> Fri Sep 09, 2005 at 02:02:18 PM PST
> (From the diaries -- Plutonium
Page. Very practical. Bookmark this one.)
> Something bad is going to happen, and there's nothing you can do to stop
> Preparing to deal with a disaster is like going off of a ski jump. If you put off your planning until things start
happening, it's far too late to make much of a difference. Once you're headed down that ski jump, the time for planning and
preparation is over.
> On the other hand, being prepared for disaster does not have to be time-consuming or expensive.
In this multi-part series of DailyKos Diaries, I will share with you, dear reader, many of the lessons I've learned regarding
the most effective ways to prepare for an emergency.
> * AlphaGeek's diary <http://AlphaGeek.dailykos.com/>
> * This is the first installment in a multi-part series on personal disaster preparedness. Your
humble correspondent is a Silicon Valley technical executive with both professional and personal experience in risk assessment
and disaster-readiness planning. Links to reference materials, including planning guides and reference information, will be
found at the end of the final Diaries in this series.
> When disaster strikes, will you be prepared?
what you may have gathered from reading guides to readiness from the government, the Red Cross, or other organizations, you
should not begin with a spending spree at the local hardware store. When you strip away all of the bureaucrat-speak, there
are three basic steps you must follow to be ready for disaster:
> In this
installment, we will discuss step 1, assessment of risks.
> The psychology of disaster preparedness
> In order
to effectively prepare for disaster without becoming overwhelmed, you must be able to make realistic judgments about risks.
On one hand, it is an effort for most people to "think the unthinkable", to contemplate scenarios which are far outside the
routine of their daily lives. It is difficult for most people to imagine a world where fresh water does not flow from the
taps, electricity is something you can't take for granted, and the grocery store shelves are empty... assuming the stores
are even open.
> On the other hand, there's a phenomenon I think of as the "armageddon fallacy". This is the temptation,
once that our Pandora's Box of fears and concerns has been opened, to imagine extremely unlikely events as real threats. We
must be cautious to exercise good judgment when considering risks, as the "armageddon fallacy" is a surprisingly easy trap
to fall into. Keep in mind that your plan, at some point, will be shared with friends and family. This incents most people
to stay clear of the Crazy Talk Express to Armageddon Town when making a plan.
> Assessing your risks: take a look around
/>Each city, state, and region of the country has its own unique set of risks. For example, your humble correspondent's
home in Fremont, California is unlikely to be threatened by a hurricane -- but that home is only a few miles from the Hayward
Fault , and surprisingly, is in a "dam failure inundation area". Many homes in America are subject to hidden or unseen dangers
such as this; in the Southwest, for example, the dangers of flash floods in an otherwise arid environment are well known,
yet people die (surprised, in many cases) in flash floods every year.
> Your first task in building a disaster-readiness
plan is to assess the risks particular to the areas where you spend significant time. In America's car-centric suburban culture,
many people work 20 miles or more from their home. The risks at work and at home may differ considerably, and should be assessed
> Here is a brief listing of risk categories you may find useful in putting together your list of potential
emergencies in your area:>
> * Domestic risks (house fire, carbon monoxide, medical emergency)
* Industrial accident risk (refineries, chemical plants, rail lines transporting hazardous cargo such as liquified
> * Natural disasters (heat waves, forest/grassland fires, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes,
> * Secondary disaster risk due to primary natural disaster (e.g. the reservoir dam which may
fail in an earthquake and flood Fremont)
> * Civil disturbance (riots, terrorist attacks, acts of war)
> These risks are listed in the order in which you should consider them. Please note the "civil disturbance" category
is last -- this is because one of the principal goals of any disaster plan should be to minimize your exposure to civil-disturbance
risks. The next installment of this series will discuss the use of risk-avoidance strategies in detail.
> A good source
for risk information is your city or state Office Of Emergency Services website, or its equivalent. Other good sources for
detailed risk information include the following local resources:
> * building permit authority
* fire department
> * police department and/or sheriff's office
> There exists one
more category of risk which you must consider: risks to your freedom of movement. As you go about your business for the next
week, consider the following:
> * Do you know of any alternate routes between work and home?
Does your primary route include bridges or tunnels?
> * Does your primary route pass under any high-voltage
> * Do you regularly drive past refineries, chemical plants, or rail lines carrying tank cars?
* Does your neighborhood have above- or below-ground power distribution?
> * If you need to
leave your city or region, how many routes can you think of without consulting a map?
> * Do you have reasonably
current paper map of your region in each of your family vehicles?
> Homework time!
> Your mission, should you
choose to accept it, is to make a list of as many disaster risks as you can think of. Get your significant other or your kids
involved, and make it a competitive event. Be lenient, at first, when considering whether something is a likely risk. Be sure
to include all of the places where you might find yourself when disaster strikes -- home, work, school, church, shopping,
and so forth. Don't consider the list closed until you've visited each of these places and looked, with a critical eye, at
the risks we all ignore on a daily basis.
> Chance favors the prepared mind. - Louis Pasteur <http://www.quotedb.com/quotes/2195>
> In any given disaster situation, you will find a group of people who maximize their chances for survival by making
the correct choices before, during, and after the crisis. These folks have a few things in common:
Each of them personally decided that he/she was going to survive
> * They accurately assessed their immediate
and near-term risks and needs
> * They made the best plan they could based on available resources
* They executed that plan in a flexible, adaptive manner
> * They kept going until they had
reached safety, and did not give up
> The single most important thing you can do to survive a disaster is to be mentally
> Being prepared for disaster does not have to be time-consuming or expensive. In this multi-part series
of DailyKos Diaries, I will share with you, dear reader, many of the lessons I've learned regarding the most effective ways
to prepare for an emergency.
> * AlphaGeek's diary <http://AlphaGeek.dailykos.com/> :: ::
* This is the second installment in a multi-part series on personal disaster preparedness. Your humble correspondent
is a Silicon Valley technical executive with both professional and personal experience in risk assessment and disaster-readiness
planning. Links to reference materials, including planning guides and reference information, will be found at the end of the
final Diaries in this series. Because of the huge response to the first Diary in the series, I am expanding the number of
installments to (at least) four to cover all of the subjects people want to discuss.>
> WARNING: This Diary
series discusses a wide range of disaster-related subjects in a straightforward, honest fashion. Some people may experience
a strong emotional reaction to reading about or discussing situations which are normally avoided in polite conversation. You
have been warned.
> When disaster strikes, will you be prepared?
> Despite what you may have gathered from reading
guides to readiness from the government, the Red Cross, or other organizations, you should not begin with a spending spree
at the local hardware store. When you strip away all of the bureaucrat-speak, there are three basic steps you must follow
to be ready for disaster:
> In this installment, we will discuss step 2,
planning to address risks. This topic will be continued in tomorrow's installment.
> People react in interesting ways
when faced with emergency situations.
> When faced with a life-threatening situation, a great many people will simply
freeze, unable to process events effectively and respond appropriately. A person who reacts in this manner may attempt to
continue normal life at great risk to themselves and others, or may simply subside into shock and denial.
significantly large group will react by making a reasonable effort at ensuring their own survival and helping others, but
may not be terribly effective at either. In many cases, these folks may take actions which increase risk to themselves and
others. A significant percentage of this second group will, depending on the severity and duration of the emergency, go into
shock and denial. In a group situation, good leadership can keep this to a minimum.
> All the cool kids, though, fall
into a third category. Whether by training or innate nature, members of this group are mentally prepared to overcome the challenges
at hand. They have decided that dammit, they're not going to give up and die, and that's final.
> Making the decision
that you, personally, are going to survive makes all the difference in the world.
> How will YOU react?
dear reader, you may think upon your fears and insecurities, and fret that you will surely react like the people in that middle
group, blundering about making (potentially deadly) mistakes. Or, horror of horrors, you may even freeze up under stress and
fail to cope with the situation at all. These are normal reactions, but they are not helpful in a disaster situation, to put
> So how do you avoid joining the ranks of the ineffective masses, waiting passively for help? It comes down
to minimizing FUD -- Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. If you have a solid basic emergency plan, you are well on your way to avoiding
paralysis due to FUD. Like the smart man said, chance favors the prepared mind.
> The principal means, however, of getting
FUD under control and improving the chances that you'll respond effectively in an emergency is simple: practice, practice,
practice. Until you have actually attempted to execute a plan which looks good on paper, you have no guarantees that the plan
works or that you will be ready to use it. A critical part of any preparedness program is periodic review and practice of
your survival-critical plans.
> Review point: Risk-assessment homework
> The starting point for avoiding FUD is
to think through as many problems as you can in advance of needing to deal with them. In Part 1 of 3 - Assess your risks!
<http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/9/161748/9747> I gave you a homework assignment:
> Your mission, should
you choose to accept it, is to make a list of as many disaster risks as you can think of. Get your significant other and/or
your kids involved, and make it a competitive event. Be lenient, at first, when considering whether something is a likely
risk. Be sure to include all of the places where you might find yourself when disaster strikes -- home, work, school, church,
shopping, and so forth. Don't consider the list closed until you've visited each of these places and looked, with a critic>
al eye, at the risks we all ignore on a daily basis.
> If you haven't done your homework, please review the previous
Diary in this series and make your list now. It is important for you, dear reader, to have a clear assessment of your risks
in mind as you consider the material presented below. You simply will not get as much out of this if you do not already have
a reasonably good understanding of the scenarios you are likely to face.
> Now that you've put together your list of
likely emergency situations, take another look at it. Have you included mundane, everyday disasters such as a house or apartment
fire? Here is an example, as told to me by a professional firefighter, of how failure to plan effectively for a common house
fire made a huge difference in the outcome:
> Late one fall afternoon, a San Francisco Bay Area house burned to the
ground. The occupants of the house escaped without injury, and when questioned by the fire chief knew exactly where and how
the fire started. The family, to the perplexity of the fire chief and the inspector, stated that they had been unable to halt
the spread of the fire despite having four Kidde home fire extinguishers on hand.
> After the house had cooled off
enough for the inspection team to enter, they found the origin of the fire to be exactly as it had been described to them.
In the immediate vicinity of the origin point, they found four half-melted, unused fire extinguishers. Upon further inspection,
they found the safety pins for said fire extinguishers in an area about ten feet back from the fire origin.
> It turns
out that the homeowners had pulled the pin on each fire extinguisher and lobbed it grenade-style into the vicinity of the
fire. Unsurprisingly, this was not an effective means of halting the spread of the fire, which would have been easily controlled
by a single correctly used fire extinguisher.
> After you stop laughing, consider this: that family's failure to read
and understand the usage instructions on the fire extinguishers led them to respond ineffectively, costing them their house.
They understood the risk of fire, but did not have an effective plan for dealing with the situation. The lesson here is that
you can't buy preparedness -- you must be equipped to determine the correct action to take in a given situation, and it helps
an awful lot if you get things figured out before you find yourself under stress, lobbing fire extinguishers like grenades
and wondering why they're not working.
> The American Red Cross (ARC) <http://www.redcross.org/> Get Prepared
<http://www.redcross.org/services/prepare/0,1082,0_239_,00.html> pages are an excellent resource for sanity-checking
your list of risks. In addition, the ARC pages provide valuable reference material to use when you are ready to move on to
phase 3, prepare.
> You are also invited to post your prioritized risk-assessment lists in the Comments below. All comments
will get a response.
> Prioritize your risks
> Now that you have a reasonably complete compilation of hazards
you might expect to face, it's time to triage <http://www.answers.com/topic/triage> your list. Be realistic. The actual
chance of a nuclear device detonating within the borders of the US is vanishingly small, whereas there's a 62% probability
<http://quake.wr.usgs.gov/research/seismology/wg02/> of an earthquake strong enough to cause widespread damage to the
San Francisco Bay Area between now and 2032.
> "But AlphaGeek, I thought we were going to make a plan!"
Grasshopper, we are indeed here to get our collective act together by formulating a realistic, workable preparedness plan.
Silly as it may sound, everything leading up to this point has been to get you prepared to get prepared. If you have read
and thoughtfully considered the material presented so far, it's guaranteed that you are not approaching this task the same
way you would have last week.>
> Here are the key steps to developing and maintaining an effective plan:
* Develop your plans, seeking the input of everyone involved
> * Review your plan against
publicly availble resources, such as the American Red Cross (ARC) <http://www.redcross.org/> Get Prepared <http://www.redcross.org/services/prepare/0,1082,0_239_,00.html>
> * Test each section of your plan by conducting a full-family drill
> * Revisit
your plan as your circumstances change
> Regardless of the specific risks one might need to address, there are actually
a limited number of general situations to plan for. We will discuss each of these in detail below.
> While we yet draw
breath, let us do all we can to see another day
> Your top priority in an emergency is to ensure your own safety. If
you are seriously injured or incapacitated, you are out of action for the duration and will not be helping anyone.
A perfect example of this is a loss of cabin pressure on an airplane, which will cause the emergency oxygen masks to drop
down. At high altitude, you will have 20 seconds or less to begin taking in supplemental oxygen before you pass out. It will
take the typical person between 5 and 10 seconds to get over their startlement at the loud bang and sudden appearance of the
masks, and realize that they do in fact need to take action immediately. If you spend that 10-15 seconds trying to put a mask
on a panicky toddler, you're never going to get your own mask on in time. By being mentally prepared, you can suppress your
instinct to take care of your child first and thereby ensure survival for both of you.
> For the purposes of this discussion,
I will assume that that we need to develop a comprehensive disaster plan for a household with two adults, two school-age children,
and a dog. At least one of the adults in this household works outside the home, with a commute of 20 miles. The household
is located in a suburb or exurb of a major metropolitan area.
> Think about what could go wrong, and plan to survive
> In the following example scenarios, we will focus on what you need to plan for, rather than the specific materials
you'll need to carry out your plan. Part 4 of this series will go into excruciating detail on all those sexy material goods
-- but in case it isn't clear by now, having a good plan is far more important than buying a bunch of stuff. Plan first, then
buy what you need to support your plan.
> Scenario 1 - Severe Winter Storms
> Description: A series of severe
winter storms tear through the region, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands and disrupting rail and highway access.
Retail availability of food and water supplies ranges from limited to nonexistent by day 4.
> Scenario profile:
Family separated: NO
> Immediate evacuation required: NO
> Post-event evacuation required: Low probability
Services interrupted: YES (electricity, retail goods)
> Mean time to restoration of services: 10 days
of initial isolation: 5 days
> Communications: possible disruption of phone, cable TV service
> Secondary risks:
Structural damage or failure due to snow/ice load
> Requirements for survival:
> Environment: YES - heat
Electricity: YES - charge batteries, run small TV
> Water: NO - water service uninterrupted
> Nutrition: YES
Food preparation: YES
> Lighting: YES
> Passive communications: YES
> Entertainment: YES
communications: Medical emergency only
> Food preservation: NO - +20F outside = back-patio freezer
> Transportation: NO
> Shelter: NO - but see note on emergency repairs below
> Whether you live on the
Gulf Coast hurricane-impact zone, or in a northern state subject to severe winter storms, weather can present a serious threat
to your safety. Humans are relatively sensitive to heat and cold outside a fairly narrow range, and few people realize how
much energy Western society devotes to keeping us in our comfort zone.>
> In this scenario, you nearly always have
the benefit of sufficient advance warning to get your family safely home before things get ugly. The safest course of action
in this situation is to hunker down and make the best of things in the safety of your home.
> When it's 20F or less
outside, even a well-insulated home will cool off quickly if the central heating system goes offline. As a commenter observed
in the discussion of Part 1, gas-fired central heat doesn't do you a whole lot of good if the blower and control electronics
don't have power. Be prepared to provide adequate heat to at least one room in your house. Consider consolidating everyone
into one or two rooms with heat source(s) and closing off the rest of the house.
> The tools and materials to make emergency
repairs to your shelter are critical in this situation. When it's pounding down freezing rain outside, night is coming, and
the wind is whistling through a broken window, you will not have the option of waiting for the handyman. Have a plan for repairing
broken windows and/or doors, and assume that you will not have the use of power tools.
> Electricity. Americans are
addicted to it, your correspondent included. Most people immediately think "generator" when the topic of emergency electric
power comes up. The fact is, you already have a generator parked in your garage. Your family car, coupled with a modestly
sized DC-to-AC inverter, is capable of supplying enough power to make a huge difference in your standard of living while grid
power is offline. Generators and DC-AC inverters will be discussed in detail in Part 4.
> Water supply is generally
not an issue in cold-weather states, as the water delivery system is designed to survive severe weather. Appropriate weatherproofing
techniques should be implemented to prevent frozen and/or burst pipes, especially if central heating is offline.
goes hand-in-hand with water pressure. In my experience, the biggest sanitation-related danger in this scenario is having
your butt freeze to the toilet seat.
> Nutrition is of primary concern, especially considering that people require higher
caloric intake when it's cold. You should have a two-week supply of food on hand, excluding fresh and frozen foods. (Remember,
we're not just preparing for wintertime disasters!)
> For our hypothetical family with two kids, lighting (for reading
and other activities) and passive entertainment (radio, TV, etc.) are important for the survival of the children. Anyone who's
been cooped up with two kids in a house for 5 days straight will attest that they were ready to kill them by the time it was
> Snow and ice present the special problem of structural damage or failure due to overload. If necessary, take
steps to reduce or prevent severe buildup.
> Finally, on the topic of medical emergencies: it's not unusual, when the
Big Storm of the season is coming, to bring Grandma over to stay with you for the duration. Make sure Grandma (and you) get
refills on all of those prescription medications, if possible, before you settle in. Be sure you're up-to-date on her medical
conditions, and take particular care to ensure that she gets good nutrition and stays warm for the duration.
> If you
have a plan to deal with each of the 'survival needs' categories listed above, your biggest risks will be boredom, house fires,
and asphyxiation. (Wait a minute -- did he just say that?)
> Yes, that's right -- you must be very, very careful in
your use of combustion for heat, cooking, and/or light. Candles and oil lamps, handy as they are, do start thousands of fires
every year. Likewise, attempting to improvise an indoor heat source using charcoal is a quick way to asphyxiation.
End of scenario 1
> "In the first 48 to 72 hours of an emergency, many Americans will have to look after themselves."
- David Paulison, FEMA Director Nominee>
> Preparedness for emergency situations is not a solitary pursuit.
Each of us lives in the context of a larger society. Few among us could survive for long without the support of myriad other
people and institutions we depend upon for our daily needs. A realistic disaster plan must balance these dependencies against
the stark truth that you are likely to be required to survive outside this system for days or weeks at a time at some point
in your life.
> Being prepared for disaster does not have to be time-consuming or expensive. In this multi-part series
of DailyKos Diaries, I will share with you, dear reader, many of the lessons I've learned regarding the most effective ways
to prepare for an emergency.
> * AlphaGeek's diary <http://AlphaGeek.dailykos.com/> :: ::
* This is the third installment in a multi-part series on personal disaster preparedness. Your humble correspondent
is a Silicon Valley technical executive with both professional and personal experience in risk assessment and disaster-readiness
planning. Links to reference materials, including planning guides and reference information, will be found at the end of the
final Diaries in this series.
> WARNING: This Diary series discusses a wide range of disaster-related subjects in a
straightforward, honest fashion. Some people may experience a strong emotional reaction to reading about or discussing situations
which are normally avoided in polite conversation. You have been warned.
> Previous Diaries in this series have addressed
the basic principles underlying preparedness, including some elementary disaster psychology. The remaining installments, beginning
with this one, are sharply focused on the practical aspects of planning and preparation to survive a disaster.
disaster strikes, will you be prepared?
> Despite what you may have gathered from reading guides to readiness from
the government, the Red Cross, or other organizations, you should not begin with a spending spree at the local hardware store.
When you strip away all of the bureaucrat-speak, there are three basic steps you must follow to be ready for disaster:
> In this installment, we will complete our discussion of step 2, planning to address
risks. As mentioned above, today's installment is sharply focused on the practical aspects of preparedness planning.
The AlphaGeek approach to disaster preparedness
> The field of preparedness planning is an interesting one, full of
colorful characters and hair-raising tales. Your humble correspondent is not an ex-Special-Forces badass, nor is he a buckskin-clad
outdoor survival specialist. My "specialty", if you will, is preparedness planning for suburban and exurban environments.
Above all, I focus on pragmatic, sustainable plans which recognize the common failure modes for family- and community-level
> In a nutshell, I believe that family-level preparedness plans (and material support for those plans)
should meet the following criteria:
> * Any critical element of each plan must have at least one clearly
explained alternate solution
> * All plans must be in written form, ready to be executed by anyone entrusted
with the safety of your family
> * A written copy of your plan must be available in any context in which
you might need to execute said plan (e.g. home, work, vehicles)
> * Everyone involved in your preparedness
plans (e.g. out-of-state relatives) must review their part of the plan and understand their role
> * Material
preparations must not require inspection more than once per year, and must still be capable of meeting minimum requirements
if left unattended for 4 years
> The fact is, folks, that people are lazy, your correspondent included. If your disaster
plan depends on dumping and refilling bottles of water every 3 months, let's face it -- at some point, you ARE going to get
slack and lose the motivation to keep to the schedule. It takes a pretty deep-seated insecurity complex to consistently maintain
your preparedness materials every 90 days over a span of y> ears, and most people just can't sustain that level of effort.
Having bad bottled water and canned food three years past its expiration date isn't an inconvenience in a crisis -- it's dangerous,
because in extremis you might be tempted to use it anyway.
> A realistic preparedness plan, in your author's estimation,
should address the following objectives. Remember, tomorrow we will discuss all of the tips and tricks needed to implement
a preparedness plan centered on emphasizes practicality and cost-efficiency. The fifth and final installment in this series
will detail your correspondent's preparations for each of these situations, but keep in mind that your preparedness package
must address your risks, not those of some guy in California earthquake country.
> Communications and rendezvous plan
In a crisis, you are likely to be separated from at least one member of your family. Start with the assumption that your family
is at its most vulnerable, i.e. at maximum separation in your daily routines. Your rendezvous plan should address the possibility
that family members at work and/or may need to evacuate quickly.
> Your communications plan should have two priorities:
advise concerned parties on your situation (safe, injured, etc.) and propagate information between people in the disaster
zone who may not be able to communicate directly.
> House fire: evacuation, response, and aftermath
> No explanation
needed. If you don't know what you're going to do in case of a house fire, you are at significant risk of dying in one. If,
after failing to plan, you get out alive the aftermath is likely to be extremely difficult.
> Any number of organizations
offer complete guides on how to prepare for a home fire emergency, including the Red Cross. Download and use one of these
> Home refuge with no services: Ten (10) days self-sufficiency
> Yes, that's right, folks: 10 days
with no running water, no grid electricity, and no natural gas and/or propane delivery. This is most likely to occur during
inclement weather (see: natural disasters) so assume that you will need to deal with extremes of heat/humidity or cold. Sanitation
and medical requirements for high-needs individuals will both be challenging; plan accordingly.
> Open-space refuge
with no services: Five (5) days self-sufficiency
> If your house is unfit to occupy, you may still be able to set up
camp nearby. For this situation, assume that you can recover a significant fraction of your home preparedness package. Identify
several likely locations near your home where you might set up a temporary refuge. (NOTE: This is primarily applicable in
communities at risk of severe earthquake damage.)
> Refuge in/near vehicle: Three (3) days self-sufficiency
Can you live in your vehicle for 3 days? Principal concerns are food, water, clothing and sanitation. Fuel: you either have
it or you don't, and most people won't/can't carry an emergency supply large enough to make a significant difference.
Work refuge with no services: Three (3) days self-sufficiency
> Assume that the preparedness kit in your vehicle is
inaccessible, e.g. the parking garage fell down on your car when the quake hit. How will you get through three days at your
place of employment, assuming that movement outside the premises is too hazardous to attempt?
> Evacuation to community
shelter: Three (3) days self-sufficiency
> Relocation to a community shelter is not the end of your worries. (Exhibit
A: New Orleans Superdome. Exhibit B: New Orleans Convention Center.) Are you prepared to be self-sufficient within this environment
for up to 3 days with minimal/no access to services?
> Evacuation from disaster zone: by vehicle
> Similar to
the refuge in/near vehicle requirement above, but with the added requirements of routing, fuel supply, and so forth. How will
you evacuate when the gas stations are closed and/or sold out and the fuel gauge is on 'E'?>
> Evacuation from disaster
zone: on foot
> In dire circumstances, it may be more dangerous to stay in your community than it is to attempt evacuation
without the benefit of car. You should have a plan to walk/bike/sled/swim 30 miles over the course of 72 hours to reach safety.
This is generally a plan of last resort.
> Key planning considerations for your preparedness plan
> As you put
together your plan for each element in your risk-assessment list, consider how you will address the following needs:
> Water (Stored & portable)
> Nutrition (Stored & portable)
> Food preservation
> Active communications (cellphone/payphone/radio/Internet)
Passive communications (radio/TV)
> Entertainment (books/games)
(Permanent & portable)
> Medical needs (maintenance medication)
> Medical needs (first-aid/trauma)
Sanitation (personal hygiene, human wastes, trash/garbage)
> Risks, training, and community
> In Part 1 of this
series, you were asked to consider the risks you face where you live. If you did your homework, you now have a prioritized
list of risks that you should plan to address.
> In Part 2 of this series, we discussed the psychology of disaster preparedness,
and the relationship between FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and effective crisis response. The prescription for avoiding
FUD or shock-induced catatonia is simple: training and practice.
> In addition to dry-run rehearsals of the preparedness
plans you assemble to address your risks, you should plan to rehearse your fire response plan on a regular basis -- at least
once per year. Pick a holiday which you normally spend at home, and make that "drill day".
> You've heard this before,
but please listen anyway: every adult should take a combination First Aid/CPR course at least once every 10 years. Yes, you
need to take CPR more often to maintain your certification, but at a minimum everyone should take the combo course every 10
> In any disaster, community plays a huge role. The time to forge the bonds that hold a community together is
not in the aftermath of a disaster. Fortunately, many communities in the US already have programs in place which encourage
outreach and relationship-building.
> In your correspondent's experience, the most useful program is CERT <http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/CERT/overview.asp>,
short for Community Emergency Response Team. The CERT program provides a free 16-20 hour training course which covers disaster
preparedness, fire suppression, medical operations, light search-and-rescue, and disaster psychology.
> Beyond CERT,
however, strong community organizations are needed to provide mutual support in a crisis. Many cities with significant disaster
risks support and encourage the formation of neighborhood associations. These organizations both raise awareness of the need
for preparedness planning and encourage neighbors to get acquainted instead of keeping to themselves.
> Urban dwellers,
particularly those in high-density housing such as high-rise apartment buildings, are strongly encouraged to reach out to
neighbors and openly discuss the need for preparedness.
> Scenario 2 - Heat wave
An unrelenting summer heat wave spreads across the Southwest. Daytime temperatures of over 110F are common. The electric power
generation and distribution systems, strained by the load, suffer widespread failures.
> Scenario profile:
Family separated: NO
> Immediate evacuation required: NO
> Post-event evacuation required: POSSIBLE
interrupted: YES (electricity)
> Mean time to restoration of services: 3 days
> Period of initial isolation: not
> Communications: minimal disruption
> Secondary risks: Medical services overwhelmed by heat-related
> Requirements for survival:>
> Environment: YES, daytime environmental cooling
YES, food preservation and environmental control
> Water (stored): NO
> Water (portable): YES, required in case
> Nutrition (stored): YES, fresh food may spoil
> Nutrition (portable): YES, required in case of
> Food preparation: YES, if kitchen is all-electric
> Food preservation: YES
> Lighting: YES,
but minimal - night-time use only Alternate active communications: NO, phone/cell network functional
> Passive communications:
YES, need to stay informed
> Entertainment: YES, can't go outside
> Clothing: NO
> Transportation: YES,
in case of relocation or medical emergency
> Shelter (permanent): NO
> Shelter (portable): NO
needs (maintenance medication): YES, 1-week supply
> Medical care (first-aid/trauma): NO
> Sanitation: NO
This one is a double whammy -- a major heat wave leading to electricity outages. Heat waves are likely to be accompanies by
a drought, greatly increasing the risk of fire danger in outlying areas.
> One assumes that you will have the sense
to stay out of the sun as much as possible during this crisis. Your author is no expert on heat wave survival, so a bit of
Googling found this great city-government page titled Drought & Extreme Heat Survival <http://www.ci.fort-collins.co.us/oem/drought-survival.php>.
Here's what they have to say:
> Doing too much on a hot day, spending too much time in the sun, or staying too long
in an overheated place can cause heat-related illnesses. To avoid developing these illnesses, learn the symptoms of heat disorders
and overexposure to the sun, and be ready to give first aid treatment.
> Before the extreme heat:
> To keep
cool air inside and warm air outside...
> * Install air conditioning.
> * Insulate
around window air conditioners, ducts, and doors. Weatherstrip doors and window sills.
> * Consider leaving
storm windows up all year. They can help keep heat out during the summer months as well as keeping the cold out in the winter.
* Install reflective film or shades on windows. Outdoor louvers or awnings can reduce the heat entering a house
by as much as 80 percent.
> * Use fans to keep the cool air circulating.
> * Plant deciduous
trees around your house that block the heat in summer and let the sun shine through in winter.
> During periods of
> To avoid the effects of heat waves, observe the following Heat Wave Safety Rules:
Slow down. Your body can't do its best in high temperatures and humidities, and might do its worst.
Heed your body's early warnings that heat syndrome is on the way. Reduce your level of activity immediately and get
to a cooler environment.
> * Dress for summer. Lightweight, light colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight,
and helps your thermoregulatory system maintain normal body temperature.
> * Put less fuel on your inner
fires. Foods (like proteins) that increase metabolic heat production also increase water loss.
> * Don't
dry out. Heat wave weather can wring you out before you know it. Drink plenty of water while the hot spell lasts.
* Stay salty. Unless you're on a salt-restricted diet, take an occasional salt tablet or some salt solution when
you've worked up a sweat.
> * Avoid thermal shock. Acclimatize yourself gradually to warmer weather. Treat
yourself extra gently for those first critical two or three hot days.
> * Vary your thermal environment.
Physical stress increases with exposure time in heat wave weather. Try to get out of the heat for at least a few hours each
day. If you can't do this at home, drop in on a cool store, restaurant, or theater - anything to keep your exposure time down.
* Don't get too much sun. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult.
3 - Earthquake
> Description: A magnitude 7.4 earthquake centered on the Hayward fault strikes the San Francisco Bay
Area at 1630PDT (4:30pm) on a weekday in October. One adult from the household is at work on the Peninsula, 20 miles away,
when the quake occur> s. The other adult is at home in Fremont. One child is at the elementary school walking distance
from the house. The other is at preschool 10 miles from home.
> The home suffers minor structural damage, but appears
fit to occupy. Bay Area bridges are declared unsafe pending inspection; extensive damage to overpasses and roadway make highway
travel hazardous or impossible.
> Within 4 hours of the quake, 7,000 Bay Area residents are dead and 27,000 require
medical attention. The vast majority of these are in East Bay cities within 5 miles (8 km) of the Hayward Fault. Emergency
plans go into effect across California, and within 24 hours, martial law is declared in Fremont, Union City, and Oakland.
> Scenario profile:
> Family separated: YES, worst-case scenario
> Immediate evacuation required: NO
Post-event evacuation required: POSSIBLE
> Services interrupted: YES (all municipal services including sewer)
Mean time to restoration of services: 10+ days
> Period of initial isolation: 7 days
> Communications: wireline
phone network down hard; mobile voice network extremely unreliable for outdial, indial impossible; mobile data network mostly
> Secondary risks: Numerous, and all bad.
> Requirements for survival:
> Environment: YES, night-time
lows of ~45F
> Electricity: YES
> Water (stored): YES
> Water (portable): YES
> Nutrition (stored):
> Nutrition (portable): YES
> Food preparation: YES
> Food preservation: YES, short-term (until fresh/frozen
> Lighting: YES, but minimal - night-time use only Alternate active communications: YES
communications: YES, need to stay informed
> Entertainment: YES
> Clothing: YES, replacements for contaminated/damaged
> Transportation: YES, local and/or evac
> Shelter (permanent): NO
> Shelter (portable): YES
Medical needs (maintenance medication): YES, 2-week supply
> Medical care (first-aid/trauma): YES
> As the observant reader might gather, this is a scenario your correspondent has listed as a primary risk in his
preparedness plan. Unfortunately, the death and injury toll numbers aren't made up or exaggerated. They're drawn directly
from a FEMA study used in CERT training, and they're not even the worst-case scenario. What follows isn't the complete response
plan, but enough of it to give you a good understanding.
> After the quake hits, each adult moves immediately to a
safe location. If mobile-network voice calling is down (very likely) SMS text messaging is used to notify spouse and out-of-state
relatives of event and status. If mobile-network data services are functional, email is sent from mobile devices as a backup
to SMS messaging. If mobile network is down hard, proceed immediately to nearest pay phone with phone card and call out-of-state
contacts with event and status. (Multiple pay phone locations marked on emergency maps in all preparedness kits.)
Each adult then moves quickly to secure their location and ensure access to disaster supplies. The person at home immediately
performs a rapid structural assessment. (Assume that both adults have self-treatable minor injuries, at worst.) If the house
looks safe for the moment, homebody executes the following tasks:
> * NatGas to OFF (wrench and/or emergency
tool in multiple locations)
> * Water to OFF at master valve (mandatory) and curbside valve (optional)
* Master power breaker to OFF, individual circuit breakers to OFF
> * Pull emergency release
on garage door and open manually if possible; move car out of garage into driveway
> * Relocate containerized
camping gear (incl. clothing duffel), go-packs and bicycles to back yard
> * Relocate documents container
and firearms to secure location
> * Relocate fire extinguishers to back yard
> * Relocate
ice, frozen and refrigerated goods to 5-day coolers in back yard
> * Relocate certain kitchen appliances,
canned and dry food supplies from kitchen cupboards to back yard>
> * Advise contacts of status, and
intent to retrieve older child from school
> * Retrieve older child from elementary school, return home
* Advise contacts of successful retrieval of older child from school, status of child at preschool (unknown/unretrieved,
etc.), advise other adult of any aid needed at school
> * Enlist older child in setting up temporary camp,
kitchen, sanitation station in back yard
> The adult at work on the Peninsula secures the work location and activates
the company disaster plan. If the parking structure is intact, relocate vehicle to secure location. For safety and security
reasons, travel is deferred until at least 0100PDT/day2. "Combat nap" time after setting up overnight watch schedule. Relocate
to Fremont, taking at least one other Fremont-bound employee as a passenger. Note: do not issue firearms to unqualified passengers.
Drop passenger at safe point near destination, review emergency-contact procedures in case retrieval is required.
Three of four family members rendezvous at home by 0400PDT/day2. "Combat naps" for adults. Refuel vehicle from emergency reserve,
assess situation in Fremont using all available info sources, plan retrieval of fourth family member to start at first light
(0630PDT/day2). Execute retrieval op, verify that disaster plan is being executed correctly at preschool for remaining kids.
Provide first aid as needed, leave emergency food/water supplies if required. Return to home.
> I'm going to truncate
the explanation of this plan at this point, as it then goes into plenty more detail not necessarily useful to this conversation,
such as CERT operations and camp management. If anyone has further questions regarding this scenario, please ask in the Comments
and I'll be sure to respond as best I can.
> In a great many ways, we live safer lives today than our parents and grandparents
ever did. Western civilization's empasis on science and engineering has driven incredible progress in our understanding of
the world. Because our understanding of the world is imperfect, and our social systems fractious and chaotic, we still make
> The result of this progress, unfortunately, is that much of Western civilization teeters precariously at
the top of a technological pyramid. Remove the non-stop infusions of energy and goods, add a little natural or man-made disaster,
and that balancing act rapidly devolves into chaos.
> In this, the fourth installment of this series, we will discuss
the material preparations required to support your emergency plans.
> Yes, people, that means it's time to talk about
MREs, radios, and guns. (Actually, guns will be covered in part 5, but you get the idea.)
> * This is the
fourth installment out of five in a multi-part series on personal disaster preparedness. Your humble correspondent is a Silicon
Valley technical executive with both professional and personal experience in risk assessment and disaster-readiness planning.
Links to reference materials, including planning guides and reference information, will be posted at the end of the final
Diary in this series.
> When disaster strikes, will you be prepared?
> Despite what you may have gathered from
reading guides to readiness from the government, the Red Cross, or other organizations, you should not begin with a spending
spree at the local hardware store. When you strip away all of the bureaucrat-speak, there are three basic steps you must follow
to be ready for disaster:
> In this installment, we will discuss emergency
gear, supplies, and other preparations for disaster including training and community organization.
> Material Preparations
Even the most ruggedly self-reliant wilderness survival types will tell you that material preparations are critical to putting
your plan into action. In this section, we will review categories of material preparations you may need to support your plan.>
> Batteries, chargers, and adapters: stop the insanity
> As you plan your various preparedness kits, take note
of everything you want to include which uses batteries or an external power source. Now, look at all the chargers, connectors,
adapters, and battery types required to support your gear.
> Wherever possible, reduce and consolidate
the number of dependencies you have on different types of cord, adapter, and battery. See Active Communications below for
suggestions on how to standardize on USB power for charging phones, PDAs, and other pocket electronics. Minimize single points
of failure wherever possible.
> Your communications plan
> In previous installments, we have discussed
the requirement that each plan include a rendezvous point at one or more safe locations. After all, communication doesn't
get much more direct and reliable than talking to someone face-to-face.
> Before everyone in your group has made it
safely to the rendezvous point, though, there's no substitute for a solid communications plan. Here's where you get to benefit
from some of your correspondent's hard-won arcane knowledge of telecommunication systems in North America.
name the public voice communications service that will be brought online first after a major disaster. Home phones? Nope.
Business lines? Negative. Cellphones? Not likely.
> Give up? The answer: pay phones. Yes, that dying breed, those dinosaur
relics of the pre-cellphone age will be a shining beacon of civilization in the aftermath of a disaster.
All emergency kits should include a $10 roll of quarters and prepaid phone cards from two major long-distance providers.
Why two major long-distance providers? In the chaos following a natural disaster, especially an earthquake, it's hard to predict
which portions of the phone network will be reliable and which will fail. Having two different long-distance providers gives
you a much better shot at getting a call to go through.
> Recommendation: Take one of your city/region maps and
go on a payphone hunt. Find at least two payphones within walking/biking distance of home and work and mark the locations
of each on the map. When you're done copy those locations to the map in each of your emergency kits.
> Next quiz question:
are you more likely to be able to complete a call to a local number, a number in a different part of your state, or a number
in a different state altogether?
> The answer, surprisingly, is that interstate long-distance calls are the most likely
to go through in an emergency. This is because these calls are handed off from your local phone company to the long-distance
networks at special "tandem" switching locations in every city.
> Recommendation: Each family member and each emergency
kit MUST have a durable card (i.e. laminated) with comprehensive contact information, including multiple out-of-state emergency
contacts. Enlist the help of distant friends or relatives to act as a message switchboard in a crisis. This is a proven, reliable
technique for reuniting separated family members when local communications are degraded or offline. If you take away nothing
else from the recommendations in this series, for the love of Bob take this one and run with it. Take care of it today. Now.
Go! DailyKos will still be here when you get back.
> Finally, let us speak for a moment of the oft-overlooked capabilities
of our mobile phones. As mentioned above, making or receiving voice calls will be bloody near impossible in many disaster
situations. However, I'll let you in on a little secret:
> If your mobile phone can register with the network, it is
very likely that you will be able to send and receive text messages even if you can't make a voice call.
Everyone named in your emergency plan should have a mobile phone capable of text messaging, and should know how to send and
receive > text messages. Using a single network provider for the whole family will further increase your chances of getting
text messages through quickly during a crisis.
> Here's another one:
> Wireless data services offered by the mobile
network operators will frequently be available even when voice calling is severely degraded or offline altogether. Exhibit
A: the bloggers roaming flooded New Orleans this week, filing reports and pictures using laptops with access to the Verizon
wireless data network.
> At the time of this writing (Sep 2005) this is still a relatively expensive proposition for
most people, at $40-$80/month. However, most mobile phones available in the US offer browser-based access to online services
via those same wireless data networks. In addition, network operators are beginning to offer mobile email services at very
low cost, with email programs that run on your phone and integrate with major service providers such as Yahoo!.
your correspondent is co-founder of a company which makes email products for many mobile network operators.]
Familiarize yourself with the wireless-data capabilities of your phone. If you have an free email account with a major service
provider, look into whether access to your email account is available via the browser on your phone. Consider signing up for
a service which will give you direct access to email on your phone.
> Let us say a few things about a few things you
> To a certain extent, training and planning can compensate quite a bit for failure to plan for your physical
needs in an emergency situation. However, it would be foolhardy to expect that you can get through a week of widespread municipal
service outages and civil disturbance with nothing more than a solid plan and pure thoughts.
> We have now come to the
point in this series that everyone was eager to get to when Part 1 <http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/9/161748/9747>
was posted -- what emergency planners call "logistics", and you, dear reader, might call "gear, goods, and guns".
The Part 3 <http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/13/174426/020> section entitled 'Key planning considerations for your
preparedness plan' breaks down material needs into a list of categories. Your correspondent is a firm believer in breaking
down intimidating problems into manageable, logically organized chunks. The hope is that by considering each separately, it
will be for the reader easier to understand the requirements and trade-offs for each category, and then fit that into the
reader's larger understanding of preparedness planning.
> Each requirement category includes solutions in three categories:
* Best-of-breed options are, generally speaking, commercially available but you'll pay for the convenience
* Cheap-and-cheerful options are alternative solutions for emergency needs which may not be as polished or neatly
packaged as commercial products, but are generally much cheaper than best-of-breed choices
> * Improvised
solutions are what you can fall back on if, for example, the best-of-breed gear you bought is destroyed or taken from you
> We will begin by discussing the individual categories, and then proceed to assembly of these items into preparedness
kits. In [Part 3], your correspondent shared his pragmatic view of the correct way to approach disaster preparedness. In particular,
plans which rely on rotation of supplies on a frequent basis are vulnerable to failure. It's just human nature. This must
be balanced against the need to exercise due care in maintaining your preparedness plan and supplies, hence my clear policy
on this issue:
> "Material preparations MUST NOT require inspection more than once per year, and MUST still be capable
of meeting minimum safety/usability requirements if left unattended for FOUR YEARS."
> Without further ado, let's get
down and dirty. I fully expect some of my suggestions to spark debate, and likewise, I expect to learn more about effective
preparedness solutions from the comments. Please keep in mind that budgets and urge> ncy levels do vary, and try to respect
the limitations some of your fellow Kossacks may have in preparing for disaster.
> Water, water, everywhere but not
a drop to drink
> Water is heavy, bulky, and absolutely vital to human survival. The so-called "standard human" can
survive for up to 30 days without food, but even under the most favorable conditions will die after 5-7 days without water.
That number decreases precipitously in adverse circumstances such as high heat and/or high levels of exertion. In a crisis,
safe drinking water is a precious commodity, more valuable than you can imagine.
> Quantity: One gallon per day per
person, half that for portable water rations. While waste should be carefully avoided (see Sanitation, below) each person
should drink as much as they need to stay hydrated. As soon as you tap into your stored water supply, you MUST begin working
to identify additional sources of drinkable water. In some circumstances, this could mean preparing to evacuate.
TIP: all-in-one powdered drink mixes such as Gatorade, lemonade, etc. are wonderful for breaking up the monotony of drinking
plain water from your emergency supply. They're also good for covering any taste left in the water after filtration and/or
purification. Be sure to store some in each of your long-term preparedness kits.
> We will discuss three subcategories
of water supply: bulk stored water, portable stored water, and clean-water production from available supply.
> = Bulk
stored water =
> There are many ways of ensuring that you will have water available when your life depends on it, but
only a few will meet your author's demanding standards for longevity and safety.
Brand-new, food-grade FDA-certified water storage barrels <http://www.nitro-pak.com/index.php/cPath/40_22>; water treated
with 5-year preserver concentrate <http://www.nitro-pak.com/product_info.php/cPath/40_22/products_id/1137>.
> * 5-year preserver concentrate
> * new siphon pump
* new water-grade siphon tube as backup to pump (store separately from pump, in household emergency kit)
* bung wrench for installing/removing plugs
> * waterproof tape & permanent marker for
labeling barrel with date filled/refilled
> * 5-7 gallon container with on/off tap to hold water pumped
> Recommended: tamper-evident seals.
> Store barrels away from direct sunlight, in a cool location
if possible. If you live in earthquake country, your correspondent strongly recommends storing your supply in two separate
barrels, with one barrel located away from your home or residence. If you do not have a shed or other shelter, consider storing
your outdoor water barrel in a large UV-resistant garbage can, which should be hidden and/or locked.
> Water stored
in barrels should be replaced every 3 years, at a cost of approximately $15 for water preserver concentrate and barrel seals.
Cheap-and-cheerful: Water in plastic bottles will generally 'keep' for up to a year. Because this is a commodity that is consumed
under normal circumstances, care must be taken to maintain adequate stock on hand. Define your minimum level of safe inventory
and DO NOT GO BELOW THAT LEVEL.
> While any good preparedness plan should include some bottled water, as it is highly
portable and the bottles are reusable, your correspondent is NOT a fan of this as your main water-storage measure. You need
to rotate it too often, you're likely to drink your reserves by accident, and it's MUCH more expensive than barrel storage.
10-year cost comparison:
> 55-gallon barrel, all accessories including preserver: $150
> 55 gallons of Trader
Joe's bottled water in 1L bottles: $1100
> Improvised, part 1: If time is more available than money, you can maintain
an emergency water supply by dumping/refilling clean and sterilized 2-liter bottles with tap water every 3 months. >
Wash the bottles with a weak soap solution, rinse thoroughly. Rinse bottles with a solution of diluted unscented bleach (pure
5% sodium hypochlorite), rinse until no chlorine smell remains. Cap tightly, apply tape label indicating date filled, store
in a dark, safe location at/near floor level. Empty and refill (no wash/sterilization required) every 3 months.
part 2a for house-dwellers: This should be your absolute last-resort backup plan. As soon as water pressure drops off, which
generally indicates an integrity failure in the water supply, shut off the master water valve to your house. Your emergency
water supply now consists of the 1-2 gallons of water in the flush tank of each of your toilets (NOT the water in the bowl!!!)
and the contents of your hot-water heater. Make sure nobody flushes a toilet before you recover that fresh water from the
> Because contamination may have entered your water supply before pressure failed, this water should be
considered suspect. At a minimum, either purify it (see below) or boil it for 10 minutes before drinking.
part 2b for apartment-dwellers: Same basic idea as the previous measures. If you can, fill the tub and any available containers
with water before pressure fails. If pressure fails, turn off the water supply to your toilet and recover the water from the
flush tank as outlined above. Water stored in the tub or other open containers should be considered potentially contaminated
and must be purified or 10-minute-boiled before use.
> = Portable stored water =
> While bottled water isn't recommended
for long-term storage, a portable water supply is a must-have for vehicle and work preparedness kits. At home, you will want
to be able to take a supply of water with you if you need to evacuate, and a full 55-gallon barrel weighs around 465 pounds.
> Best-of-breed: Aqua Blox <http://www.quakekare.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=23>
or equivalent 5-year-stable "juice box" style water. Ignore the outrageous claims and treat each 3-pack as a minimal one-day
supply for one person. Supplement with an additional 750mL of bottled water per person per day, rotated at least yearly.
Cheap-and-cheerful: Just buy the damn Aqua Blox. Seriously. They're around $1.09 for a 3-pack. If you insist, you can go exclusively
with bottled water in rotated yearly, but this is cheap peace of mind.
> Improvised: Any clean, watertight container
<http://www.nitro-pak.com/product_info.php/cPath/40_22/products_id/498> can be used to hold or transport drinking water
for a few days. If your only means of storing a temporary supply of water is a (very clean) bucket, cover the bucket as well
as possible and subject it to purification, filtration, and/or 10-minute-boiling before use. If you have a sufficient supply
of unscented bleach drops or other means of chemical purification, consider adding it to the container at fill time as a preventive
> = Clean-water production from available supply =
> The lightest water of all is the water you don't
have to carry. There may be situations where you are unable to transport sufficient water, but will have access to some form
of fresh water. In a disaster, the only water you can trust is water that you've stored yourself, and water in a factory-sealed
bottle or jug. Any other water must be considered suspect.
> There are three main methods for making water safe to drink:
Purification through chemical treatment or 10 minutes of boiling. The downside is that chemical treatment may make the water
taste anywhere from barely tolerable to horrible, and may not be effective against some microorganisms. Boiling uses up valuable
energy resources. The upside is that either one can generate enough clean water to keep you alive if you have the resources
to purify suspect water.>
> Filtration can be extremely effective, especially with today's incredibly advanced filtering
technology. However, filtration may not remove viruses (depends on filter in question) or chemical contamination (requires
an activated-charcoal filter). Your correspondent considers filtration the minimum safeguard for drinking water from any source
(even barrel-stored water) in a disaster.
> Distillation is energy-intensive, but yields clean, safe water that generally
tastes better than purified water. Chemically contaminated water should be run through an activated-charcoal filter before
distillation. (If the water has any sort of smell, assume that it requires filtration and proceed accordingly.) This is not
generally a viable method in a disaster.
> Best-of-breed, personal: Exstream Orinoco <http://www.backpacking.net/exstream-orinoco-review.html>
or Exstream Mackenzie water bottle purification system, hands down. There may be others out there, but these beasties are
amazing. Works with any freshwater source, regardless of organic contamination or virus load. Deploy minimum one per preparedness
kit, especially vehicle and work kits. Spare filter and cleaning materials recommended.
> Best-of-breed, group: First
Need Deluxe Portable Water Purifier/Filter <http://www.generalecology.com/portablesystem.htm>, recommend one unit with
spare filter catridge and cleaning materials for each group preparedness kit.
> Cheap-and-cheerful: One Exstream bottle
purifier as a backup to stored and bottled water supply. Alternatively, Aqua Mira water treatment solution will kill viruses
and microorganisms but will do nothing for solid contaminants.
> Improvised: In your correspondent's preparedness kit,
you will find a zip-lock bag containing an empty water bottle, a dozen 6" paper laboratory filters, a funnel, an eyedropper,
and a relabeled medicine bottle containing pure 5% sodium hypochlorite bleach. If you take the bottle out of the bag, the
whole thing fits into a cargo pocket. This is my last resort for clean drinking water, and you shouldn't consider it if there
are ANY other options. One drop of bleach per 16oz filtered water, let stand for 30 minutes before drinking. See above for
much better alternatives.
> OK, we're not going to die of thirst - got anything to eat?
> As the machines said
to Neo in The Matrix: Revolutions, "There are levels of survival we are willing to accept." You need to decide what your priorities
are when it comes to emergency nutrition. In a nutshell: long shelf life, tastes good, cheap... pick any two. Dehydrated food
generally tastes much better than long-shelf-life MRE-type food.
> As with water supplies, there are different trade-offs
for stored food vs. portable rations. The storage space required, increased weight, and decreased packaging efficiency of
stored food can be a good trade-off for lower per-meal costs and better-tasting meals. On the other hand, portable food needs
to be light, resource-efficient (no dehydrated stuff!) and extremely convenient.
> Rough order of priority for consuming
> Fresh foods on hand
> Frozen foods on hand
> Canned food with low water content
food with high water content
> Shelf-stable prepared foods (MREs)
> Shelf-stable rations (ER food bars)
Dehydrated/dry foods (backpacking meals, pancake mix, etc.)
> If dehydrated foods are part of your nutrition plan,
and water is not an issue (all water supplies intact/known-good and water for rehydration included in planning) then move
"dehydrated/dry foods" up to #3.
> = Stored food =
> Best-of-breed: Mountain House Easy Meal Security-Pak <http://www.nitro-pak.com/product_info.php/cPath/38_81/products_id/174>,
will feed a family of 5 for 9+ days. NOTE: Requires water for preparation, budget 25% additional water supply for food prep.
Hot water not required for preparation, but highly desirable.>
> Cheap-and-cheerful: Once your stock of fresh &
frozen food is exhausted: canned foods (rotate regularly) supplemented with instant noodles, etc. as water supplies permit.
Keep in mind that all of the water used to prepare a cup of instant noodles ends up in you, albeit with some salt. Not very
> Improvised: There's not much substitute for being prepared when it comes to food. If your
issue is money and/or storage space, consider supplementing your normal stock of food with some Emergency Ration food bars
<http://www.quakekare.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=22>, which are shelf-stable for 5 years and very
> = Portable food =
> Best-of-breed: MREs <http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ctd/product.asp?dept_id=610006&sku=MRE-125&imgid=&mscssid=HJG39JE7DVHU8HTCB5V23SAFFRHD8ED1>
or canned food. MREs have the advantage that you can get cheap just-add-water chemical meal warmers to heat them up, whereas
canned food needs a backpacker stove if you don't want to eat it cold.
> Cheap-and-cheerful: Emergency Ration food bars.
You don't have to like them, you just have to survive. Packaging says you can live on 1200 calories/day, but I don't call
that living. Figure 1800 calories/day minimum per person, 2400 calories/day for a male engaged in heavy activity as the worst
case. Remember, everything tastes better when you're hungry and there's nothing else to eat.
> Improvised: Candy bars
and cookies will keep you going for a few days, though you'll feel like crap a lot of the time. Sealed packages of trail mix
keep pretty well, but rotate them every 6 months. Avoid caffeinated soft drinks if water is in short supply, as they have
a dehydrating effect. Beyond that... does your neighbor have a dog?
> Food preservation
> While we will be discussing
ways to power your refrigerator and/or standalone freezer in an emergency later on, you need to plan for the possibility that
you may not have that option. The recommendations are the same regardless of circumstance:
> * Buy one
or more of the new "5-day" super-insulated coolers, sized appropriately for your household. If you have an older cooler, replace
it with a new 5-day model. Tip: get one with wheels. If you need to relocate on foot, this will make it much easier to take
> * If you have room in the freezer, freeze a number of water bottles and keep them frozen.
Be sure to freeze bottles capable of expanding; Trader Joe's 750mL and 1L bottles are perfect for this, and cheap.
* If the power goes out and stays out, unload all of your ice and frozen food into the bottom of your new 5-day
> * Transfer only those refrigerated items that will actually be consumed to the coolers. Anything
that goes unused wastes ice.
> * Keep the cooler(s) closed as much as possible
> * Keep
the cooler(s) in a cool location. If you are sheltering in your back yard or similar location, consider digging a hole for
each cooler; line the hole with a tarp and shade the cooler if possible
> One final note, for households who depend
on refrigeration to keep medication from going bad: your priorities for any capacity to keep things chilled will be quite
different. In addition to prioritizing medication over food in the cooler, you might also consider getting one of the small
car-sized mini-refrigerators which runs off 12VDC.
> Food preparation
> You can certainly survive indefinitely
eating cold prepared foods, but that doesn't mean you're going to like it. For many people, the lack of a hot bitter caffeinated
beverage in the morning represents the true end of civilization. With a little planning, this can be avoided. Note that all
of the options here are dual-use equipment, and are useful in an emergency and at a campsite.
> Best-of-breed: In this
writer's opinion, it's difficult to beat the versatility of the Coleman Roadtrip Grill <http://www.coleman.com/coleman/colemancom/detail.asp?product_id=9949-750&categoryid=27203>>
with dual burners and interchangeable griddle, grill, and stove inserts. It will run off of 16oz propane cylinders (expensive,
but easy to store) or, with an accessory hose, the more economical refillable propane cylinders. At the risk of sounding like
a Coleman shill, your correspondent also heartily recommends the Coleman Hot Water On Demand <http://www.coleman.com/coleman/colemancom/detail.asp?product_id=2300-700&categoryid=2200>.
If you happen to have some non-potable water in addition to an ample supply of drinking water, you can even use it to take
a hot shower. Note, however, that the Coleman HWOD does use a rechargeable battery, so plan on having access to an AC power
point to recharge it every 40 gallons or so.
> Recommended fuel for the above: one 20lb propane cylinder with adapter
hose, plus 12 1lb disposables as a backup. Double the number of 1lb disposables if you get a Hot Water On Demand.
Cheap-and-cheerful: It's hard to beat the good old basic propane stove -- but a dual-fuel stove <http://www.coleman.com/coleman/colemancom/detail.asp?product_id=424-700G&categoryid=2020>
that will run on unleaded gasoline is a better choice for emergencies. Another popular option is the good old outdoor grill
-- if you're creative, you can warm or cook just about anything on the grill. Some grills even have an accessory burner which
works great for making soup or hot beverages.
> Improvised: Well, not truly improvised, but the most frugal option for
cooking heat is military-surplus trioxane bars <http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ctd/product.asp?dept_id=610006&sku=MGR-826&imgid=&mscssid=HJG39JE7DVHU8HTCB5V23SAFFRHD8ED1>
burned in an Esbit mini-stove <http://store.preparedness.com/espocstov.html>. While trioxane is supposedly non-toxic,
you should plan on using it with at least a little ventilation.
> One final note: if you wander the aisles of camping
gear at your local outdoors or sporting-goods store, you will see many zero-power alternatives to familiar kitchen gear. Camping
equipment is a particularly good source of food-preparation gear for your preparedness kit.
> Sanitation -- what's that
> You should assume that, in an emergency, there will be no water available to wash dishes or flush toilets,
and minimal (if any) water available for personal hygiene. This will be a challenge for most Americans, who are accustomed
to taking a nice, hot shower or bath at least once per day.
> = Kitchen sanitation =
> Assuming that water is
in short supply, kitchen sanitation can be a challenge. You may need to improvise. If you are being careful to prepare only
as much food as people can eat, the task is simplified somewhat. Paper towels and sanitizing wipes can be an effective means
of cleaning up pots and pans. Dry sand makes an excellent improvised pot-scrubber. Be sure that any cooking vessels, dishes,
or utensils are clean and dry before storing them for the next meal.
> = Personal hygiene =
> For personal cleanliness
in emergency situations, the author relies on a few common items: moist baby wipes, waterless hand cleaner/degreaser, and
hand sanitizer. You can, in fact, get reasonably clean all over using only baby wipes. Your correspondent's preparedness kits
include quite a few sealed "bricks" of unscented baby wipes stored in individual ziplock "freezer" bags. (As a side note,
ziplock bags are one of the greatest inventions of all time. If I had to be stranded on a desert island with only three things,
I'd take ziplock bags, a pack of cable ties, and my Leatherman.) Note also that baby wipes make a superior toilet paper substitute.
Likewise, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is quite useful. Keeping your hands and face clean can be difficult but is very important
in avoiding infections and disease during a disaster. (See Medical below for discussion of various disposable gloves.)>
> Finally, all emergency kits should have a supply of feminine hygiene products. Many of these materials are dual-use
for medical response in an emergency.
> = Potty breaks =
> And then there's the call of nature, i.e. the human
need to eliminate bodily wastes. You MUST have a plan for dealing with this. Fortunately, this need can be met simply and
> In my opinion, the best solution is the Reliance Luggable Loo <http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?memberId=12500226&productId=13784>.
This is about as simple as it gets -- it's a toilet seat affixed to a 5-gallon bucket. Be sure to acquire a supply of Bio-Blue
<http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?memberId=12500226&productId=13782> or similar product,
and store it in your Loo along with toilet paper, baby wipes (see above) and a roll of thick, strong trash bags. You do NOT
want these bags to break or leak, as they will be serving as the liner in your Loo, and then tied off for removal and disposal.
Electricity -- sweet, sweet AC current
> Face it, you live an electricity-centric lifestyle. You're reading this very
Diary on a computer powered by the stuff, connected to the Internet which depends on ultra-reliable electric power. If you've
ever been in your house during a power outage, you probably noticed how much quieter it was without the humming and whirring
of your electric lifestyle.
> When most people think about electricity in a disaster, they immediately think "I gotta
get me a generator! <http://www.generatorjoe.net/>" Well, generators are nice, but for many people they're overkill.
Let's look at some of the alternatives.
> = Power generation =
> Portable generator: Noisy, which can draw the
attention of folks who, shall we say, didn't consider preparedness before the big quake hit. They can, however, be tremendously
useful, and are relatively fuel-efficient if you keep the running load in the 50-60% range of the generator's rated capacity.
Not normally designed to run 24x7, and a couple weeks of continuous operation will seriously shorten the time to rebuild.
Permanently installed generator: Convenient, can be set up to kick in automatically if the power goes out. Generally quieter
than portables, but still noisy. Diesel units are available, which is nice because the authorities are much more amenable
to you storing significant quantities of diesel fuel than, say, gasoline. (It's that whole explosion thing, y'know.) If you
live in the country, LP-fueled generators may also be an option worth considering.
> Solar array with battery bank:
Dual-use, doesn't directly pollute, amount of energy available depends on size of solar array, size and number of batteries,
etc. Expensive up-front costs, pays for itself especially if your state subsidizes residential solar.
> = The inverter
> As we discussed, though, for many people these options are either overkill or represent a serious financial
burden. If you think about it, a generator is basically an internal-combustion engine attached to a device that converts the
mechanical energy into electricity. Can you think of anywhere you might find a convenient, quiet, well-maintained internal
> Yes, grasshopper, I'm talking about your car. With a DC-to-AC inverter, you can run your refrigerator,
enough CFL lights to illuminate your main room nicely, a AA/C/D-cell battery charger, your laptop, and so forth -- all at
the same time. In fact, you can get an inverter big enough to do this for under $200 <http://www.donrowe.com/inverters/xpower_1750.html>.
One word about running that fridge, though: modern refrigerators are fairly frugal in their steady-state energy usage, with
two exceptions: when it first starts up (up to 2500W for 1-2 sec!) and when you open the door and all of those nice lights
come on (700W). Consider disconnecting all the light bulbs and use a flashlight.>
> If you go this route, keep in
mind that your vehicle will probably be idling at least half of the time you're using the inverter so you can avoid killing
your battery. You will need to figure out how much fuel your car or truck uses per hour at idle to plan effectively. This
isn't too hard:
> * Fill up your gas tank and a plastic fuel can with graduated markings on the side.
* Drive directly home, turn off your car, and top off the tank.
> * Note the level on the
fuel can. Write it down.
> * Turn the AC to full blast, and your headlights on high beam. Leave the door
open so the interior lights will be on. This is to simulate the worst-case load of the inverter.
> * Start
your car and let it idle for 15 minutes exactly, then turn it off.
> * Top off your gas tank from the fuel
> * Note the new fuel level in the fuel can. Write it down.
> * Subtract level
reading 1 from level reading 2, and multiply by 4. This is the number of gallons per hour.
> Keep in mind that once
you eat all of the food in your fridge and freezer, or transfer it into a cooler (hint) you can greatly extend your fuel supply
by only running this setup part of the day.
> It's also a very good idea to keep one of those self-contained jumpstart
packs handy in case you run your battery down too much to start your car. (Let's be honest -- those jumpstart power packs
are a great thing to have in your trunk no matter what!)
> The advanced electric-systems hacker might consider acquiring
one or more large sealed lead-acid batteries <http://www.powerstream.com/BB.htm> and a DC-DC charger <http://www.powerstream.com/DCC.htm>.
Depending on sizing, this could enable round-the-clock power for your inverter when coupled with a couple of hours of charging
off the car's power (or any AC power source) each day.
> One final tip on this subject: consider acquiring a length
of appropriately-sized flexible metal ducting to enable you to safely run your vehicle in a closed garage. (Obviously, if
your exhaust system leaks this is a bad idea regardless of any ducting between the tailpipe and the outdoors.) Be sure to
get a roll of high-temperature metallic tape (auto-parts store) to get a reasonably good seal between the ducting and the
tailpipe(s). If you don't know how to do this safely, don't even try it. Run your vehicle with the garage door open, but post
a guard the entire time it's running.
> Transportation - the burden and blessing of America
> For this section,
we're going to assume you own at least one vehicle. (Sorry, city-dwellers, you already know what your options are. Consider
getting a bike and helmet if you're worried about evacuating under your own power.) We shall also presume that your vehicle
is reasonably functional and runs on gasoline. The type of fuel factors into fuel storage limitations.
about "I never let my tank get below half-empty" aside, assume for a moment that the crisis hits and your gas gauge is near
E. Even if you want to evacuate from the region in your vehicle, this is not an auspicious way to start your adventure. At
a minimum, you should keep a 5-gallon reserve supply of fuel in an accessible location.
> The Authorities, for good
reason, frown on private citizens storing more than about 25 gallons of gas at home. Even that should be in securely sealed,
high-strength 5-gallon containers. Your humble correspondent has found that surplus NATO 5-gallon fuel cans <http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/ctd/product.asp?dept_id=1611&sku=ZAA-090>,
suitably cleaned and painted with Rustoleum primer and red gloss, are excellent for storing fuel safely. These cans are quite
possibly strong enough that I could use one hold up my truck for a tire change. Don't bother asking questions about how much
fuel is stored at the author's home -- it's enough for my plans, and it's stored safely, and that's all I'm saying.>
A couple of notes about storing fuel:
> * Gasoline requires a stabilizing additive to last more than 60-90
days. The most popular product on the market is Sta-Bil <http://www.goldeagle.com/sta-bil/>. Be sure to check out the
'Lawn Mower Racing link at the Sta-Bil site. :)
> * TIP: A double dose of Sta-Bil (4oz per 5-gallon can)
will keep gas fresh for 24 months.
> * Every year, use half of your stored fuel to fill up your vehicle
and refill the cans with fresh fuel and more Sta-Bil. Put a piece of tape on each can with the fill-up date.
TIP: Pick a holiday (e.g. Memorial Day) and rotate your stored fuel on that holiday every year. It's much easier to
> * IMPORTANT: Any significant quantity of stored gasoline should be NOT be in your house, or
in a building attached to your house. If you don't have a shed, Rubbermaid makes inexpensive, durable outdoor storage <http://www.rubbermaid.com/hpd/consumer/bigMax/5e39_deck_box.jhtml>
in a variety of sizes and shapes. Plan on adding a hasp and outdoor-rated combination lock to whatever outdoor storage you
use. (Don't use a keyed lock unless you put a key into a combination-access lockbox nearby, and even then it's not a great
> A few more notes about surplus NATO fuel cans:
> * Gasoline storage containers are legally
required to be bright red in color in the US and (I think) Canada.
> * Surplus 5-gallon NATO fuel cans
MUST be cleaned and rust-inhibiting primer applied before the bright-red paint goes on.
> * Plan on replacing
the rubber gasket as soon you buy your NATO can(s), even if it's a "like-new" can. Rubber decays over time, and gaskets are
> * Used NATO cans may have fuel residue from fuels other than gas. Plan on rinsing each
one out 2-3 times with a few ounces of clean gas. Capture the contaminated runoff in a sealed container. Your local fire department
can assist you in safely disposing of it.
> * Don't forget a NATO-spec fuel spout! Without it, you'll be
struggling with funnels, and that's just lame.
> * NATO cans are not C.A.R.B. compliant <http://www.awdirect.com/awdirect/catalog.cfm?dest=itempg&itemid=19254&secid=73&linkon=subsection&linkid=425>,
and if you use a NATO can for gasoline in California you are a Very Bad Person who clearly Does Not Care About The Environment.
> Finally, consider that you may need to, er, liberate fuel from an abandoned vehicle or storage tank at some point.
Traditional tube siphons are extremely hazardous to your health when used for fuels. Consider investing in a self-priming
to avoid a mouthful of gas or diesel.
> Environment -- keeping warm, keeping cool
> Human beings have a remarkably
narrow range of "comfortable" temperatures, compared to many other organisms. Get us outside that comfort zone for too long,
and things start to get ugly, not to mention smelly and/or hypothermic. We'll focus on keeping warm, since Part 3 included
quite a bit of information on how to survive a heat wave.
> Keeping warm and healthy in weather which is cold, wet,
or both is a life-threatening challenge. The two easiest ways to make the best of an available heat source are (1) contain
the heat in a smaller space, and (2) keep more of the heat in that space by blocking absorption or escape.
> For (1),
your correspondent recommends having a roll of plastic sheeting and duct tape handy. (Yes, I know, plastic and duct tape,
ha ha.) These materials can be used to increase heat retention (additional layer of air barrier over windows & unused
doors) and block off areas of the dwelling which are not absolutely required.
> For (2), covering hard flooring and
exterior walls with rugs or blankets is highly desirable in a cold-weather crisis. The reason European royalty were so into
tapestries, in reality, was that they helped cut down on drafts.>
> Finally, heating. Keep in mind that your central
heating will not work without power to the control electronics and main unit. If your plan for staying alive in a week-long
winter storm involves your central heating unit, you'd better find a way to supply it with electric power.
> We will
assume that if you live in a cold-weather climate, you are aware of the various options for grid-independent heating, such
as wood, coal or pellet stoves, kerosene heaters, and so forth. If you own a home in such a climate and do not have any such
resources, you need to do something about it ASAP.
> For emergencies in general and apartment dwellers in particular,
the author urges caution in choosing an emergency indoor heat source. While there may be other alternatives, the only indoor-safe
portable heat source worth mentioning is the Coleman Catalytic Heater <http://www.coleman.com/coleman/ColemanCom/subcategory.asp?CategoryID=3000>
product line. The downside is that if you're going to count on this type of heater to get you through 3-5 days of freezing
temperatures, you'd better stock up on the 1lb propane canisters. You will need at least 3 canisters per day to keep it running.
Active communications -- direct vs. short-range vs. long-range
> Being able to communicate with the world outside the
disaster zone can, and frequently has, made the difference between life and death for survivors of the initial event. Most
people are already 90% prepared for this situation, but in an emergency extending over the course of a week or more, that
extra 10% is a killer.
> = Direct signaling =
> There's a helicopter flying over your neighborhood and you're
stranded at your house with a disabled relative and no means of transportation and no working means of communications. What
do you do?
> First, you need to get the attention of the aircrew. Do not shoot flares at the helicopter, as this tends
to make pilots nervous. However, stick-type road flares arranged in a geometric pattern (triangle, square, whatever you can
manage) will attract attention. Likewise, in the daytime a signaling mirror used to flash light from the sun at the aircrew
is a good attention-getter. At night, an LED strobe (e.g. the kind used by runners and bicyclists at dusk) brought to a high
point at your location is also extremely visible.
> Next, you need to get your message seen. Your correspondent likes
to think big, as is noticeable-in-aerial-photography big. Contrasting paint on a light or dark background (roof, street) in
letters 1m (3ft) tall will catch anyone's attention. Failing that, make a sign using a sheet and stake down the corners. And
for Bob's sake, try to get the spelling right.
> Recommended supplies: 3 large cans blaze-orange spray paint, replaced
every 3-4 years or when used (however little); signaling mirror; LED flasher with spare batteries (lithium batteries last
a very long time in the box; replace every 5 years)
> Finally, be ready for rescue. Enough said.
> = Short-range
> A popular notion among many halfway-prepared individuals is that FRS radios will be useful in an emergency.
I've got news for you: not bloody likely.
> First, if you live in the author's city or many like it, FRS (and its more
powerful cousin, GMRS) will be used in a disaster to coordinate search-and-rescue teams. This is the case in most cities with
CERT teams. If you, or more likely, your 9-year-old daughter, starts yammering on the radio when my team is conducting a search-and-recovery
operation, you will be told in no uncertain terms to cease transmitting on my channel. Take a look at Fremont's CERT Communication
Plan <http://www.fremont.gov/Fire/SpecialPrograms/CERTMembers.htm> for an example of how we use FRS radio.
is a good way to go for short-range communications: buy everyone a whistle, and agree on a few basic signals. You can get
incredibly loud emergency whistles for only a few dollars. I'm a particular fan of the > Coghlan's Six Function Whistle
<http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?memberId=12500226&productId=35013130> which incorporates
an LED light, a compass, a magnifier, a thermometer, and a signal mirror. Between the LED light, the whistle and the signal
mirror, you should be able to get someone's attention.
> Finally, if you are a neighborhood or group leader, seriously
consider picking up an electronic bullhorn with spare batteries. The author knows from experience that he's not a terribly
effective organizer if he loses his voice from shouting too much. Get one on eBay and seal it into a waterproof bag. Note
that this is also a very useful item for search and rescue operations.
> = Long range comms =
> For the prepared
individual, having a range of options in the plan for communicating outside the disaster zone is a must. (See Communications
Plan above.) Let's discuss a few of the ways one can prepare.
> Personal Locator Beacon: also known as an Emergency
Position Indicating Radio Beacon <http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/question351.htm>, and if you need to shout for
help really loud, this is the way to go. These devices include a GPS receiver to transmit your exact location to a satellite.
They're expensive, but boy howdy are they a nice safety net.
> Ham radio: In a disaster, ham radio operators are frequently
the only link between the disaster zone and the outside world. While some people might recommend the purchase of a hand-held
ham radio, use of that radio by an unlicensed operator might interfere with mission-critical communications in progress. A
better plan is to get in touch with your local ARRL <http://www.arrl.org/> chapter and find out how you can tap into
their emergency communications plan, or even get licensed for basic ham radio operation yourself.
> Mobile phones: See
the communications plan section above. Note that battery power will be a scarce commodity after the first 72 hours. Your correspondent
strongly recommends storing a manual phone charger such as the Sidewinder <http://www.istdesigns.com/product_info.php?cPath=1&products_id=1>
in your emergency kit.
> It is also strongly recommended that, if possible, your household standardize on a single
brand of mobile phone i.e. Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, etc. This will simplify the power situation considerably, and in some
cases, enable you to turn off one phone and reuse its battery in another.
> For routine charging, in the author's experience
nothing beats the versatility of a USB charger cable with AC and DC USB power adapters. A good source for this is Expansys
<http://www.expansys-usa.com/> -- here's a link to a Treo 650 kit <http://www.expansys-usa.com/product.asp?code=125927&asource=126027>
as an example.
> Passive communications - keep informed!
> Radio and TV broadcasts are an excellent way to keep
informed before, during, and after a disaster. You should have multiple means of receiving broadcast information.
Best-of-breed: As stated above, having multiple options is key. Your correspondent is a big believer in this, and recommends
> * Freeplay Energy EyeMax AM/FM/Weather-Band Emergency Radio with LED Flashlight <http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?skuId=7305123&type=product&productCategoryId=pcmcat57700050032&id=1118842476280>
* XM Satellite Radio receiver (e.g. SkyFi2) and "boom-box" accessory with batteries, AC, and DC power adapters
The XM radio isn't just for news and entertainment -- XM channel 247 (get it, 24/7?) is a round-the-clock emergency information
> Cheap-and-cheerful: A no-name imported hand-crank radio <http://www.quakekare.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=57>
is a good basic addition to your preparedness kit.
> Improvised: Many households have at least one personal radio or
radio/CD player with headphones gathering dust somewhere. Pack it up in a ziplock bag with spare batteries and put it in your
> A note about TV: a small TV with multiple power options can be a great comfort in a disaster,
assuming the local TV stations are online and transmitting. For stuck-at-home emergencies an inexpensive (~$130) portable
DVD player is a power-efficient means of entertainment, especially if you have kids.
> Let there be light!
point of commonality you'll find among preparedness and first-responder types is a predilection for flashlights. You have
your traditionalists who favor the MagLite, which doubles handily as a blunt weapon. You have your law-enforcement types who
are fans of the ultra-bright SureFire lights. You get the idea.
> In a disaster or emergency situation, light is a critical
need. Let's face it -- if you have to spend a week cooped up with three other people in a dark room during a blizzard, you
are likely to go a little nuts.
> = Area light =
> Candles are OK for temporary lighting, but for any situation
lasting more than an hour or three they're not a great choice. That said, it is a very good idea to have a couple of long-burning
emergency candles <http://www.nitro-pak.com/product_info.php/products_id/334> on hand for backup lighting and cooking
> Likewise, battery-powered incandescent area lamps are convenient when a thunderstorm knocks out power for an
evening, but are a relatively poor idea for disaster preparedness due to battery requirements. See below for alternatives.
> A good oil or kerosene lamp, if used safely, will provide hours of light from fuel which can sit
on the shelf for a very long time and still remain usable. Safe storage for both lamp and fuel are critical; be sure to get
or make a padded hard-case for the lamp to ensure that it is available when you need it.
> Another excellent choice
for zero-power lighting is a dual-fuel lantern capable of burning unleaded gasoline or 'Coleman fuel'. Because these have
been around for a long time, they are readily availble used complete with cushioned hard case for under $40. These lanterns
can be relatively fuel-efficient, capable of making a gallon of fuel last a week or more at 8 hrs/day.
> One potential
exception to the no-battery-powered-area-lamps rule of thumb is the new class of LED lanterns coming out. The eGear LED lantern
<http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?productId=36371318&memberId=12500226>, for example,
will run at full brightness for 40 hours (5 8-hour evenings) on a single set of D-cell batteries, and much longer at reduced
brightness. Your correspondent considers this within the acceptable range, and at $40, it's an affordable solution.
If some electric power is available (generator, inverter, etc.) then you might consider using some of your power budget for
lighting. Generally speaking, incandescent lights are not an efficient use of your power budget, but fortunately, there are
> Compact fluorescent
> In warm-weather situations, it's important to minimize the amount of heat
your lighting introduces into your environment -- especially since the air conditioner won't be running. Compact fluorescent
bulbs are a direct replacement for incandescent bulbs and require much less power to run, typically 15-20% of an equivalently
bright regular bulb. They also put out much less heat. 100W of power budget from your inverter or generator is enough to brightly
light a medium-sized room with four 150W-equivalent CFL bulbs.
> One thing to keep in mind is that inexpensive generators
frequently output, shall we say, less-than-perfect electric power. This can be very, very hard on CFL bulbs. One way around
this is to use your generator intermittently to charge one or more large batteries, and run your lights off the batteries
via an inverter with cleaner power output.
> In cold-weather situations, you want> your lighting
solution to put out heat. The author's home preparedness plan for colder weather includes a selection of inexpensive halogen
work lights to illuminate and warm the main living area. These are dual-use equipment, as they al> so come in handy working
both indoors and outside. Spare bulbs are a must-have.
> Update [2005-9-16 16:8:10 by AlphaGeek]: Sorry for the formatting
issues, folks. The complete section on Portable Lighting may be found in the Comments below.
> Good luck happens when
preparedness meets opportunity" - Anonymous
> The key to emergency preparedness is an accurate understanding of the
risks and challenges you face. Underestimating your risks leads to complacency and failure to prepare effectively <http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2005/9/16/154727/040/57>.
Overestimating your risks leads to the Armageddon Fallacy <http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/9/9/161748/9747> and
failure to prepare effectively (if at all) because of the enormity of the imagined potential disaster.
> The harsh truth
is that the calculus of survival is not entirely within our control. No matter how many risks we address, there are situations
which are simply unforeseeable or unaddressable. However, by taking effective action to minimize the likely risks, we can
greatly increase our chances of survival in an emergency or disaster situation.
> This Diary marks the conclusion of
> * AlphaGeek's diary <http://AlphaGeek.dailykos.com/> :: ::
This is the fifth and final installment in a series of Diaries on personal disaster preparedness. Your humble correspondent
is a Silicon Valley technical executive with both professional and personal experience in risk assessment and disaster-readiness
planning. Links to reference materials, including planning guides and reference information, will be posted at the end of
this Diary, the final installment in this series.
> WARNING: This Diary series discusses a wide range of disaster-related
subjects in a straightforward, honest fashion. Some people may experience a strong emotional reaction to reading about or
discussing situations which are normally avoided in polite conversation. You have been warned.
> In this final
installment, we will complete our discussion of material preparations, discuss personal security, and bring this series to
> Material Preparations (continued from Part 4 <http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/16/154727/040>)
In Part 4 of this series, we covered the majority of the material preparations required to support most emergency preparedness
plans. Today's installment will cover the remaining material-prep topics, as well as personal and group security in various
> While we have discussed Environment in some detail (see Part 4), shelter deserves a category
of its own. Your correspondent confesses that it would have been more logical to cover Shelter immediately before Environment;
this will be corrected in any derivative versions of this work.
> Your preparedness plan MUST address the following
> Your primary residence is habitable; what materials and tools do you have on hand to keep it that way if
it is damaged?
> You are forced by circumstances to spend a night outdoors but in the vicinity of your home, e.g. in
a yard or park; what shelter can you provide for your household?
> Your home or neighborhood is not habitable and you
decide to evacuate by car; do you have a list of places you could stay along the likely escape routes from your region, at
> EMERGENCY REPAIRS
> In your correspondent's opinion, being prepared to make minor emergency
repairs to your home is one of the least expensive and most effective things you can do to prepare for the aftermath of a
disaster. While specific techniques vary depending on construction, the type of damage likely in your situation, and so forth,
there are certain common materials which are incredibly useful for tactical repairs during or after a crisis:
> * Basic toolkit; see the Allied 39031 kit <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0001AGFX0/qid=1127173282/br=1-16/ref=cl_tr_br_cl//102-1593242-5320935?v=glance&s=hi&n=1198466>>
as an example. Even if you already have a set of tools, consider setting aside one of these self-contained all-in-one kits
> * Utility knife with spare blades (even if kit has one)
> * Hand
drill, e.g. Fiskars Hand Drill <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00004T80S/qid=1127173972/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/102-1593242-5320935?v=glance&s=hi&n=507846>
* Drill & screwdrive bit set, e.g. Black & Decker 109pc <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00099E7UG/ref=pd_ts_hi_1/102-1593242-5320935?v=glance&s=hi&n=552388>
> * 3" drywall screws
> * 2" wood screws
2 large rolls duct tape
> * 1 roll plastic sheeting ("tarp on a roll") in thickest
> * 2x2 stock in 6' or 8' lengths
> * 2x4 stock in 6' or 8' lengths
* Plywood sheeting suitable to your needs
> EMERGENCY OUTDOOR SHELTER
> Plan A: Acquire a tent
large enough to sleep everyone in your household. This is dual-use equipment, and the author highly commends the practice
of taking your family camping to build character and self-sufficiency in situations outside normal routine.
> Plan B:
Use plastic tarpaulins and/or plastic sheeting to construct an improvised shelter. This is not as easy as it sounds. Seriously,
a tent is a much better choice. If you must go this route, use features of your environment as an integral part of your shelter,
i.e. use the back corner of your wooden-fenced yard as the starting point. Having suitable materials will make this task much
> * grommeted, opaque woven-plastic tarps
> * anchor stakes
> EVACUATION SHELTER POINTS
> A critical element of any evacuation plan is knowing where you're
going. Spending a few minutes identifying and noting likely shelter locations along your probable evacuation routes now means
much less stress when a crisis occurs. Shelter locations may include hotels, motels, campgrounds, highway rest areas, and
houses of friends or family. Even if you are fortunate enough to have a second home (e.g. a vacation cabin) you must still
have a plan in case your alternate location is unreachable.
> Be sure to record all relevant information for your identified
shelter points in your disaster plan; for hotel/motel sites, record both the local phone number and the national reservation
number(s). Also consider your means of payment for accomodations. A credit card will be required to secure a phone reservation,
and you do NOT want to be caught without a reservation when you arrive at the hotel.
> Finally, the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina has made it obvious that everyone in a region at risk of natural disaster (e.g. virtually all of us) should consider
where we could take refuge without ruining our family finances. Staying in a motel is neither cheap nor pleasant over the
long haul, and counting on government funding to offset these costs is foolhardy.
> Medical (first aid/trauma)
In normal, everyday life, few injuries are truly life-threatening. In a disaster, minor cuts can become infected, and if left
unchecked the infection can cause the loss of a limb or even cost the life of the patient. The key, in either situation, is
early, effective treatment.
> The reader should keep in mind that the medical materials recommended for dealing with
first-aid or trauma situations are not intended to equip the reader to go forth and treat the wounded masses. Carefully distinguish
between supplies intended to preserve and ensure the health of your household, versus those which could be used to help others.
Your correspondent, for example, maintains a personal first-aid kit separate from the supplies in his disaster-response gear.
A good starting point for first-aid preparedness is a Red Cross first-aid/CPR class. Similar classes are offered in affiliation
with CERT programs (as discussed previously). Practical, hands-on training is a must, as you learn the material in ways that
are simply not possible when studying written or online materia.>
> It is far easier to deal with injuries if you're
properly equipped. For most people, the easiest road to success is to start with a prepared kit, and then add tools and supplies
to complete the package. Recommendations:
> * The REI Backpacker First Aid Kit <http://www.rei.com/online/store/ProductDisplay?storeId=8000&catalogId=40000008000&productId=47901894&parent_category_rn=4500543&vcat=REI_SEARCH>
is as close to a perfect base kit as your author has found; at the time of this writing, the REI Outlet has the 2004 kits
on clearance <http://www.rei.com/outlet/product/47975109.htm>
> * 1 bottle Povidone-iodine disinfectant
solution (Betadine) <http://woundcare.org/newsvol2n2/ar1.htm> sealed in zip-lock bag
> * 1 tube Neosporin
+ Pain Relief ointment <http://www.neosporin.com/firstaid/neosporin.asp?sec=0&page=15>
> * Nexcare
Liquid Bandage Drops <http://www.3m.com/us/home_leisure/nexcare/liquidbandagedrops.jhtml> -- see below for additional
comments on this important item
> * 1 box Telfa non-stick pads, repackaged into 1-2 zip-lock bags
* 1 roll of one-inch-wide cloth First Aid Tape
> * Blue Nitrile EMS gloves <http://store.yahoo.com/ehsgear/nitemsglov.html>,
stored 10 per ziplock sandwich bag
> * CPR mask <http://store.yahoo.com/ehsgear/cprmask.html> --
a MUST for administering CPR without risk of infectious disease
> * EMT shears <http://store.yahoo.com/ehsgear/emtscissors.html>
for accessing wounds in clothed areas
> * Protective eyewear with splash resistance
> * 1 white-LED micro flashlight such as PT Pulsar <http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?memberId=12500226&productId=829319>
* 1 blue-LED micro flashlight (as above, but in blue) for spotting blood
> * 1 bottle aspirin
* 1 bottle ibuprofen
> * 1 bottle acetaminophen
> * 1 bottle liquid Benadryl
with means for dispensing measured doses
> * 1 package Pepto-Bismol tablets (not liquid)
1 package anti-diarrheal tablets
> A note regarding one very special item in the list above: in your correspondent's
estimation, one of the most underreported recent developments in wound care is the adaptation of surgical superglue (cyanoacrylate,
or "CA" glue) to the consumer market. A wound sealed with sterile CA glue, such as the Nexcare product linked above, will
stop bleeding immediately, and generally will not require a separate bandage.
> If you have first-aid kits already,
add the Nexcare product to all of them at your earliest convenience. It's that good. Don't bother with the other products
that require you to use special activator swabs, go for the Nexcare product. Your correspondent recently sliced down the dorsal
surface of his left index finger from the second knuckle to the fingernail with the tip of an extremely sharp knife. Conventional
wound care products were mediocre at stopping the bleeding, and did nothing for the pain. The Nexcare drops not only took
care of the bleeding, but by sealing together and immobilizing the edges of the cut, stopped the pain from the exposed nerve
> UPDATE: Two other emerging technologies which are revolutionizing trauma wound management are QuikClot <http://www.quikclot.com>
(currently available only to emergency services professionals) and SEAL-ON/m*doc <http://www.seal-on.com/>, which is
available over-the-counter. The author can personally attest to the efficacy of SEAL-ON products for stopping severe nosebleeds
and scalp wounds.
> If you are interested in preparing to deal with traumatic injury, such as might reasonably be expected
in the aftermath of a natural disaster, please seek appropriate training. Reference books, while useful, can be difficult
to employ effectively in stressful situations.
> If you do decide to pick up a book on emergency medicine, keep in
mind that in a disaster the conventional strategy of "keep the victim alive until the cavalry arrives" > does not apply.
You must assume that any lifesaving measures must be capable of sustaining the victim without immediate medical attention
by a pro, and plan accordingly. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that the victim will die. If you take a CERT class, you
will learn more about how to assess a victim's chances of survival, a process called triage.
> Medical (sustaining care)
At a minimum, every copy of your preparedness plan should include a detailed list of prescribed medications for each member
of your household, as well as contact information for the prescribing physician.
> A separate sheet should detail all
known food, drug, and environmental allergies for each individual.
> If appropriate, request your prescribing physician(s)
to provide prescription forms for an emergency supply of maintenance medications. Pay attention to any must-be-filled-by policies
in force in your state. Note that certain medications are prescribed on forms which are only valid for 14 days after the date
written on the form by the doctor.
> Finally, be sure to keep an emergency supply of any equipment required to administer
required medications, as well as anything needed to safely dispose of waste generated in the process.
> Medication management
It is strongly suggested that, to the extent that it is practical, a 14-day supply of all required medication(s) should be
stored in the home preparedness kit. It is further suggested that a 5-day supply be stored in the vehicle and/or work preparedness
kits. When storing medication, which has a limited shelf life, keeping track of expiration dates is key. Expired medication
can be worse than useless, it can be dangerous.
> Your correspondent uses the following plan to manage medication stored
in emergency kits. No doubt, commenters will come up with many inventive and workable alternative plans for meeting this need.
This is presented as an example of a plan that works, not as The One True Way.
> Separate and distinct from the prescribed-medication
list referenced above is a medication log kept in each kit with stored medication. This log is kept in pencil on a designated
page in a Rite in the Rain <http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?memberId=12500226&productId=46917>
spiral notebook, which is also used as an equipment log. A pencil is affixed to the notebook on a cord long enough to permit
> Each medication is logged in using the notebook, including quantity, expiration date, and do-not-use-after
date if different from the expiration date. This includes not only the prescription meds, but also the over-the-counter meds
and supplies with limited shelf lives.
> Whenever possible, prescription meds are stored in an original bottle with
the actual expiration date written on the top of the bottle. (It's usually the case that the meds in the bottle are newer
than the label would indicate.)
> Knives and Multi-tools
> Your humble correspondent must disclose up front that
he has been carrying a Leatherman pocket tool daily for over a decade, after having tried various other types and brands of
implement. He would no more be caught without his Leatherman Charge XTi <http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/BannerManager?adv=670227&prod=39160784>
than without his cellphone or wallet.
> It is certainly open for debate whether it is useful, in most emergency situations,
to have a fixed-blade knife as part of your preparedness kit. In the author's opinion, a traditional fixed-blade knife is
more of a liability than an asset due to its bulk, its intimidating appearance but limited usefulness in personal defense,
and its lack of flexibility compared to a multi-tool.
> At a minimum, every emergency kit (home, vehicle, work) should
contain a cheap, lower-quality multitool such as this one <http://store.yahoo.com/ehsgear/multitoolknife.html>> .
While your correspondent is somewhat hesitant to recommend such a cheaply made piece of equipment, the fact is that a low-quality
tool beats the hell out of having no tool at all.
> However, if you have any choice at all, invest in a higher quality
tool, from a name-brand manufacturer. The author's Leatherman Super Tool was recently refurbished for free by the factory
after 8 years of daily use, and is now oiled and stored in a vehicle preparedness kit. Other brands of multi-tool, notably
Gerber, are known for similar levels of durability and longevity in service.
> If you are going to spend a few dollars
on a multi-tool, a very important safety feature is having locking blades and tools. Your author can attest, from painful
personal experience, that having a razor-sharp blade suddenly snap shut on your fingers when applying heavy pressure to the
knife is a Very Bad Thing.
> Kits, storage, and go-packs, oh my!
> While we have discussed certain approaches
to organizing and storing equipment along the way, it's time to pull together all the various material preparations you may
choose to include in your plans.
> As has been mentioned throughout this series, you should consider creating
the following preparedness kits with materials relevant to the risks you face:
> * 3-day vehicle kit for
each vehicle in the family
> * 3-day work kit for each person who works outside the home
14-day comprehensive home kit, with a subset of that kit suitable for adaptation into a 3-day travel kit
for packing items into kits:
> Seal all individual items in durable waterproof packaging, such as heavy-gauge ziplock
> Line backpacks and utility bags with heavy-gauge plastic bags, e.g. those sold as 55-gallon drum liners
(extremely tough); when the bag is packed, press out excess air, roll the end of the bag over at least three times, and secure
with a velcro strap or similar fastener
> Group items by function, and pack items likely to be used together into the
same bag or container.
> For critical items such as flashlights, can openers, and so forth, pack spares and alternate
items in separate locations.
> A small nylon backpack works well for work and vehicle kits. A second bag may be required
for clothing and footwear; be sure you can carry both bags comfortably.
> Home preparedness kits should be assembled
into containers, each of which must be labeled with its contents. Be sure not to over-pack individual containers to the point
that they are difficult or impossible to lift. The author is a big fan of Rubbermaid Action Packer containers, as they are
lockable, watertight, stackable, and extremely durable.
> Having access to your preparedness kits, especially
your home kit, is a critical goal you must take into consideration when planning where to store your gear. Residents in earthquake
territory have different needs than those in, say, blizzard country.
> First, consider safety. If you are storing any
significant quantity of emergency fuel, you need to store it outside your home and preferably away from any exterior walls.
Next, consider the risks to the safety and accessibility of your preparedness materials. If you live in an area at risk of
earthquakes, for example, your preparedness kit won't be of much use stored under the stairs if your house is too dangerous
to enter post-quake. Consider installing a locking outdoor storage container such as the Rubbermaid XL Deck Box <http://www.rubbermaid.com/hpd/consumer/bigMax/5e39_deck_box.jhtml>,
which is large enough to store a tremendous volume of gear and supplies safely away from your house. Be sure to equip any
outdoor storage containers with a waterproof outdoor combination lock.
> An inexpensive alternative is to pack your
home kit into wheeled trash cans. This has the advantage of being more easily portable if you need to relocate a short distance,
e.g. to a nearby park.>
> As previously mentioned, a portion of your home kit should be easily
portable. In addition to items previously discussed, your household go-pack plan should include your critical papers, such
as birth certificates, loan documents, insurance docs, and so forth. Here's the real test to see if you've done this right:
if your house caught on fire and you outside with your family, your pets, and your go-pack, would you be able to begin putting
your life back together? Consider keeping backups of critical computer data in your go-pack, such as CDs containing your family's
> Security measures for personal and group safety
> Ezekiel 25:17 - according to Quentin
Tarantino, that is:
> "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the
tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the
darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. [...]"
> The sad truth is that during
times of crisis, both the noblest and the basest parts of human nature are laid bare for all to see. In desperate situations,
people will commit acts unthinkable in times of plenty. It is prudent to plan to protect yourself, your family, and your community.
> Some of the readers of this series adhere to a philosophy of non-violence, which the author respects.
This does not preclude the use of nonlethal means of self-defense. At a minimum, the author recommends that you include at
least one large OC (pepper) defensive spray <http://www.uscav.com/Productinfo.aspx?productID=8570&TabID=1> and at
least one contact-type stun device <http://www.cabelas.com/cabelas/en/templates/links/link.jsp?id=0018845225702a&type=product&cmCat=search&returnString=hasJS=true&_D%3AhasJS=+&QueryText=stun+gun&_DARGS=%2Fcabelas%2Fen%2Fcommon%2Fsearch%2Fsearch-box.jsp.22&Go.x=0&Go.y=0&N=4887&Ntk=Products&Ntx=mode+matchall&Nty=1&Ntt=stun+gun&noImage=0&returnPage=search-results1.jsp>
with spare battery in each emergency kit.
> The OC pepper spray is dual-use; it can be used to deter human harassment
or assault, and it will send even the largest hungry dog running for the hills. NOTE: OC pepper spray (or any chemical spray,
for that matter) should NEVER be discharged in an enclosed space unless life is at stake. The electric stun device is easily
concealable, and at a minimum each female member of your group old enough to handle one safely should have one.
and site security
> Your preparedness both increases your chances of survival and puts you at risk. In a situation where
resources are scarce, people who have not prepared to deal with that situation may be driven to desperate acts.
first line of defense is to maintain a low profile. Running a generator 24x7, powering bright lights, and cranking up the
music and TV will draw attention. Your goal should be to minimize your profile, and give no hint that your household is any
better off than the surrounding community. Be cautious in discussing details of your preparedness plans with anyone outside
your household. That information is on a need-to-know basis, and most people just don't need to know.
> You should,
however, be prepared to defend yourself, your family, and your resources against those who would do you harm. Yes, folks,
it's time to talk about guns.
> Before you purchase a gun, you MUST learn how to store, handle, and use one safely.
Your correspondent offers free basic firearms instruction to residents or visitors in the San Francisco Bay Area. Introductory
classes are available in most cities at indoor and outdoor ranges, gun clubs, and through various NRA programs.
you purchase a gun, in addition to storing it safely, you MUST practice with it at least once per year. This has the dual
benefits of maintaining your familiarity with the firearm ,and verifying that the firearm remains in good working condition.>
> Finally, be realistic regarding the circumstances under which you might need a gun at all, much less use it against
another person. For example, the author submits that a citizen shooting someone more than 100' (30m) away calls into question
(a) how much of an immediate threat that person really was, (b) how you clearly identified that person and the threat they
presented, and (c) whether you were shooting without regard to anyone near or behind the target. Just because it's a disaster
zone doesn't mean the shooter won't end up explaining this to a judge and jury in the future.
> = Shotguns =
If you're going to buy a single gun for defensive purposes, the author recommends a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun with an 18"
barrel. The Remington 870 Express Synthetic <http://www.remington.com/firearms/shotguns/870expsyn18.htm> is the standard
in this area, and at under $350 retail is very affordable. Other options to consider include the Mossberg 500 SP <http://www.mossberg.com/pcatalog/Specpurp.htm>
series, as recommended in the Comments <http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/20/51253/3712> below by soonergrunt.
However, the blast and recoil from a full-power shell in a 12-gauge shotgun can be quite startling, or even painful, for inexperienced
shooters. The author strongly recommends the use of reduced-recoil ammunition, such as Remington Express Managed-Recoil Buckshot
<http://www.remington.com/ammo/shotshell/managedrecoil_buckshot.htm>, as well as the use of an aftermarket rubber recoil
pad securely affixed to the butt of the shotgun stock.
> The addition of a sling, which can be quite inexpensive, is
likewise strongly recommended. If you have to shepherd your group on foot out of the disaster zone, you're not going to want
to carry a shotgun in your hands the entire way.
> Finally, a "defensive shotgun" or "introduction to shotgun" class
is highly recommended for all authorized users. Many people are surprised at the difference training makes when it comes to
effectively using a gun which seems as simple and straightforward as the shotgun.
> = Rifles & Carbines =
While most people are conceptually familiar with rifles because of TV and movies, few people understand the difference between
a rifle <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rifle> and a carbine <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbine>. The simple
explanation: carbines are shorter than the full-size rifles, and fire bullets with less velocity and impact energy, resulting
in shorter range and striking power. This is caused by the use of a shorter barrel and/or a less powerful cartridge compared
to a rifle. Many carbines are chambered for pistol ammunition (specifically, revolver ammunition) rather than rifle ammo.
In keeping with the author's admonition that the maximum range for a defensive firearm is 100' or less, even in a disaster
situation, a good potential alternative to the Remington 870 shotgun above is a Winchester Model 94 lever-action rifle. Most
people would instantly recognize this as a classic "cowboy rifle".
> Your correspondent specifically recommends the
Winchester Model 94 Trails End <http://www.winchesterguns.com/prodinfo/catalog/detail.asp?cat_id=534&type_id=093&cat=003C>
in the .357 Magnum caliber. This means that the rifle fires relatively inexpensive and plentiful .357 Magnum pistol ammunition,
but at much higher velocity and energy than a pistol due to the longer barrel. Recommended accessories include a sling and
a red dot sight <http://www.cabelas.com/cabelas/en/templates/product/standard-item.jsp?_requestid=1181> with spare battery.
= Handguns =
> If you are unfamiliar with firearms, and intend to purchase a gun for home defense, a handgun is not
necessarily the best choice. However, in disaster situations, handguns do offer certain advantages:
pistols can be concealed on one's person or carried in a non-obvious fashion>
> * pistols are lighter
and less bulky than rifles or shotguns
> When selecting a handgun, be sure to shoot it or an equivalent model before
you decide to purchase. That Casull .454 monster revolver might seem like a manly choice in the gun store, but it's useless
if you're incapable of firing it without flinching. (For the record, the author considers the Casull .454 to be ridiculously
overpowered and refuses to shoot it or its giant-caliber brethren.)
> Your correspondent is comfortable with a wide
range of handguns, but prefers the .40 caliber H&K USP and the .45 caliber SIGarms P220R. His first choice for a concealable
handgun is the somewhat expensive and exotic 9mm H&K P7M8, but reluctantly concedes that the SIGarms P239 and GLOCK 26/27
are more practical and affordable choices.
> I hope that this series of articles has been useful
to you, rather than overwhelming. I urge you to 'eat the elephant one bite at a time', that is, to break down the process
of moving into a state of preparedness into manageable steps. Don't be self-conscious if you start off taking only modest
steps towards preparedness; even that is a huge improvement over failure to prepare.
> Remember, preparedness as a state
of mind is at least as important as having a pile of store-bought stuff in any kind of disaster. Always have a plan, and a
backup plan in case your first plan doesn't work out. (And, if nothing else, have a good communication plan to fall back on!)
I will be posting a couple of follow-up diaries in coming days and weeks to stimulate further discussion regarding preparedness
in our homes, our communities, and our workplaces. Please be sure to share any insights or adventures you encounter as you
work developing and implementing your preparedness plans.
> Thank you to all the folks who have read and recommended
the Diaries in this series.
> NOTE: Any links to online e-commerce sites (as opposed to manufacturer information
pages) are included for informational purposes only, and should not be considered an endorsement of that site. The author
does not receive any direct or referral compensation from any manufacturer or e-commerce site mentioned in this series.