Emergency Preparedness Lesson 5

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“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. Overestimating your risks leads to dismay 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.

We will complete our discussion of material preparations and personal security.

Material Preparations

In Level 4 we covered the majority of the material preparations required to support most emergency preparedness plans. We will cover the remaining material-prep topics, as well as personal and group security.

While we have discussed Environment in some detail, shelter deserves a category of its

own. Your preparedness plan needs to address the following scenarios:

  1. 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 various distances?


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 repairs during or after a crisis:

Tools & Fasteners:

  • Basic toolkit made of hand tools, self-contained all-in-one kits.
    • Utility knife with spare blades (even if kit has one)
    • Hand drill, drill bits and screw driver bits
  • Nails
    • 3″ drywall or wood screws
    • 2 large rolls duct tape


Acquire a tent large enough to sleep everyone in your household. Or if a tent is not available:

Use plastic tarps and/or plastic sheeting to construct an improvised shelter.

Constructing a usable shelter is not easy and it needs supplies that you might not have available.


A critical element of any evacuation plan is knowing where you’re going. Spend a few minutes identifying and writing down likely shelter locations along your probable evacuation routes. Writing down shelter locations now will lessen the stress of the situation if or 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).

Look for a First Aid kit that has the basics for dealing with the minor injuries but has enough

supplies for +10 of treating those injuries.

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.

A Leatherman multi-tool or equivalent is a must. This type of tool contains almost

everything one could need to get by for up to 10 days.

If you are going to spend a few dollars on a multi-tool, a very important safety feature is having locking blades and tools.

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.


We are now going to look at kits. The following is a suggestion of the kits that one might need to deal with the risks identified.

  • 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

Recommendations for packing items into kits:

  1. Seal all individual items in durable waterproof packaging, such as heavy-gauge ziplock freezer bags
  • 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. Rubbermaid Action Packer containers 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, 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. Also consider placing the kit in a shed on your property.

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.


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 are 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 digital photographs.

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.

Personal security

At a minimum you should consider the inclusion of at least one large OC (pepper) defensive spray and at least one contact-type stun device 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.

Group 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.

Your first line of defense is to maintain a low profile. Running a generator 24×7, 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. You may need a gun for protection.

Before you purchase a gun, you MUST learn how to store, handle, and use one safely. Introductory classes are available in most cities at indoor and outdoor ranges, gun clubs, and through various NRA programs.

Break the process down 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. If nothing else, have a good communication plan to fall back on!

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