Survival in an Emergency or a Disaster
by Damien Andrews
The events of the past few years have taught us that disasters and emergencies most often strike without warning, or with very little warning at all. We've also learned that the disaster and emergency aid protocols and agencies can easily be overloaded, thus leaving people to fend for themselves, almost invariably in the most horrendous of circumstances. After a tornado causes the loss of power in your home, or when you're forced to evacuate your office because of drifting wildfire smoke, or when you're house has two feet of water in it and you have no water or power is not the time to start making plans for you and your family's survival. The time to make survival plans is when everything is working – and when everyone is calm and collected.
Preparing to survive a disaster or emergency situation varies a pretty good bit from place to place. People in Los Angeles, for example, must deal with the high possibility of an earthquake, something that almost never happens in the Midwest. Ice storms happen further north, tornadoes can strike anywhere, but are most frequent in certain areas, and hurricanes are not a concern of those living hundreds of miles inland. Maybe your region requires that you have a storm cellar for protection, or a reinforced area to stand in during an earthquake. But some disaster or emergency protocols are common to all places and people.
Humans can make it quite some time without food, but not long at all without water. Water is something that all humans require regularly, and when an emergency or disaster strikes it may well make access to fresh drinking water impossible. In some emergencies, even if the water is running, it is non-potable. Water is one of the things that and you and your family should have on hand, no matter what the potential emergency.
Unfortunately, during most disaster or emergency situations injuries are common, and professional medical attention is impossible to get. Being prepared to survive a disaster or emergency in almost all situations requires that you have a complete first aid kit. First aid kits come in all sorts of configurations and sizes – each containing different items. Some kits, usually for hiking or climbing, are very small and contain the minimal number of items possible. The first aid kit you should have for you and your family to survive a disaster or emergency should be much more complete. Also, if you or a family member have any special needs such as insulin or epinephrine, that should be added to the first aid kit you keep for disaster or emergency use. Like all of your emergency and disaster supplies, this should be kept in a special place that will be easy to access no matter what the emergency. Nothing pays off like having a properly prepared first aid kit when you, or someone near you, needs one. Having antiseptics and bandages when they're needed can mean the difference between a bad cut that leaves a scar, or a lost limb. Most first aid kits designed for use in a survival kit will have a first aid book. If the one you select does not have a first aid book, then you should supplement your survival kit with one.
While humans can go quite a long time without eating any food, it is an excellent idea to have food that is to be used during a disaster or emergency. If someone is injured, food will be important to them so that they can replenish blood mass and stay strong to fight their injury. But it's also something that will help keep the family calm and more comfortable until help arrives. Everyone likes their routines, and getting together at least once a day for a meal is an important contribution to well being in a survival situation. The food you have in your survival kit should be prepared expressly for long term storage, and should provide good nutrition. For cold weather environments, foods with lots of fat are good to have in the survival kit. Once a year it's a good idea to go through the foods in the survival kit and make sure they are all still fresh, or within their expiration dates. Foods prepared and packaged expressly for use in survival kits will last a very, very long time.
If you assume that you might be looked for by aircraft, an emergency strobe light might be a nice addition to your survival kit. A strobe light is also an excellent thing to keep in the car, or take along on hikes or climbing adventures. If you drive in very snowy areas, a strobe light in the car can be a real life saver – literally. Chemical heat packs are also excellent additions to cars that are used in snowy areas. They are small, store well and will provide life-saving heat for quite a while.
Being prepared to deal with disaster or emergency conditions requires planning. Discuss disaster and emergency plans with your family. Who grabs what? Where do we all go? How do we get out? What is the secondary exit, in case the primary exit is blocked? Who shuts off gas lines? If you have ample warning, are there any things you will want to do or get? Preparedness through planning is a critical element of surviving in a disaster or emergency – and that includes at the office. If nothing else, be sure to know your emergency evacuation exit.
No single article, or book for that matter, can adequately cover everything about disaster and emergency survival. The two things I've tried to stress in this article are 1) have a survival kit and 2) have a plan. Check out some survival kits, make one yourself, and talk about disaster and emergency plans with your family, and with your coworkers.