Tsunami, pandemic or nuclear attack, then what?
*Unless you’ve made preparations, and have a plan before the disaster, grim times are ahead for the family. Isolation is either an advantage or a serious complication. The choice is yours, starting with your plan for family survival in a disaster. Is your plan well developed? Is it comprehensive? Are you confident that you have the most important contingencies covered?
I know there is more I can do, and should. If your situation is anything like mine, a list of family survival plan elements is a useful tool for preparation.
Let’s list some key parts of preparing for shelter, escape or other approaches to keeping them alive and well, as their world is shaken, drenched, burnt or broken. The first element of disaster planning is determining what sort of disaster we are planning for.
What could go wrong?
Those of us living away from coasts, unstable fault lines, rivers and volcanic instability may feel a bit invulnerable, yet we all can suffer from disasters directly and through our dependence on civil systems. There is a long list of events that can disrupt our electricity, food supply, transportation, atmosphere, water, climate and stable shelter. Let’s list a few key disastrous items on that list:
- Earthquake and Tsunami – can be strong enough to shake up a continent or two
- Volcano and Super Volcano Eruptions – A BIG one could burn us or start an ice age
- Forest fires – If you’re not in a big city, you’re at risk
- Tower/City/Gas Tank Explosions/Fires – Like 9/11, an LNG explosion, or ?
- Mud/Snow/Land slides or avalanches – If land isn’t flat, it can happen
- Flood – Not an issue if you are on a mountain top
- Poison Gas – War, terror attack or industrial accident that can happen anywhere
- Meteor or Asteroid strike – One probably killed off the dinosaurs; Imagine…
- Nuclear war, accident or dirty bomb – Likely OK if exposure avoided for 2 weeks
- Civil collapse – No way to predict duration or danger – need gas, water, bullets, etc.
- Pandemic – Some kill over 60% of afflicted. It is coming, but we don’t know when
- Invasion, war or insurrection – Politics do have stability issues these days
- Hurricane or Tornado – We are away from the coast; a tornado can go anywhere
Nearly any of these disasters can threaten our security and way of life, even if they happen far away; some can threaten the infrastructure and the systems that we rely on.
You may not see devastation out your window, but if the water and power don’t flow, and marshal law and curfew are in effect, how do you keep the family warm and healthy?
If half the roof is gone or the walls are unstable, where do you sleep? If your little girl is injured, how do you cope when the only doctor is YOU.
Of course there are no absolute solutions or easy answers, but the right preparation will improve survival odds for your family. We should all consider what to do when we lose access to power, gas, mobility, phone and internet for a few days or more, since most disasters will disrupt these complex systems either locally, or in their entirety. Given that reality, we must prioritize for our family circumstances.
Setting critical priorities
In survival planning and action, priorities are key. When seconds are a matter of life and death it is important not to be delayed saving the new recliner, as family survival must be the sole focus. Bad enough when hard triage choices are required in crisis circumstances; better to try and minimize chances of such agony by good priority setting and planning before disaster happens. It is best to divide our world into five groups:
- Essential people and priceless items (Family members & THE cure for cancer…)
- Critical barriers blocking lethal threats (roof, walls, hull, rifle, medications…)
- Very important tools or secondary barrier items (Firewood, axe, parka…)
- Life sustaining materials, tools and things we love (food, water, pets, lifes work…)
- Everything else (crown jewels, Apple stock, driver’s license, favorite chair….)
Starting with priority 1. above, essential people and priceless items, list out (write or type) the family “world” that you must protect. Since this is the entire purpose of your plan, be precise and thorough. If there is a decent chance that a friend, neighbor or relative could be included, make note of that and plan for it.
After the essentials are recorded, go through 2., 3. and 4. in order, taking up to 5 minutes each to outline the elements of each group, recording them as in 1. Now you have a snapshot of your top priority plan structure as to WHAT you are determined to protect.
Next you must outline a process for doing that, and the tools, materials and other preparations you must put in place to support that process.
If you have trouble getting your head around this priority setting process, or you simply want more help with the entire planning process, consider investing in this excellent book on disaster planning, by Author, Survivalist and Engineer Mat Stein. His book, “When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival” provides an excellent guide to help with these tough decisions.
Rawles delves deeply into disaster scenarios and preparation techniques in this well written four hundred page book. It is available through Amazon as a paperback or e-book and the (under $17) price is low for the wide ranging and powerful practical information it delivers.
Now that you have a good definition of who/what you will protect, and the shelter approach for that protection, you should think about how long you are planning to provide that survival protection. This time horizon for your planning will drive most of your decisions on materials and tools you will need. The key factors in choosing a time frame are your primary concern about likely threats and your expectations of your role in your post-disaster world.
If nuclear war is the main concern, two weeks is a common target for staying isolated from radiation and other physical post-blast hazards. If the main concern is massive flooding or forest fire, 48 hours to 4 days will usually handle the main survival issues while sheltering from a tornado typically lasts well under an hour. If your primary concern is a total breakdown of order and infrastructure, years may be needed to restore a semblance of civilized life.
Write down your decided time frame for primary plans and preparation, then move on to planning about where and how you will make your stand.
Planning for Survival Barriers
One way you protect and secure your family today is by isolating them from harm. The shelter provided by your home provides barriers between you and the dangers and problems that surround the home, today. These barriers serve to isolate the family from foul weather, crime, insects, disease and discomfort. The isolation your home provides is enough of a challenge in normal organized times; in a disaster, such isolation is more difficult and far more essential. In some cases, the size and vulnerabilities of your home make it unlikely to remain intact or unsuitable to sustain family protection, so backup shelter may be needed. Whether or not your home is the shelter you will rely on, some shelter structure will be critical to isolate your family from danger.
Maintaining isolation barriers is arguably the first priority in keeping the stable protection in place to preserve your family. This is obvious when your family shelter is floating on water and the barrier isolates them from a chilling flood. It is clear when an icy gale is testing that fragile window, or viral-loaded mosquitoes are just beyond that tarp-covered doorway.
Keeping these concerns in mind list out likely shelter options that could contain and protect your priority 1. group and are resilient enough to withstand the types of disaster you are planning for. As you consider options, think about your home, rooms or sections of the home that can be secured and sealed. Consider the office, school, van or RV or other spaces nearby that could also offer viable refuge. It may be helpful to get input from others in your group in listing and evaluating shelter options.
After listing them, rate each shelter option on the following points on a 0 to 9 scale where 0 is “No way” and 9 is “without a doubt”:
- Can we all get there quickly?
- Will we be able to easily gain control of and secure this shelter?
- Is it likely to survive the disaster intact?
- Can we defend it from breech or attack?
- Is it a practical space for living, working, eating & other bodily functions?
- Can we safely and easily escape from it, if we must?
- If it is damaged, can we find and repair it to restore isolation quickly?
For a shelter option to be a strong choice, it should score over 6 on all points. This generally rules out the modern glass-walled home on a hill top, or the open boat on the lake. Think about a basement, storage room or shipping container; don’t hesitate to get creative and look at a refuge near you that is not your property, but is likely to be available in a disaster situation.
If none of the options you listed scores well enough, you should consider a lifestyle change or investment to provide better survival options.
Leading survivalist experts often live in remote, off-the-grid compounds that are self sustaining, with their own water supply system, food sources and power generation. The investments and operating life changes required for such a lifestyle are not for everyone (I can’t do it…). For those who can do it and who enjoy such self-sufficient isolation, it has huge survival benefits. Still, most of us find ways to prepare a workable plan without moving off the grid.
Crafting the Action Plan
After you define the priorities for who and what to protect and a shelter strategy, the means and groundwork for that protection must be planned. This overall preparation includes four pillars of preparation and action:
A- Meeting essential family needs for food, water, breathable air and warmth
B- Keeping the family safe from attack (gangs, microbes, insects, etc.)
C- Protecting health and wellness of family members with illness or injury
D- Monitoring outside conditions to determine next steps for survival
E- Repair or construction of essential barrier, survival or escape items
Effective survival preparation requires learning, practice and testing, as well as supplies, tools and plans. There are many disaster survival and doomsday prep books, blogs and videos to help with this, but the key to using them is an understanding of what you need, and how your family will use it. Gathering food, water, clothing and other basic supplies is relatively easy, and there are many guides and checklists available to help. Getting and keeping the family healthy, and preparing to deal with illness and injury when self-care is the only care available is more challenging. Check our post, Self-Care in Isolation for help with this challenging area.
After you have recorded your decisions and the family training, testing, health and medical strategy, with the aid of a survival checklist or guide and/or your own common sense answer the following:
- Where and what will be the primary shelter?
- Where will the supplies be stored?
- What supplies will be stored there?
- What tools (repair, building & first aid/Medical) must be available?
- Who will choose, purchase and stage everything?
- What skills and tools must each family member master?
- When must it all be in place?
- How will it all be maintained and updated?
- When disaster happens, what is the immediate action plan?
When your list above is complete, review it with the family. When you are comfortable that it is in-place and actionable, then you have a powerful survival plan! After you have it, use it to drive action to include drills, health and exercise decisions and exercises that bring the family closer together. Even if disaster never happens, this can be an educational and personally enriching experience for everyone.
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