Emergency preparedness for many stirs up images of post-disaster and apocalyptic scenarios where civil order is gone and food, water, healthy air are not available. Perhaps the most extreme picture of such a disaster situation would be the one depicted in Mad Max movies where it is clear the survivors have to contend with a life that no longer includes the rule of law as we know it and amenities such as running water and electricity are all a thing of the past.
However, emergency preparedness is much more fundamental than these dramatized Hollywood visions of survival and we have numerous real-life examples of people struggling with disaster relief. Consider, for example, the desperation on the faces of people following Hurricane Katrina. Or perhaps the months long struggle the people of Puerto Rica endured following Hurricane Maria. Then there’s the people fleeing their homes as wild fires swept across California.
It’s important to understand that not all emergencies are equal and the likelihood of emergencies and the degree of your emergency preparedness vary with your personal situation. There’s probably not any one single resource on the Internet that will adequately cover everything you need to know about emergency preparedness. Each individuals preparations will be different and the efforts you put into your preparations will be dependent on the emergency scenario you find yourself in. Each person also has a particular talent or skill and they may want to begin your prepping by focusing on that skill and later develop the skills they lack.
While you really should be prepared for a wide range of catastrophic phenomena, when choosing your own survival essential supplies, it is important to buy ones that are a priority for you.
This preparation can include emergency essentials like the storing of food, water and health supplies, the construction of shelters, and even the collection of weapons as protection against possible anarchy. To a large extent, these emergency preparedness preparations help provide a comprehensive safety net for you and your family in case of disaster of any sort.
Types of Emergencies, Disasters and Catastrophes
It’s not reasonable to expect you will ever be able to be prepared for EVERY disaster. The worst case scenario could happen but probably won’t; plan accordingly. There are simply too many things that can possibly happen and too many variables within each disaster for you to be prepared for everything. Even the premier government site, Ready.gov, has been deemed inadequate by the Federation of American Scientists. Therefore, to improve your level of emergency preparedness readiness and for the greatest success you should begin by prioritizing your preps beginning with where you are now and then doing whatever you can. Will you get it perfect? No. But whatever preparations you can do now will be better than having none when faced with a disaster.
There are different types of disasters or catastrophes that you might want to prepare for. Planning for an emergency really is situational. Some of these emergencies are man-made, some are caused by nature, and others are technological. Some will have little impact on your life, while others can be life threatening.
Accidents around the home or workplace are somewhat common. Thousands of people die every year from unintentional injury-related deaths when least expected. It might happen while doing chores around the house or when taking a bath. A growing category of home deaths is poisoning caused by gases, chemicals and other substances, but prescription drug overdose is by far the leading cause.
Not as common but what the world is facing now: pandemics. Spanish flu, from 1918 to 1920 infected 500 million people around the world, and resulted in the deaths of 50 to 100 million people. We’ve seen in recent years outbreaks of Influenza, Ebola, and Zika. More recently we’ve seen outbreaks of Coronaviruses (CoV) such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), and now COVID-19.
Most cases of COVID-19 are mild, but there is still an alarming number of people who die from complications brought about because of the virus. The older you are and with pre-existing conditions, the more you should be concerned. If you’re reasonably healthy, then you have less to worry about.
Perhaps more likely than catching COVID-19 yourself is the possibility of economic disruptions that will impact you more.
Medical emergencies are one of those high priority possible emergencies that probably everyone will experience at one time or another. Everyone should have a basic First Aid Kit available to them. I haven’t experienced any major emergencies, but I have had the minor cut that I was able to treat with a basic first aid kit. A simple wound can cause infection and without first aid, it can lead to serious complications. This is why a first aid kit should always be a high priority on the list of survival gear needed for the home.
Many of us drive and might be injured in an accident while on vacation or while driving across town. Perhaps more common than injuries is finding ourselves in a stalled car on the side of the road. While most of us depend on our cars to run smoothly, there are times when things don’t go quite as expected. There are some pretty simple things we can do to deal with those unexpected and very inconvenient break downs.
Winter Storm Kits for your Car
This is one of those events you’ve most likely encountered; it’s pretty common for people to lose power to their homes at one time or another. When a crisis hits, especially if it’s widespread, what often gets disrupted first are the utilities. Power outages might be caused by nature (severe weather), technology failures, or man-made (overloading grid or acts of terrorism).
Most people don’t really take notice of this as a major emergency right when it happens – it’s not even a blip on their radar. They don’t react because when the power goes off, it’s usually back on within a matter of minutes or hours. They’re used to the utility company coming to their rescue and making sure everything’s running as it should. In times of bad weather, it’s usually back on within a few days at the most. When everything is restored to normal, people forget about the interruption and annoyance to their daily routine and life goes on.
It didn’t work out quite that way for the folks in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria where most of the island suffered without power for months on end, taking 11 months to fully restore power to everyone on the island. Following 2008 Hurricane Ike in the greater Houston area, they were without power for 16 days. In 1996 following an ice storm hitting Washington state and Idaho, large portions of the region were without power for 14 days. Kansas residents experienced power outages for days and weeks following winter ice storms affecting the entire state in 1984, 1998, 2002, 2005, and 2007. Through 2000 and 2001, California experienced a power crisis leaving its residents without power intermittently for more than a year.
What Happens When the Lights Go Out?
Some experts point to our deteriorating power grid infrastructure and the catastrophic effects of a grid down scenario. And, there are those warning of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or solar geomagnetic storm causing a potential of disruptions to power grids, communication satellites and aircraft.
While most people are not equipped to fight a large-scale house fire, there are still some things you can do to prevent them and perhaps extinguish smaller fires before they grow too large. Practice your fire escape plan by having a home fire drill at least twice a year with everyone in the home. In the 30 -35 years following 1960 about 93% of American households had their homes protected by installing fire alarms.
Natural disasters that you might prepare for include earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, hurricanes, cyclones, blizzards, droughts, heat waves and even volcanic eruptions. Then there are the space disasters (impact events, gamma ray bursts, solar flares). Most everyone lives in a geographic area prone to one or more of theses natural disasters. Natural disasters generally don’t happen on a large-scale every day, but they do occur and you had better be prepared when it happens.
Some recent natural disasters that come to mind include Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Michael, Florence, and Katrina, tornadoes in Woodward Ok, Joplin Mo, and Udall Ks, the Colorado and California wildfires, to name a few. And, those are only ones affecting the United States…. when you consider disasters on a global scale, the numbers increase dramatically.
While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depression also can be devastating. The primary hazards from tropical cyclones (which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) are storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, tornadoes, and high surf and rip currents.
I live in the Midwest and do not need to worry about being prepared for a hurricane. However, severe weather, including tornadoes are more likely in my area. We also do not experience powerful earthquakes in our region so that’s probably not something I need to prepare for either. And, while I don’t personally live in a flood prone area, communities not far from my location experience flooding from time to time. I don’t live in a fire prone area either and that’s probably not something high on my priority list. Some parts of the country might also experience droughts. You have to evaluate your own situation and adjust your preparedness.
Most environmental emergencies can be considered a sub-set of a natural disaster. Winter can bring extreme cold, freezing rain, snow, ice, and high winds that can knock out power and increase the risk of accidents, hypothermia and frostbite. But, not all environmental emergencies are based in nature.
Man-made / Technological Events
Explosions, hazardous material disasters, and bioterrorism would fall into this category. Other man-made catastrophes would be nuclear war; the malicious introduction of deadly virus into the air; radioactive contamination of land, water and air. Another likely man-made catastrophe would be the worldwide collapse of economies due to hyperinflation.
I would include acts of terrorism, bioterrorism, and active shooter events in this category. You might also find yourself in a high crime area or engulfed in riots brought about by a financial crisis, food shortage, or political unrest.
Many preppers lead ordinary jobs and maintain jobs. Some keep silent about their overwhelming concerns about survival and will only speak freely when in the company of fellow preppers. Others consider it an advocacy to spread the bad news about emergency preparedness and possible disasters so that others too may be prepared. While many may not subscribe to all of the ideas survivalists espouse, the fact remains that in recent years a good number of unexpected disasters have destroyed many metropolitan centers. This being the case perhaps their cry for preparedness should not be totally ignored.