When bad weather strikes, be prepared.

Natural Disasters: Emergency planning, preparation, and practice

Source:  The New York Times     The Washington Post

Mother Nature, is a powerful force to be respected and a consummate teacher to man-kind.  In the aftermath of hurricane Harvey and now facing hurricane Irma, mother nature reminds us she is in charge.  No matter the time of year, weather plays an integral and important part in our everyday lives.  From the heat of summer to the cold of winter; from tornado’s in the Midwest to hurricanes along the east coast, we are reminded how vulnerable we are to extreme weather.  Emergency planning is something everyone can do and it can make all the difference in the world.

In an effort to help educate and get the word out to prepare for emergencies, The Observationalist offers up a simple approach to emergency readiness for our modern society today.

The most severe emergency in our society today is the need to evacuate.  It is hard to prepare for an evacuation, as it is can often be a last minute urgent event to deal with that always falls under Murphy’s Law.  However, there are some simple things we can do to prepare.  An important thing to consider, and is the cornerstone of any evacuation is knowing when to evacuate, and hopefully well in advance.

Emergency Planning

First and foremost, when evacuation is likely to occur the best course of action is to evacuate as early as possible.  We should not assume we can ride it out, or wait to the last possible moment; the most common mistakes made.  Early evacuation allows us to preserve more and move away from the danger zone without the mind-numbing panic that can set in.

Having an evacuation plan is crucial, it helps to organize and stay focused during a stressful event.  An evacuation plan should emphasis the protection of life over preserving material things.  In making an evacuation plan most people start with the basics, food and water, which is very important.  However, having enough food and water is useless if you have no transportation planning.  Knowing how you are going to “get out” is as important as having the necessities.

Keep it simple and basic

Let’s start with the basics. In our modern society today, food and water for human consumption can be found anywhere and usually provided through emergency services.  Having a supply of food and water for one or two days should be sufficient; but only if evacuating early is top priority in your plan.  If you do plan to ride it out, having a food and water supply for “weeks” is a good idea, both for humans and pets.

Next, having clothes for at least three days should be sufficient.  Clothing should be robust in nature and take into account worse case circumstances.  This is especially true for children and elderly individuals.  Blankets, towels, sanitation and hygiene supplies should be part of this planning phase as well.  All items should be packed in weather resistant containers or travel bags.  Keeping in mind these containers will need to fit into your vehicle as well as people and pets.  Include First-Aid supplies and medications in this planning phase as well.

Pets are family too, don’t forget them

Pets are the variable that is often neglected.  Having a supply of pet food on hand is crucial for a pet’s survival.  Emergency services priority is people, though many pet food companies have emergency services they dispatch to affected areas.  However, it is not wise to count on pet food and supplies to be readily available.  Including your pet in the evacuation plan helps to ensure pets are taken care of and give pet parents peace of mind.  With pets, evacuating early is the best course of action.

Practice what you plan

In any evacuation plan practice is important.  Once you have a plan in place, practice the plan at least once a year and refine the plan as needed.  Knowing where the containers are, what to pack in them and how to pack them is important. Also, figuring out how to load everything in your vehicle is important, so practice loading your vehicle.  Purchasing containers that will fit your type of vehicle and hold the necessary items should be taken into consideration.

Prepacking certain long-lasting items saves time.  Items such as emergency blankets, tarps, First-Aid supplies, pet food bowls, flares, camping supplies, to name a few make it easy to grab and go.  The benefit of preparing these items in advance means you don’t have to think about them.

Finally, planning an evacuation route and or a destination is the most important part.  Not knowing where to go or how to get there is just as bad, if not worse, than not being prepared.  In the event of an immediate evacuation, you may not have time to grab everything, even with a plan in place.  In this situation preservation of life is paramount, and knowing how to navigate to a safe location could be the difference between life and death.

When time allows

As a secondary part of your plan, figuring out those items you would like to survive but can’t take with you can help ease your mind.  Packing these items in sturdy storage containers that are weather resistant or can be made weather resistant is a good idea.  This is where having a good quality duct tape comes in handy.  However, this part of your plan should only be attempted if there is time to do so.

Once these items are packed, finding a place within your home to place them is important.  This is especially true for areas prone to flooding.  A general rule, placing these storage containers in a closet, bathroom, or attic space helps to preserve these items.  Also, within each storage container place something that identifies you, such as your name, address, and contact information.

One last thing to consider.  We live in the digital world, meaning we have lots of information on our computers.  Backing up important information on your computer regularly is a good practice in general.  If possible, backup important documents onto removeable media such as a thumb drive, DVD or CD.  These are small items you can grab quickly and throw into any storage container, backpack, or travel bag.

Better to be prepared than not

No evacuation plan is perfect, but not having one can be disastrous and life threatening.  When time is of the essence, panic sets in.  The more planning and practice you have the less for you to think about.  Reviewing and practicing your plan is another important aspect of any good emergency plan.  The main emphasis is the preservation of life, material things can be replaced.

This article focused on an evacuation plan, as having to evacuate is the worse aspect in any emergency.  This is, by no means, a complete plan.  Developing an emergency plan for your locale and situation is important.  Hopefully you may not need to evacuate, but having a plan to shelter in place is just as important.  Sheltering in place is about time, and having an appropriate amount of the necessary supplies is just as crucial as an evacuation plan.

We hope this long article helps, if for nothing else gets you thinking about emergency planning.  It is better to have an emergency plan in place and not need it, than facing an emergency with no plan at all and wishing you had one.