

    Posted In: Insight, Skills

  • Shelter and Temperature Control in an Emergency

    Along with water and food, shelter and temperature control are two of the most important elements of human survival. Even if you’re hydrated and have a full belly, you won’t survive long if your core body temperature rises or falls very far outside 98.6˚ F. Shelter and temperature control are all about protection from the elements. During an emergency, our usual sources of shelter and temperature control might not be available, so it’s important to gain knowledge about how to find shelter and maintain your core body temperature in an emergency.


    Shelter includes anything that protects you from the elements. Ideally, we would all be able to “shelter in place” in our own homes. Home is the place we are most familiar with and feel most comfortable. Home is also where we keep the majority of our emergency supplies. A well-stocked home can provide shelter and protection to a family for a long time. However, house fires or natural disasters like floods, landslides, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, and earthquakes all have the potential to destroy homes. If you and your family are forced to evacuate your home for these or other reasons (like a chemical spill or civil unrest), knowing your emergency shelter options will increase your ability to protect your family from the elements.

    Couch Surfing – It’s a good idea to have an evacuation location picked as part of your emergency plan. Ask a friend or relative in another part of your town or state if you can come stay with them in case of an emergency that requires you to evacuate. You may also want to find someone out of state in case of a regional disaster. You could offer to be their evacuation shelter in case of an emergency in their area.

    Community or Disaster Relief Shelters – It can take a few days for community or national disaster relief organizations to set up shelters, but they can be a good resource if you don’t have another place to stay. Contact your local government’s emergency management branch or the local Red Cross chapter to find out where shelters are likely to be located in a disaster, and ask what restrictions are in place—there may be a limit to how many items you can bring with you, and there will likely be limits on the types of pets they allow, if any at all.

    Emergency Outdoor Shelters – As a last resort (or maybe your preferred option, depending on your love of camping and the outdoors), you could find a campground, schoolyard, or other area that hasn’t been affected by the disaster and live in a tent or other temporary shelter until help is available or you can return home. Be sure to have a tent and sleeping bags that will be sufficiently warm (or cool) for the climate in your area.

    Temperature Control

    Maintaining a core body temperature of 98.6˚ F is critical in an emergency. Even if you shelter in place at home, extreme hot or cold can be deadly. If you find yourself without electricity to run heating or air conditioning systems in summer or winter, you will need some way to control the temperature. In winter, a fireplace, wood stove, or portable heater can help you stay warm at home. Be sure your heat source is safe for indoor use and won’t create a carbon monoxide problem or other air quality issues.

    If extreme cold persists and you have no other means of heating your home, use an interior wall or corner to build a heat hut. A heat hut is an indoor shelter that will maximize your body heat to keep a small area warm.

    • Push several tables, desks or other pieces furniture near each other.
    • The four sides, floor, and “roof” should be covered with 15” of insulating materials like mattresses, blankets/bedding, towels, clothing, etc.
    • There should only be a small space for each person inside.
    • Lie close to or hug another person.

    If you find yourself outdoors in cold weather, a campfire can save your life. In summer, cooling your home without air conditioning may be difficult, especially without electricity. A solar-powered generator and a standing fan might be the best emergency gear you ever invested in if your electricity is out during a heat wave. Wherever you find yourself, knowing how to control the temperature of your body can increase your chances of survival.

    Layered Clothing – Layering clothing is a great way to regulate your temperature, wherever you’re sheltering. Having the option to add more layers or remove them will allow you to remain comfortable in a wide variety of situations, rather than having one heavy coat or a single light jacket that doesn’t suit the situation well.

    When choosing the layers you may need in an emergency situation, think about several light layers you could use for hot to cool weather (light t-shirts, shorts, light pants or long-sleeve t-shirts), some regular layers like your day-to-day clothing, and some thicker layers in case of cold weather (long johns, warm vests, fleece, hoodies, sweaters, turtlenecks, wool coats, etc.).

    Avoid cotton clothing as much as possible in your emergency gear—especially your cold-weather gear. Cotton soaks up water and dries very slowly, so it can literally be the difference between life and death in cold weather. Instead, choose clothing in fabrics that dry quickly and keep you warm—it is more expensive, but it’s worth the extra money to potentially save your life.

    Don’t forget to keep extra socks and gloves available—if your hands and feet aren’t warm, jackets and coats won’t be as effective at regulating your temperature.

    Keep dry – Keep in mind that water and wind both accelerate heat loss, so be sure you include layers of clothing that will protect from rain, snow, and wind. It only takes one rain storm to soak you through and leave you uncomfortable, cold, or sick. And a windproof layer is always a good idea, whether it’s over heavy or light layers of clothing.

    Surviving the heat The Lawrence of Arabia way– If you’ve seen this classic film, you know the principle: light, white, travel at night. Keep your fabrics light in weight, white (or light) in color, and if you have to travel to your evacuation location or perform heavy labor, do so at night to keep cool and save the extra water you would drink in the heat of the day.

    If you live near a water source, consider spending time there to fight the heat—a swimming pool, lake, or stream is a great way to cool off. Take all the proper safety precautions for yourself and those with you, try to find a shady spot to relax, and don’t forget to use sunscreen.

    Remember that we talked about water and wind accelerating heat loss? You can use that to your advantage in hot weather—spritzing yourself with cool water and creating a breeze with a fan will help you cool down.

    With just a few essential items, you can prepare to shelter at home or away, and in any kind of weather. Think about the climate in your area, and have items in your emergency kit that allow you to customize your shelter and clothing to accommodate weather throughout the year.For more information on Shelter and Temperature Control, check out our Insight Articles on linked below:

    Posted In: Insight, Shelter and Temperature Control

  • Emergency Shelter

    Since 2007, more than 14 million people worldwide have reportedly lost their homes in natural disasters. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, winter storms—these types of disasters are a possibility no matter where in the world you live. It’s important for all of us to be prepared for anything from a temporary power outage to a catastrophe. Fortunately, none of us are completely alone when it comes to disaster preparedness. Local, regional, and national agencies work tirelessly before, during, and after natural disasters. Still, natural disasters often make it hard for agencies to launch an immediate response. It’s critical for each of us to make emergency preparations so we can keep ourselves, our families, and communities safe during and after a disaster.

    As we’ve seen time and time again, people and communities are resilient. Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, fires, tornadoes, and other large-scale catastrophes level towns and cities and yet we rebuild. If you owned a house severely damaged by a flood, earthquake, or tornado, would you throw up your hands and move to a new state or would you rebuild?

    A 1982 U.N. study revealed how people have established shelter during and after major disasters throughout history. The study found that “the primary response to shelter needs has been provided by the survivors themselves.” The study also found that “local organizations, especially those “in place” at the time of the disaster” provided secondary support, while national or international organizations provided the least amount of support. Time, the scale of the disaster, and the self-reliance of the residents in affected areas were found to limit the response of external agencies. Though this report is twenty years old, recent disasters around the world show that self-reliance is one of the most important factors when it comes to emergency shelter during and after a disaster.

    When it comes to emergency shelter, there are several options depending on the situation. Some of these include personal homes, storm shelters, bomb/fallout shelters, local relief shelters, portable shelters (vehicles, tents, tarps, etc.), and improvised shelters. It’s important to become familiar with these types of emergency shelter, so you and your family will be better prepared to respond to disasters with self-reliance and community cooperation.


    Most likely, you’ll store the majority of your emergency preparedness supplies in your home. Since it isn’t always practical to carry all those supplies with you, staying home is preferable when possible. In certain emergency situations, your own home can be the best shelter. These situations might include extreme heat or cold, winter storms, thunder and lightning storms, blackouts, tornadoes, and pandemics. Some of these can last days or weeks, so make sure you store at least two weeks’ worth of food, water, and other needed supplies. Every home emergency kit should include emergency lighting and communication. In all situations, having a battery or hand crank operated radio will help keep you informed as the emergency develops.

    For extreme temperatures, make sure your home is well-insulated and your heating/air conditioning system is in good repair. A backup generator can keep these systems running during a power outage. Also consider single room heaters or air conditioners that use less energy or concentrating heating/cooling to a single room or small section of your house.
    For in-depth information on specific disasters, visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website

    Storm Shelters

    There are many types of storm shelters, both commercially- or home-made. If you live in a disaster-prone region, a well-built above- or in-ground storm shelter can save your life and the lives of your family. If you can buy a premade shelter, make sure the manufacturer is credible and builds high-quality shelters that meet government guidelines. Commercially-made shelters often cost anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Making a shelter yourself can save money, but make sure you have the proper knowledge, skills, plans, and materials. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published guidelines for proper shelter, or “safe room,” construction in the document FEMA P-320, Taking Shelter from the Storm, Building a Safe Room For Your Home or Small Business. To download this document, visit

    Bomb/Fallout Shelters

    Though a large-scale foreign attack on the United States seems unlikely, some of us remember life during the Cold War. For decades, the threat of a nuclear attack prompted cities and private individuals to build fallout shelters. Many of these shelters still exist in the basements of government and other buildings, though they are likely out of commission. These and other types of bomb shelters are still commercially available.

    Local Relief Shelters

    After a major disaster strikes, emergency relief organizations like FEMA or the Red Cross set up temporary shelters to provide for the needs of residents in the affected area. If a natural or man-made disaster makes sheltering at home unsafe, a mass shelter may be your best option. Remember, it takes time for these agencies to set up shelters, so they recommend having at least three days’ worth of food, water, and supplies in an emergency kit. Because staying at a mass shelter with a crowd of strangers can be uncomfortable and stressful, staying with a friend or relative outside the affected area may be a better option. Make sure you plan ahead of time if you want to avoid mass shelters.

    Local news agencies will most likely announce the location of relief shelters, so a portable radio can be your best source of information. If you have internet access, you can find open Red Cross shelters on their website’s ‘Find Open Shelters’ page. You can also text “SHELTER” plus your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest FEMA shelter in your area. To prepare for possible disasters in your area, consider contacting your local emergency management agency and Red Cross office to get more information. Your town may already have a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Go to for more information. To find state and local emergency preparedness information, visit our map, “Emergency Preparedness in Your State.”

    Portable Shelters

    Common types of portable shelters include vehicles, tents, or tarps. Depending on how many people you need to cover, something as small as a rain poncho can provide shelter from the elements. Vehicles make great shelter, but many are too small to sleep in comfortably, especially for a family. If an emergency makes driving impractical or impossible, you may need to carry your shelter. There are many high-quality, lightweight backpacking tents available. For larger groups, consider distributing the contents of larger tent among the members to carry.

    If you plan to use a tarp for a shelter, make sure you know how to set it up before an emergency. There are many configurations of tarp shelters that offer different types of coverage. Learn a few options (i.e., using trees or setting up in the open). Whether using a camping tent or tarp, practice setting up quickly using teamwork. A backyard campout is fun and gives family members, especially children, a chance to learn important skills for an emergency.

    Improvised Shelter

    If you find yourself without shelter in an emergency, knowing how to improvise a shelter out of available materials might save your life and the lives of your family members. There are many books on wilderness survival that include instructions for building improvised shelters. It is best to have both knowledge and experience to successfully construct a shelter, but do so with care and caution. If possible, consult a local wilderness survival expert or take a class.Whether sheltering at home or away, knowledge is your most valuable tool. Learning the different options for emergency shelter can reduce stress and provide protection when it’s needed most.

    Habitat for Humanity International. ShelterReport 2012: Build Hope: Housing Cities After a Disaster. p. 3.

    The United Nations. Shelter after Disaster: Guidelines for Assistance. New York: United Nations, 1982. p. 5.



    Posted In: Insight, Shelter and Temperature Control

  • Equipment Tools for an Emergency

    |3 COMMENT(S)

    In a major disaster, the modern conveniences we take advantage of every day might not be available. Having the right emergency equipment and tools can help you maintain some degree of normalcy in basic day-to-day tasks. Imagine being able to cook, wash clothes, take a hot shower, light and heat your home, listen to the news, charge your cell phone and other electronic devices, or run large appliances even if the power and water are shut off. Consider how you might benefit from the following items in an emergency:

    • camping stove
    • hand-powered grain mill
    • hand-powered clothes washer
    • portable hot shower
    • hand-crank flashlight
    • indoor propane-powered heater
    • hand-crank radio
    • solar-powered battery charge with USB plug in
    • solar-powered generator capable of powering a refrigerator

    These are just a few of the items that could reduce stress and provide comfort during an emergency. With the right equipment and tools, life can go on with less interruption even in a disaster.

    To learn more about emergency equipment and tools, check out the Insight Articles linked below:

    Posted In: Equipment, Insight

  • Light During an Emergency

    |4 COMMENT(S)

    Light sources are important for any emergency preparedness plan. Children and individuals with special needs especially need light not just to see, but also to feel safe. Preparedness experts recommend having several emergency light sources available.

    When emergency light sources are mentioned, most people think of flashlights. Flashlights are great because they are small, portable and easy to use. Flashlights are good for directional light, but are not as effective for lighting a whole room. Certain batteries can be recharged many times, even by the sun. Rechargeable batteries are one way to be sure you’ll have power for your flashlights. Be sure to purchase a battery charger for your rechargeable batteries. Solar charger kits like the Goal Zero™ Nomad Guide Combo come with a portable solar panel, battery pack, and 4 AA rechargeable batteries, so you can keep batteries ready if you can’t access electricity. We recommend having a flashlight at your bedside in case of an emergency during the night.

    Another option is a hand crank flashlight. This type of flashlight has a lever that you crank or pump for light. The Charger™ Emergency Hand Crank Flashlight with Mobile Phone Adapter will not only give you light, but the ability to charge cell phones and other devices using their car charger. The Wavelength Emergency Radio, Charger & Flashlight also charges your devices, and has a built in radio.

    LED (light emitting diode) bulbs use technology that allow an incredible life span of thousands of hours and emit a bright light. Because they don’t have a sensitive filament to break, they can withstand more abuse. LED flashlights are highly recommended for any preparedness plan because of their longevity and reliability. LED headlamps are great for emergency kits because they’re hands-free, lightweight, and point wherever you’re looking.

    Old-fashioned decorative kerosene or lamp oil lanterns are another light source. In the category of liquid fuel lamps, kerosene and lamp oil lanterns are the safest type for indoors and put off a good amount of light. There are all kinds of different sizes, styles, and types of lanterns you can buy. Propane lamps are great for outdoor use, but shouldn’t be used indoors because of harmful fumes.

    Candles are a reliable light source and all you need is a match to light them. Wax candles are inexpensive and most of us already have them around the house. Scented candles are great decorations and can provide both light and a comforting smell during an emergency. 100-hour liquid paraffin candles last longer than wax candles. Liquid paraffin is smokeless and odorless, which is nice for indoors. The longer the wick the more light it will emit.

    Use gear like the 100-hour Plus Candle for light in an emergency

    Chemical lightsticks are also recommended for emergencies. These lightsticks are lightweight and easy-to-use. They are a great light source when flammable fumes or possible gas spills make fire and electric power unsafe. They are completely safe in any emergency and will offer light for up to 12 hours.

    emergency lightstick

    As you prepare yourself and your family for emergencies, don't forget about light sources. Consider how much light you will need for your house. Be sure to consider the people in your house who will need lighting. When the power does go out, you will be thankful you took the time to prepare.

    Posted In: Equipment, Insight

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