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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Increasing the level of preparedness and getting ready when disaster strikes

I think that it would be interesting discussing what we can do to increase our level of preparedness after a disaster struck or if one has good information that some kind of danger is imminent like a hurricane.

Responding to an emerging crisis
A crisis or survival situation may manifest either without any previous warning or after a series of warnings. If a warning is given before a crisis the warnings are often mixed with conflicting information making it very hard to estimate how serious a threat really is.

After a disaster the information that goes out to the public can contain contradicting information about how serious the incident or situation really is. This is often even more serious if the threat or situation is something that is not normal or unfamiliar. Unknown threats present large problems for first responders but also for politicians and other leaders of a community. Researching different kinds of potential threats can make it easier for you to understand what is going on during a crisis situation and what you can expect.

Some of the steps that I would consider
• Try to stay updated by following the news in the media and through the radio. Write down information as it comes in, make a timeline.
• Make a check with family and friends and get an update of their situation.
• If the situation might call for an evacuation check Bug Out Bags, Vehicles, Fill up water bottles and check potential escape routes. Is there any information that suggests that these routes may be blocked or inaccessible?
• Is there any other specific tools or equipment that the situation may call for in addition to the supplies that you’re Bug Out Bag contains?
• Make an inventory/check of the status for water, food, light, storage of gasoline and medical supplies. What specific needs may this threat call for? Is there anything you can do to improve these needs or minimize the consequences?
• Fill up additional water storage if possible.
• Make some additional research about the threat, previous events and lessons learned.

A crisis or survival situation will be both stressful and frustrating. Sometimes help from outside sources may come very fast from first responders but in other situation the scale of a disaster may overwhelm a society and you may have to make do with what you have. If external help is not available you will have to manage the situation yourself.

If you can can’t keep warm or get access to water a bad situation may get lethal in case of a long lasting emergency or natural disaster quite fast. The equipment and preparations that you have made before a crisis can mean the difference between life and death. It can also prove to be the difference between having to endure a crisis under extreme hardship or with ease.

No matter the situation it is very important that you
• Try to stay positive, alert and calm
• Don’t second guess yourself or think about what you could have done differently to avoid or divert the situation, keep the focus on the situation at hand.
• Keep planning and taking steps to reduce the consequences of the disaster. The situation will most likely continue to change and it’s important that you stay updated.
• Keep a regular update on water and supplies – what should your priority be right now?
• Make sure that everyone has a task to do and get organized. Just sitting around and waiting will not improve a bad situation. Make sure that water gets collected and purified, that food get prepared on regular times if possible, take care of hygiene and try to keep the location you’re in as clean and organized as possible.
• How one should handle a situation if there is children present can be difficult. But I would recommend that you explain the situation as best you can and explain what you are doing to make it better. If you don’t know answers don’t be afraid to say so.
• Look after your friends and family.

For more information and articles: The Free Online Survival Guide

So what would you prepare if a disaster is imminent or have just taken place?

The Importance of Medicine

I was researching medicines to have on hand for TEOTWAWKI when, ironically, my family came down with a nasty bought of stomach flu. Fever, nausea, headaches, and unable to keep much of anything down. We were completely out of commission for a day and a half and luckily woke up feeling better this morning.

When you're healthy, you don't really notice it, but when you're unhealthy, you're sure as hell do. There's nothing like a few days of sickness to remind you of how important it is to be healthy, and how quickly sickness can knock you out of commission.

Illness will become even more prevalent in a TEOTWAWKI world, with compromised hygiene, water and food sources and an increased likelihood of injury. Without access to antibiotics, death from things like strep throat or infected cuts will become common. Scary and true.

Now if your vision for TEOTWAWKI includes lots of running gun battles, knife fights and the like, remember that each one of those wounds--even a relatively minor one--would have a very high likelihood of infection. The wound may be perfectly survivable, but a nasty infection would not be.

Today, many in the military are issued a pill pack that soldiers are to take upon being wounded. It contains, amongst other things, a broad-spectrum antibiotic. This is today, in modern times, where a wounded soldier is quickly evac'd to medical care. Even in those conditions, when a wounded soldier is only a short time away from medical care, the army's physicians have deemed it beneficial for them to take an antibiotic immediately upon being wounded. That's how serious the risk of infection is today. Now translate that over to TEOTWAWKI times, when there IS no other medical care. Not a good situation to be in.

Heck, just think of the times where antibiotics cured you of a nasty illness. I can personally think of several--several cases of strep throat, pneumonia. Those would have most likely turned fatal without antibiotics.

Of course, antibiotics must be prescribed by a doctor. Some doctors will write a scrip for a small supply of antibiotics for emergency or travel purposes. Many won't. You may have some leftovers from a previous illness. And there are legal ways to obtain antibiotics without a prescription, which can be found with fairly minimal searching--farm/pet medications, overseas pharmacies and so on. Of course, antibiotics should only be taken under the direction of a doctor, etc. etc.

Beyond antibiotics, just take a look at your medicine cabinet. Do you have enough OTC medicine to see you through six months or a year (or more) worth of illnesses? Head colds, coughs, fevers, flus, headaches, diarrhea--the normal, mundane stuff that most of us get at some point throughout a typical year? Those things could also become life threatening in a survival situation.

Luckily, a well-stocked medicine cabinet is not a bank-breaking proposition. Generic OTC medicines are dirt cheap, especially when you buy them on sale. Keep track of flyers from places like Wal Greens and CVS and buy when deals occur. If this is all common sense to you, then good. You'd be surprised how many homes have very minimal medicine on hand. Stock 'em up; you'll use 'em at some point.

Guns, ammo and camping gear are fun and attractive, but don't underestimate the importance of  medicine in your survival stores.
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A Favorite Tool: Canning Funnel

I heart my funnel

Mrs. Homegrown here:

If you are a home canner, you probably already have one of these and know how useful they are. If you don't can, you might never have seen one before. I hadn't before we started canning--and I don't know how I lived so long without one. See, a canning funnel is just a wide mouthed funnel made to fit the mouths of canning jars. It allows you to quickly and efficiently ladle up hot food from the stove top into the jars. If you're canning without one, heaven help you! Go get one! 

Even if you don't can, you still need one. If, like me, you're buying more dried goods and bulk foods, or drying herbs and vegetables, you probably use a lot of jars. Canning jars are an easy, efficient way to store food--far better than a cabinet full of random bags and boxes.You can see what you have and exactly how much you have. They line up in attractive rows. They're also moth safe, if you're using proper canning lids. I'm always transferring something or another into a jar--a bag of beans, a batch of dried mint, fresh yogurt--whatever. The canning funnel makes this a snap. Before I had one, I was either winging it and spilling a lot, or fashioning funnels out of newspaper. Life is just to short to chase beans around the kitchen. I use this thing every day.

Here's a hint: If you have one of those little mesh tea strainers made to fit in the top of a tea pot (they always sell them in Asian markets), you'll find it fits perfectly both into the funnel and into the mouth of a quart jar. Using one with your funnel, you can strain off tea, oil infusions, vinegar, etc. with no fuss or muss.

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Worst Case Scenario - The Mass Bug-Out

Anyone who has lived on or near the coast for any appreciable length of time has experienced the effects of a mass bug-out. Just when you think you are located in a relatively safe area, here comes a mass of humanity headed directly towards your area in an effort to get out of the way of an impending disaster …generally a really bad hurricane as far as most coastal areas are concerned.

Now when a large mass of humanity all starts moving out of an area, the effects will be similar to a large number of grasshoppers appearing in your pasture. They will strip everything bare and leave little of anything in their wake. Lack of preparation when combined with a certain level of panic both contribute to this problem. All of a sudden you realize that the arrival of a large population of displaced people is going to put a strain on your available resources.

Similar to the herd instinct of most animals, this mass of humanity once they get moving will trample anything and everything in their path to avoid the effects of a disaster. During Hurricane Katrina, the interstate in my area was completely useless to people in the local area. Even the secondary highways in my area were clogged with large amounts of people and traffic. A simple 45 minute trip took over two hours to accomplish and was only possible by using back roads that people unfamiliar with the area weren’t even aware of their existence. Another similar situation, although not as bad, occurred during Hurricane Ike.

Along with the traffic congestion, came the problem of just accessing routine items such as gasoline and food. Lines at convenience stores were so long that they were blocking nearby intersections, which caused even more traffic congestion. And those people who couldn’t get fuel for their vehicles or suffered a mechanical breakdown (forget about AAA!) wound up stranded on the side of the road. Forget about buying food, bottles of water or batteries. Shelves were stripped bare in most stores along the evacuation routes in a matter of hours and the possibility of re-supply was non-existent for the present. People were literally fighting for what was left.

Now in a worst case scenario this is probably what should be considered a localized event. It is fairly limited in its scope because it is happening in a fairly generalized area (those closely affected by hurricanes). What about a disaster with even more serious consequences? After 911, many people were absolutely terrified to be in any type of skyscraper in any city because of the possibility of it becoming a target. Any major city or urban area could find itself in the same position. A terrorist threat, a major outbreak of a deadly disease or anything of a similar nature could create a scenario where there could be mass evacuations from a number of large urban areas at the same time because of the panic that could be caused by the “What if my city is next?” syndrome. The resulting displaced masses will be a very real threat to your survival. A failure to be prepared could have disastrous consequences.

In most cases your home is going to be your best survival option, there will be those times that you may need to avoid the stampede...

Staying above the water line!