Disaster preparedness, for the purposes of this article, means short to long term preparation for a disaster, whether natural or man made. It does not mean preparing for doomsday. Being a disaster prepper encompasses all religions, all nationalities, all political persuasions, all races. No one demographic is immune to disasters and the goal of a prepper is to not only minimize the impact of a disaster on your and your loved ones, but to also have as good quality of life before, during, and after a disaster as possible.
Disaster preparedness is not just stocking up on food and water. Granted a clean source of food and water are a primary need during a disaster, but there are other needs as well to consider if you want to be truly prepared for the worst. In addition to having a stockpile of supplies, you will also need to know how to purify water, long term food storage, administer medical care, gardening, hunt and fish, find or create a shelter, and so much more.
Many of the disasters that cause so much destruction and wreak so much havoc in peoples’ lives are natural disasters caused by extreme weather conditions. Floods, hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and solar flares are some of the more common natural disasters that you need to be aware of and prepared for, especially if you live in an area prone to any one of these.
Be aware of the weather and what’s in the forecast. When extreme weather conditions are predicted, don’t be complacent. Make your emergency plan and make sure you have all of your emergency supplies that you will need if a disastrous weather event should hit your area.
Know what to expect for each type of disaster that you may face in your area. You may experience loss of power, contamination of the water supply, inability to get out and if you did get out, no stores to buy supplies from, inability to communicate via telephone or the Internet to call for help, inability to get needed prescriptions or medication from stores.
Based on the hardships that you’re likely to be confronted with during a disaster, make a disaster plan. Maintain a stock of long term food supplies, clean water and a water purifier, candles, diapers if you have a baby, pet food, flashlights, batteries, fuel for a generator if you have one, over the counter medications and medical supplies, and dry clothing and bedding. If you take prescriptions regularly, get refills if the weather reports an impending hurricane or other predictable disaster. You should have a 30-day supply of necessary medications on hand. Learn basic first aid. Store a disaster kit in your car as well.
Have an evacuation plan. Know where you will go and how you will get there. Map out alternate routes in case roads of one route are impassable. Have your supplies ready and packed in your car.
In cold weather, have a backup heating system in place, such as a fireplace or wood stove and a wood supply, a generator, a propane stove, a gas grill or a kerosene heater. Just be aware that the use of gas-powered appliances, such as generators, and charcoal or gas grills, increases the number of carbon monoxide poisoning cases and fatalities due to improper use of this equipment. Carbon monoxide is known as a “silent killer.” It is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas and is highly poisonous.
A wood stove is by far the best option. We have one and it is not our backup heat supply. It is our only heat supply and warms the entire house all winter long. We gather wood during the summer and have plenty on hand to get through the entire winter by the time the weather turns cold. If you don’t have the wood, paper or magazines can even be used. Roll the paper up tightly into log size bundles. When stacking in the fireplace, stack them in such a way as to allow proper air circulation. In an emergency you can burn other wood such as lumber or furniture.
A grill is a great option for cooking your food during a power outage, however, you cannot use a grill in an enclosed area unless it is an indoor grill with a vent and fan due to the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. A gas grill is also more prone to starting fires, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. Another way to use an outdoor gas grill to warm your house is to use it to warm up bricks or rocks. They hold heat for a good amount of time. If you’re familiar with sweat lodges, that’s exactly the way they heat up a sweat lodge.
If you use a gas or kerosene heater or grill, make sure to use it with plenty of ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have a generator, do not store the fuel in heated area. Gasoline and kerosene are highly combustible. Generators need to be run outdoors with the cables running in to the house. Running a generator in the house is a sure way to die of carbon monoxide poisoning.
A very creative way of generating heat in an emergency is to take leaves and table scraps from the kitchen and put them in a double layer trash bag. Dampen the leaves and scraps slightly with water and then tie the bag closed. Place this bag in a trash can and put the lid on. The compost in the can will build up heat and within a day you can feel the heat and it will last for several days. You can also use Compost Starter to speed up the composting process.
Having some hand pocket warmers that hunters often use around is a good idea also. They can help to warm up cold hands and feet quickly. You can also fill up your bathtub with hot water for a short term heat source. With several layers of blankets, beds are the warmest spot in the house and can be used by several people to conserve and share body heat.
Careful planning before disasters can go a long way. Make sure your house is well insulated. You can seal your windows and doors with blankets or towels or you can buy window sealing tape at Home Depot that seals very well to keep the heat in and cold out. When you’ve lost your heating source and are looking for a warmer place in your home, smaller areas such as bathrooms and closets have less heat loss than larger rooms or rooms with poor insulation and large windows.
In addition to flashlights and candles, kerosene lamps are a great source of light when the power is out. Make sure you have a supply of kerosene (kept outside) and wicks on hand for emergencies.
For a comprehensive survival plan, you must be able to meet these basic needs: shelter, food and water, air, sleep, light, heating/cooling, and hygiene/sanitation. Without these needs being met for a sustained period of time, you most likely will die. In addition to the above, to maintain a better quality of life during an emergency, you need an electrical power source, first aid/medication, transportation, protection, communication and financial security.
If you take care of the above needs when making a preparedness plan, you’ll fare far better than most during a disaster.