Why Everyone Should Be A Prepper

Prepared ConceptPreparedness is just a matter of common sense.  Your decision to prepare for emergencies doesn’t depend on your political viewpoint.  It depends on your decision to take reasonable actions to provide as much security as you can for yourself and your family, knowing that bad things can happen.

In November, 2014, six feet of snow fell in upstate New York.  Drivers were stranded in their cars on the impassable roads.

In September, 2014, a brush fire in California resulted in mandatory evacuations of all residents living in a 1,600 acre area.

The winter of 2013 – 2014 brought Chicago frigid weather and record snowstorms.  People stayed at home rather than venturing out into the elements.  Many lost electricity for days at a time because wires were downed under the weight of the snow.

In November, 2013, a tornado tore through Washington, Illinois, killing three people and damaging more than 1,000 homes.

And those are only a few examples of uncountable natural disasters that have occurred in the last twelve months.  In each case, real people, with their families, pets, homes, businesses and personal belongings, were put at serious risk.  The snowstorm, brush fire, frigid temperatures and tornado put everyone in their path in danger, without regard to their religion or political persuasion, whatever their age, race or gender, no matter if they are rich folks or poor folks, and no matter how prepared — or unprepared — they were for a disaster.

Maybe you believe in climate change and maybe you don’t, but it’s hard to ignore those six feet of snow.  And the time to prepare for a disaster is not when you hear the tornado sirens go off.

Preparing for an emergency is the obvious thing for a reasonably prudent person to do.  The first thing to do is to prepare a grab-and-go backpack in advance of any emergency.  This is sometimes called a “bug-out” bag.  Stock the backpack with food, water, a first aid kit, a change of clothes, a rain poncho and emergency supplies like a thermal blanket.  Your goal is to have enough to live on for 72 hours.  In the event of an emergency, you won’t have to stop and gather items.  Simply take the pre-packed bag with you if you need to evacuate your home.

The second stage of your preparedness is to prepare your home with supplies for a year.  Do it slowly and methodically over time.  Your supplies should include food and water as well as equipment such as a fire extinguishers, water purifiers and means of cooking and heating your home if you lose power.

Don’t think that preparedness begins and ends with accumulating stuff.  You also need to develop skills.  Having a fire starter won’t help you if you don’t know how to use it.  You may put up foodstuffs to be able to make bread; you’ll also need to learn to bake it.  Don’t just buy a first aid kit.  Take a first aid course and learn CPR while you’re at it.

It takes time and money to become prepared.  Making a plan and gathering your food, water and equipment slowly and steadily puts preparedness within your reach.  But do it.  It’s the only rational response to an uncertain world.

 

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My recommendations for some of the equipment and supplies that you will need are below.

 

9 Ways to Survive A Heat Wave

Summer heat waves are not to be taken lightly.  There is much more at stake than comfort.  Heat waves can be deadly.  In fact, twenty years ago, in July 1995, over 700 people died here in Chicago as a result of an extended period of high temperatures and high humidity.  As I write this, India is gripped by a heat wave that has killed over 2,300 people and is not over yet.

As the temperatures are rising here in the northern hemisphere, it’s a good idea to review some ways to stay safe if you are facing a heat wave, even without air conditioning.  Here are nine methods to beat the heat.

Use fans.  At the risk of stating the obvious, use a box fan or a ceiling fan.  It may not make the air cooler, but the breeze reduces the effect of the heat.  A neat trick is to put a pan of ice water between yourself and the fan.  It will blow the cool air in your direction and cool you down nicely.

Open the windows and doors.  In the 1995 Chicago heat wave, many of the victims were reluctant to open the windows and doors because they lived in high crime areas.  Certainly, that is a serious concern.  But don’t overlook the real risk that you can face from being overheated.  Open the windows and doors to your home, at least intermittently, especially in the evening when the outdoor temperatre is likely to drop.

Drink plenty of water.  Preferably ice water.  A cold beverage in your stomach cools your body temperature.  It also gives your body plenty of fluid to sweat out, which is your body’s natural mechanism for keeping cool.

Wash down with cool water.  Take a cool bath or shower.  Sit with your feet in a cool pan of water.  Use a cool, wet facecloth to wipe your face and the back of your neck.  Hold your hands and wrists under the cold water.  Press a baggie full of ice cubes or a bag of frozen peas against your forehead.

Stay downstairs.  Don’t forget that hot air rises.  If you have a multi-level house, stay downstairs.  If you have a basement, spend some time there.

Go to air conditioned places.  Visit a museum or public library or take in a movie.  Some cities, alert to the dangers of high temperatures, make arrangements for their residents to have access to public buildings or air-conditioned buses (which may just sit immobile) to use as cooling centers.

Eat light.  There are two reasons to avoid cooking heavy meals in a heat wave.  First, the stove or oven throws off heat that will add to your discomfort.  Second, digesting a heavy meal can cause you to feel warmer.  So, when the temperature rises, eat salad or yogurt or, best of all, ice cream.

Unplug your appliances.  Left plugged in, appliances can give off heat even if they are not in use.  Collectively, the heat created by your appliances can make a difference in the heat of your home.  If you are in the habit of leaving your coffee maker, television set, computer, and lamps plugged in even if they aren’t on, consider unplugging them during a heat wave.

Be alert to heat-related illnesses and call 911 if symptoms appear.  Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are referred to together as “heat-related illnesses”.  Heat cramps are cramps of the large muscles caused by physical exertion when the temperature is high.  Heat exhaustion can be recognized by profuse sweating, weakness, nausea, vomiting, headache, lightheadedness and muscle cramps.  Heat stroke occurs when the body temperature is elevated, caused by external high temperatures.  If you are experiencing these symptoms, call 911.  Professional medical attention is indicated.

Children and the elderly are at greater risk of being seriously effected by high temperatures than others.  So if you have children or elderly people in your family or your community, check in with them.

Heat can be trapped in cities by asphalt and concrete and the wells made by highrises.  So if you can get out of the city during a heat wave, even for a few hours, you may find relief.

Treat periods of high temperatures with the seriousness that they deserve.  Heat waves can cause death.  Don’t let one cause yours.

Don’t Collect Stuff Without Learning to Use It

PreppPrepared Concepting includes setting aside supplies.  But it doesn’t end there.

To be fully prepared, you need to know how to use the items you collect.  And learn many other preparedness skills besides.

For example, your bug-out bag and long-term supply should include a good, complete first aid kit.  But you can’t just buy a first aid kit and leave it in your backpack or on a shelf.  Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and learn first aid.  Know how to clean and dress a wound, and even stitch one up.  Learn CPR while you’re at it.  And find out the warning signs of a stroke and what to do if someone is experiencing them.

Do you have a fire extinguisher?  I fully recommend it.  A home fire is one of the most common emergencies that people face.  Preparing for one is wise.  Invest in a fire extinguisher, then learn how to use it.  Practice.  Using a fire extinguisher improperly can spread the fire, so be sure you know what to do with it before your home depends on it.

The same with an escape ladder.  If you live two or three stories up from the ground, an escape ladder can be a live-saving device.  One the other hand, it can also cause a fall and possible injuries if you don’t use it correctly.  To avoid that, have a drill a few times a year so that everyone in the family can practice affixing it to the window sill and climbing down the ladder.  Don’t forget that if you ever need to use it, you will be in the midst of a crisis.  You won’t want to have to stop and figure it out then.

And speaking of fire, do you know how to light one?  The time to educate yourself about it is now, when the lights are still on and the stove is still working.  Fire starters can be tricky to use and control.  Figure them out before you need to.

Are you stocking flour for long-term storage?  You definitely should.   You’ll need it to bake bread if you ever face a situation in which you can’t run to the store to buy some.  And the obvious question is . . . you guessed it . . . do you know how to bake bread?  Part of your preparedness plan should include being sure that you know how to bake bread and any other baked goods that your family enjoys.  Have recipes ready, too, and be sure that you stock the ingredients that those recipes call for.

I wish it went without saying, but for some folks it doesn’t, that if you own weapons, you should become expert in using them.  Weapons can be, if you permit me to state the obvious, lethal.  Misusing them, or using them ineptly, can cause unintended fatalities.  Far from offering self-defense, weapons can be turned against the bearer or can be used by the bearer to harm a loved one instead of an intruder.  Become an expert marksman or don’t own a firearm.

Finally, just for safety’s sake, you and your kids should all know how to swim.  Transportation for America has reported that one in nine bridges in the United States is structurally deficient.  That is, they require significant maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement.  Yet, American drivers take 260 million trips over these bridges daily.  If your car is ever submerged due to a failed bridge (or for any other reason), you will need to be able to swim once you get out of the car.  Being a strong swimmer can help in other survival situations, too.

Preparedness, after all, is not a collection of things.  It is a sense of readiness to overcome any emergency that you may encounter.  Don’t bother collecting stuff without learning to use it.  Your stuff collection won’t make you prepared.  Invest in yourself and your skill base every bit as much as, if not more than, you invest in your supplies.

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Do I Stay Or Do I Go?

Motion Blur of CarIn some emergency situations, you will need to bug out — that is, you will need to evacuate your home and even your city.  In other situations, you should stay home and shelter in place.  When do you bug out and when do you stay put?

In general, you should stay put if your home is unlikely to become uninhabitable and if the safety and general welfare of all members of your household are not at risk. That decision is known as “sheltering in place.”  You may face some hardships, such as lack of electricity or inability to leave the house, but if you are safe at home, you should stay there.  On the other hand, if you have lost heat during a period of seriously cold winter, your home is flooded or damaged by an earthquake or tornado, or civil unrest or another event threatens your well-being, you should evacuate.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t bug out if you can’t get to your destination safely.  That can happen due to a number of circumstances.  For example, all roads out of your town may be impassible, a chemical discharge may have poisoned the air making it dangerous to be outdoors, or you just don’t have an evacuation plan that will deliver your family safely to a previously arranged destination.

Now, that last problem is within your control.  You can start today to set out an evacuation plan that you can rely on if your family would ever be put at risk by staying in your home.

Here are the key components of a good bug-out plan.

Family Meeting Place.  The first thing to do is decide on a family meeting place.  That can be any reasonable place, from your across-the-street neighbor’s lawn, to a neighborhood diner, to the school yard.  Every member of your family should know to meet there if your home is inaccessible.  Run drills a few times a year to get everyone familiar with the location and how to get there.

Identify Multiple Destinations.  Identify a few different destinations located in different directions from your home.  You need to be able to travel in the opposite direction of the emergency event when you get out of town.  Your destinations should ideally be the homes of friends and family members.  If that’s not possible, identify several motels that are located in different directions from your home.  I always advise that, as you build your bug-out bag and gather your long-term supplies, you should also be building a cash stash.  One reason for the cash stash is to be able to pay for a couple of nights in a motel if necessary.

Whether your destinations are motels or private homes, you should be sure in advance that they can accommodate any special circumstances that you face.  If you have a baby, a disabled person, or a pet, for example, your pre-arranged destinations should be suitable for them.  You may also need to ensure that your emergency destinations are available by public transportation if you don’t have a car or your vehicle becomes disabled.

If your bug-out destination is a private home, be sure to coordinate your plans with the host family.  Offer to reciprocate for them when they are making their own evacuation plans.

Identify Multiple Routes to Reach Each Destination.  Once you have decided on your destinations, map out a few different routes to get to each one.  If one route uses an interstate highway, be sure that another relies only on city streets.  If the traffic gets bad, or the emergency event compromises one or more of your routes, you will have other options to reach your destination.

I’m a big believer in practicing your plan.  So be sure to drive each route a couple of times each year to be sure you know the tricky turns, the landmarks and the one-way streets.  Practice makes perfect.

Car Preparedness.  Because you may need to leave in a hurry if you ever need to evacuate, you should always keep your car prepared for a trip.  Never let your gas gauge fall to less than half full.  Always keep an evacuation bag in your trunk, with food and water for the family, emergency thermal blankets, paper maps and compasses, entertainment items such as board games and playing cards, and other items that you deem necessary.

Conclusion.  You may need to stay.  You may need to go.  Just make a rational decision based on your best information, whatever you decide.  And in each case, be sure to have a clear, rehearsed plan that will get you from your home to the place you want to go.

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Are You Self-Reliant In One Of The Most Important Ways?

Retirees Retirement Piggy Bank AccountNo one who owes money can really be her own woman.  If you are in debt, you are working to rake in the big bucks but have no say over how it’s spent.  People often describe debt as “crushing.”  It’s a good word for it.  Debt can crush your autonomy, your potential and your dreams.  If your goal is self-reliance, you need to get out of debt.

Here is a five-step plan to get out of debt and build a nest egg.

1.  Stop Digging The Hole.  It’s like they always say.  If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.  And if you’re in debt, stop using your credit cards.  I know it hurts.  But you need to stop.  You’ll never be able to climb out the the hole until you stop digging yourself deeper and deeper into it.

2.  Sock Away A Grand.  Give yourself the gift of a little nest egg.  $1,000 is usually enough.  This money is for emergencies.  Real emergencies.  Car repairs, medical bills, broken windows.  That kind of thing.  This money is not to be used when they come out with a new iPhone and you just have to have it.  It’s for REAL emergencies.  Use every gimmick you can think of to save this money.  Collect all your change at the end of the week and deposit it in the bank.  Ask for money for your birthday or Christmas and deposit it in the bank.  Sell your old books and DVD’s or hold a rummage sale and deposit your proceeds in the bank.  Did your heating bill go down when the warm weather came?  Deposit the monthly difference in the bank.

3.    Don’t let the credit card companies get more out of you than you already owe.  In the meantime, pay the minimum amount due of all of your credit cards on time.  By no means do you want to incur another $35 or $50 late fee.  Don’t let ’em have it!

4.  Baby steps.  Make a list of all your outstanding credit card bills, from the lowest to the highest balance.  While you are paying the minimum balance on the rest of your cards, go to war on the card with the smallest balance.  Take every extra dollar you can find and use it to pay down that debt.  And then it will be gone.  Doesn’t that feel great?  To congratulate yourself for eliminating one card balance, you should set about eliminating another one.  Then you can turn your attention to the next card on the list.  Remember the minimum amount you had to pay every month on that first card, the one that’s been paid off?  Take it and add it to the minimum amount you are already paying on the second card.  That’s right.  Double the minimum.  And then take every other dollar you can find and use it to pay down this second card.  Keep going in this way until all of your credit cards are paid off.

5.  Turn Your Debt Payments Into Savings.  When your credit cards are paid off, take the money that you were using to cover your minimum credit card payments and save it.  Build up six months’ worth of expenses in your rainy day fund.

I am not minimizing the hard work and discipline it takes to do this.  Sometimes, people build up a lot of credit card debt by being frivolous.  But more often, it’s just because they are unprepared for unexpected expenses.  They need a root canal, new tires, or a new furnace.  They don’t have the money, so they charge it.

Then, when they are trying to pay the debt off, the emergencies keep happening.  The kids outgrow their shoes, the dog needs to go to the vet, or the refrigerator goes on the blink.  Well, that’s what the rainy day fund is for.  But it sure is hard to add to the rainy day fund, keep up with the minimum payments on all your cards, go to war on the first card on your list, and deal with emergencies, all at the same time.

It may require hard and sometimes painful choices.  Stingy Christmases.  Family stay-cations.  No new iPhones even though everyone else has one.  Not fun.  Or easy.

But the long term gain is worth the near term pain.  Because once you have paid off all of your credit card debt, you will have taken an enormous step toward self-reliance.  Owning your money, instead of owing money, is one of those things that make you your own woman.

 

Prepped In A Year: My Kindle Book

rsz_preppedGetting started prepping can be an overwhelming experience.  Moving from totally unprepared to prepared for any disaster requires so much work, organization and planning that you might not know where to start.  And, worst of all, you may put off starting your prepping because it seems like so much to do.

Well, first of all, let’s adjust that way of thinking a bit.  Taking a step, any step, toward a goal is progress.  So don’t be put off by the thought that there is too much to do to get prepped.  Take your first step and you will already be better prepared than if you hadn’t done it.  Then take another step and you’re even further on your way.

But still, you’d be better off if you didn’t take steps randomly.  Your most efficient way of reaching a goal is to set out a plan and make steady and persistent progress on that plan.

When it comes to emergency preparedness, there are four different areas that your plan should include.  First, you should put together a bug-out bag, or 72-hour emergency kit, for each person and pet in your family.  Second, you need an evacuation plan.  Decide on a place to meet your family in the event your home is destroyed, and decide on how to get out of town if you need to.  Third, you will want to set up long-term food storage for a long-term emergency situation.  And, lastly, you will need to learn skills and develop habits that will enable you and your family to meet challenges that you will encounter in a disaster.

The best approach to these four areas is a systematic, month-by-month plan.  And I have written one for you.  It’s called Prepped In A Year: Your 12-Month Guide to Emergency Preparedness.  In it, I take you through a plan for each of these four areas.  By doing a little at a time every month for a year, you will get to the point where you are well prepared for any emergency in twelve months’ time.

You can find my book on Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TQIAF98.  Now, if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the free Kindle reader app and read my book, or any Kindle book, on your PC, tablet or smart phone.  A download link to the Kindle reader app is on the same page as my book, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TQIAF98.

I hope that you read my book and, more importantly, put it to use.  Everyone should be a prepper.  A disaster can happen to anyone, no matter where you live, what your economic status, or what your political persuasions are.  A hurricane, a tornado, civil unrest, an economic disaster that can cause long-term unemployment, a failure of the electrical grid, an earthquake, a drought, a flood — the potential threats are endless.

I sincerely hope that all of my readers assess the possibility of a serious threat to their well-being and way of life and that they all prepare to meet the threat by being prepared.  And I hope that my book, Prepped In A Year: Your 12-Month Guide to Emergency Preparedness, will be a valuable companion on that journey.

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What To Do In An Earthquake – Part II

Hurricane Sandy destructionIn yesterday’s post, I wrote about what to do in an earthquake.  Today, we’ll be talking about what to do right afterwards.

When you first re-enter your home after an earthquake, or you dig your way out from under your desk, your first concern should be to check for fire or fire hazards, broken gas pipes, downed power lines and spilled chemicals.  If you smell gas or hear hissing, close the main gas valve, leave the house immediately and notify the utility.  If you find shredded electric wires, turn off the electricity at its source.  Don’t try to move a downed power line.  Stay away from it and let the utility know.  Remember that water conducts electricity, so stay clear of any standing water near a downed line.

Be in touch with your family members so that you all know where and how you all are.  Check in with the out-of-town friend or relative that you included in your evacuation plan.  Check in with your neighbors and any elderly or disabled friends that may need your help.  Then stay off the phone and free up the channels for use by emergency responders.

Take pictures of the damage to your home before you do much to clean up.  File your insurance claim immediately.

If your power is off, but you haven’t been out of the house for more than a few hours, make meal plans that allow you to finish up what is in your refrigerator and freezer before you start in on your canned goods.  Be careful with your food, though.  You don’t want to add a case of food poisoning to the challenges you already face from the earthquake.

Throughout all of this, listen to your portable radio so that you can keep up with important news bulletins.

Aftershocks

After an earthquake, it’s common to experience aftershocks.  An aftershock is a second earthquake that occurs in the same area as the initial earthquake.  They can be quite serious and can continue for weeks after the initial earthquake.  You should react to an aftershock the same way that you react to the first earthquake — drop to your hands and knees, take cover under a desk or table, and hold onto it until the shaking stops.

Buildings that were damaged in the first earthquake may suffer additional damage, or even collapse, during an aftershock.  You should continue to examine your home, including the foundation, the chimneys and gas pipes and electrical wires, after every aftershock.

Tsunamis

A tsunami is a seismic sea wave caused by the displacement of water which can occur because of an earthquake.  The tremendous force of water of a tsunami can be very destructive.   If you live in a coastal area, you may be at risk and you may need to evacuate.  Monitor your emergency radio and be prepared to hit the road if a tsunami is likely.

Earthquakes can do enormous damage and can trigger other events, such as fire, gas leaks, downed power lines, and tsunamis, which can themselves threaten life and property.  Because it isn’t possible to forecast an earthquake, you need to be vigilant in your general preparedness plan so that you can respond at a moment’s notice.

I hope that the ground always stays steady under your feet.  But if it starts to quake, I hope it finds you prepared.  Have a look at What to Do In An Earthquake – Part I for more important information.

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What To Do In An Earthquake – Part I

Hurricane Sandy destructionA magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred in Nepal on April 25, 2015.  Although the final death toll is not yet known, the current count stands at over 3,200.  Another 6,500 people have been injured.  As a result of the quake, an avalanche occurred on Mount Everest, causing additional deaths and injuries.

What would you do if you were in an earthquake?  Your survival depends on the choices you make.

Your survival plan should start months before an earthquake ever takes place.  You should prepare now for a disaster by taking care of three items:  your bug-out bag, your evacuation plan and your long-term survival plan.

Your bug-out bag should include food, water, clothes and necessities for three days.  Everyone in your family should have one.  In fact, it wouldn’t hurt for everyone in your family to have three — one for home, one for work or school and one for the car.

Your evacuation plan should include a designated spot for your family to meet up in the event of any disaster.  It should also include a couple of alternative routes to a couple of alternative destinations.  You want the alternatives so that you can maneuvre around the disaster that you are evacuating from.

Lastly, your long-term survival plan should permit your family to survive without additional supplies on a long-term basis.  It should also include an audit of your living arrangements to assess and eliminate safety risks.  In anticipation of an earthquake, be sure that heavy objects are stored on the floor or on low shelves.  Secure large objects to the wall or floor.  For example, strap your hot water heater to the wall.

These three plans need to be in place in advance of any disaster, because you won’t have time to start them once the danger is imminent.

In the event of an earthquake, first get down on your hands and knees.  If you are already on your hands and feet, you can’t fall down when the earth shakes.

If you are indoors, try to shelter yourself under a desk or table.  If you can’t fit your whole body under the table, at least get your head and neck under it.  Hold onto your shelter.  If the earthquake moves the shelter around, go with it.  This technique is known as “drop, cover and hold on.”

If you are indoors but there is no desk or table to use a shelter, lie on the floor against an interior wall, as far away from windows, breakable items and heavy objects as you can get.  Cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.  Better yet, if you can grab a pillow, some sort of large tray or any other unbreakable object that will cover your head and neck, use that.

You may have heard that you should seek shelter from an earthquake in a doorway.  This if not a good idea at all.  For one thing, doorways are not any safer than regular construction in the event of an earthquake.  Secondly, doorways pose their own risks.  You may be hit by a swinging door or even by a door that is torn off its hinges by the earthquake.  And if you are in a public place, you  could be trampled by people trying to get through the door.

If you are in a wheelchair or are unable to get down on the floor for some other reason, move away from windows, exterior walls and heavy or breakable objects if at all possible.  Bend over and cover your neck and head.  If you can grab something to use, use it; otherwise simply use your arms and hands.

If you are in bed, stay there and cover your head and neck with your pillow. Don’t risk getting cut by broken objects or hit by flying objects by leaving the bed.

If you are outdoors when the earthquake hits, drop to your hands and feet.  Move as far away as possible from buildings, power lines, and other objects.  Again, the reasoning is that you don’t want objects to fall on you.  And again, cover your neck and head, using your arms and hands if you can’t find anything else.

Finally, if you are in a car when the earth starts to shake, pull over to the side of the road.  Avoid stopping on or under a bridge or overpass and move away from overhead power lines, road signs, billboards and other objects that may fly onto your car or into your windshield.  Do not leave the car.  Cover your neck and head with your arms and hands or with something else that may be in the car.

Now, it may be that I’ve left out a possible alternative location from the scenarios that I’ve outlined above.  Here are the basic principles for how to ride out an earthquake, now matter where you find yourself.  Get down on all floors or lie down.  Stay as far away as you can from breakable objects, especially windows, or from items that can fall down or fly around.  Cover your head and neck, preferably with a sturdy object.  If no object can be found, use your arms and hands.

One thing that you don’t want to do is leave a building to run out into the street.  Windows and architectural details that are attached to building facades can become detached and fall.  As a result, moving from a building into the street puts you at highest danger.

For more, see What to Do In An Earthquake – Part II, where I discuss what to do immediately after an earthquake occurs.

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What To Do When There’s A Hurricane

Hurricane Sandy destructionHurricanes are very powerful storms and involve a whole team of threats than can cause enormous damage.  The high winds themselves can cause damage; so can the driving rain, especially if it results in flooding; lightening strikes can cause fires; a storm surge often accompanies a hurricane and adds to the danger; the tornadoes that a hurricane can spawn are yet another threat.  Cars, yard furniture, tree branches and other large, heavy objects can be sent airborne and cause damage when they slam against other objects — or against animals — or against people.

Although it is almost always possible to know when a hurricane is coming, you should never wait until the storm is on its way before you start to prepare.  By the time the storm is imminent, supplies will be gone from the stores, gas stations will run out of gas and highways leading away from your area will be clogged with folks fleeing the area.  So get prepared now to be sure you and your family are safe when a hurricane hits your town this summer, or in two summers or ten years — or even never.

Before a hurricane ever heads your way, you should have three plans in place to ensure your family’s safety in any emergency.  First of all, each of your family members and each of your pets should have a bug-out bag, or a backpack outfitted with supplies necessary for survival for 72 hours.  It should always be packed, ready for you to pick it up and go without any further preparation.  It should contain food, water, a change of clothing, sturdy boots or shoes, important documents, extra cash, a first aid kit, emergency blankets and a tent, personal care items, a whistle, and other items necessary to keep you safe for three days.

Second, you should have an evacuation plan ready.  A good evacuation plan will provide a few different destinations and a few different routes for each destination.  This flexibility is necessary to be sure that you have a plan no matter what the emergency is.  If a chemical plant explosion occurs in one direction, you’ll want to leave town in another direction.  If a hurricane is headed toward you, you’ll need to head in the direction of higher ground.  You see how it works.  If you have pets, you’ll need to make sure that each leg of your evacuation is in a position to welcome them.  You should also get in the habit of always keeping your gas tank at least half full at all times, so that you can get out of town in an emergency without stopping to get gas.

And, third, you should have supplies ready for you and your family to be safe on a long-term basis.  You will need food, water, clothing, personal care items and other things necessary to permit you to shelter in place for a long time.  As you gather your supplies, be mindful of expiration dates.  You’ll want to go through your supplies a few times a year to use up items approaching the expiration date and to refresh them with newer items.

Get those three items — your bug-out bag, your evacuation plan, and your long-term survival plan — in place now.  Then know the difference between a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning.

A hurricane watch is a situation in which hurricane conditions are expected in a particular area within 48 hours. Hurricane conditions include winds of at least 74 mph (although they can be much higher), usually accompanied by rain, thunder and lightning.  If a hurricane watch is identified for your area, bring in all outdoor furniture, bicycles and any other item that a high wind can turn into a missile.  Make sure you know where your pets are.  Be watchful for additional news about the impending storm.

A hurricane warning is a situation in which hurricane conditions are expected in a particular area within 36 hours.  Close your windows and cover them with plywood.   Finalize your evacuation plan, choosing a destination and a route.  Call ahead to alert your family and friends that you are heading their way, or make reservations in a hotel en route.  In either case, be sure that everyone knows that your pets are with you, if they are.  As you travel, avoid flooded roads.

When you evacuate, pick up your bug-out bag and go.  Since you have it prepared in advance, you don’t need to stop and pack it.  See why you need it?

Once you have evacuated, don’t be hasty about returning.  A storm can lose hurricane status and still be a very bad storm, with high winds, rain, thunder and lightning.  Storm surges can continue and flooding can occur.  Return to your home only when you have been notified by authorities that it is safe.

When you have returned home, stay away from standing water.  Downed power lines can create an electric current in the water.  If you see any downed lines, stay away from them and report them to the appropriate utility company.  Avoid driving unless it’s necessary.  Don’t tie up phone lines either.

Tap water can become contaminated during a storm, so only drink it if you are certain it is clean.  Likewise with food.  If you have lost power, don’t eat the food in the refrigerator.  And don’t eat food that has been in flood water, even if it is in an unopened container.  Don’t risk food-borne illness.

When you set about cleaning up the house, wear protective clothing.  Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, gloves and rain boots.

Living through a hurricane can be a frightening and traumatic experience. It can in fact be dangerous.  But by planning in advance and using prudence during and after the storm, you can keep your family safe and minimize the risk.

 

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Don’t Forget Fido – Keeping Your Pets Safe

dog, cat and mouseHow could you survive an emergency without Bowser by your side?

You wouldn’t want to even think about it.   So be sure to take special precautions to keep Princess safe in a disaster.

Preparedness generally falls into three categories:  preparing a bug-out bag, making an evacuation plan, and setting up a long-term survival plan.  Think of Rover’s needs in each of these three stages.

Tiger’s Supplies in Your Bug-Out Bag

Tiger’s bug-out bag should include food, water, bowls, kitty litter and a cat pan.  Include any medications that she is on.   Your kit should include sturdy leashes, collars, harnesses and carriers, as appropriate for her.  Both cats and dogs should always wear a collar with tags with identifying information.

You should keep a plastic envelope with important documents in your own bug-out bag.  Your important documents should include Buster’s vaccination records and other medical records, notes with feeding schedules and any medical or behavioral problems, the name and number of his veterinarian, and a photo of yourself with him.  This last item will be helpful if you are ever separated from him.  The photo of Buster will make it easier to try to find him; you in the photo will help establish your ownership of him.  (Not that your Buster could ever be owned, of course.)

Spot’s bug-out bag should also include toys, beds, chew toys and other comfy items for him if you have space for them.

Evacuating Lassie

Your evacuation plan will need to be thoroughly researched to keep your Lassie safe.  Any evacuation plan needs to account for the fact that a disaster may block one or more ways out of town, so it will include alternative routes to a few different destinations.  Plan out hotels and motels along each route and contact them to be sure that they allow pets.  If they don’t, find another hotel. If your evacuation routes include stopping points or destinations with friends or relatives, check with them to see if they will allow you to bring Lassie with you.

Note that Red Cross and other shelters that may be available in a disaster usually don’t take pets.

You should practice your evacuation plan with your family a few times a year to be sure that everyone knows the plan and to work out errors or omissions that you may have made preparing it.  Bring Scruffy along in these practice sessions.  Put him in a carrier if you have them for him.  Take him to the family meeting spot so that he gets familiar with it.  And monitor his well-being as you do this, to correct and perfect the plan as much as you can.

The announcement of anticipated emergency situations sometimes happen with enough time to act.  During that time, decide on a particular route to a particular destination.  Call ahead to make reservations, let people know you are coming, and double check that Fifi will be welcome.  If she is an outdoor cat or dog, keep her in the house once you hear that an emergency is coming so that you won’t have to delay your departure as you look for her.

Patch’s Long-Term Survival

After the disaster, as you settle in to a long-term survival situation, you will need to be able to continue to care for Patch.  The disaster may alter her disposition, making her defensive or aggressive even if she never was before.  Prepare for her change of mood as well as you can.  Keep her favorite toys with her if you have the space.  If she is an outdoor pet, do your best to get her out as much as seems beneficial to her.

Even if Boots is ordinarily an outdoor pet, keep him with you.  He may become disoriented after some types of disaster.  There may be hazards on or near the ground, such as sharp objects, chemicals and debris.  Don’t let him wander.

And, of course, long before any disaster, when you are gathering your long-term supplies, stock up on the things you’ll need for Socks.  Food, water and bowls are necessary.  Don’t forget flea and tick treatments, heartworm medicine, ear cleaner, and any other products you use for Socks’ well-being.

I know you love your Cinnamon Doggie and want to take care of him.  Not just for his benefit but for the benefit of your whole family.  During a traumatic time, you will want your ever-loving pet with you.  So use some foresight in your preparedness plan to be sure Cinnamon Dog stays well.

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