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Testing Your Emergency Plan

Camping Survival – by Tom

If you read my column regularly, you know the importance of an emergency plan as an integral component of your overall urban survival skills. Yes, it’s great if you keep a first aid kit, MRE and water on-hand, but unless you’ve mapped out how you plan to use your supplies, you’ll be a lot less effective in helping yourself, your family or your neighbors to get through a natural disaster or civil emergency. An emergency plan is vital, and testing that plan is equally critical.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast last week, we were within the projected path, giving us a chance to really test our emergency plan. We went through all the details that I’ve mentioned to you in previous blogs, and guess what? We found holes in our own emergency plan! Thankfully, we didn’t get hit by the storm directly, and this valuable experience has helped us identify the changes that needed to be made.

How concerned should you be about an emergency plan run-through? I’ll give you some examples of situations that people have found themselves in, and let you be the judge:

  • During a power outage, the homeowner retrieves a flashlights, only to discover that the batteries, which were stored inside the flashlight, have gone dead. (Tip: To keep batteries from discharging, don’t insert them into your flashlight until you need them.)
  • Emergency supplies were stored in different areas of the house, making it difficult to find them during a power outage, slowing evacuation.
  • The backup generator has been stored for years without being used, causing the fuel inside to spoil and making it impossible to start.
  • Critical emergency supplies were storied in the basement and were flooded before they could be used.

Testing your emergency plan doesn’t require you to wait for a massive storm. Simply set up scenarios that you could likely face in a real emergency. I’ll give you three possible drills you could test against your emergency plan, and think about others that match situations you could

  • High winds snap a tree branches, plunging your town into darkness. You need to be able to find your generator in the dark, get it started and run the appropriate extension cords to critical appliances.
  • A tanker truck crashes on a nearby road, emitting a toxic cloud. You need to have your go-bag (including food water, spare clothes, insurance papers, ID, prescriptions and any other items) and your family in the car within five minutes, ready to evacuate.
  • You’re alerted to a surprise snowstorm while at work. You need to plan out an effective route home, both by your normal route and by a secondary route in case the roads are clogged. You also need to contact all family members, arrange transportation home, and ensure that there’s enough food in the house to endure multiple days stuck inside.

If you have kids, you certainly don’t want to scare them with doomsday scenarios, but teaching them age-appropriate preparedness skills will make them better equipped to face the realities of life. Many stories have been told of children who saved the family from harm by knowing what to do in an emergency. And instilling your family members with the idea that you’re all a responsible for each others well being is never a bad thing.

Be safe and stay alert,


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One Response to Testing Your Emergency Plan

  1. US Marine Fighting Tyranny says:

    My Fellow Americans:

    Most of these “Self-Help” articles although useful,.. typically miss the proper way to determine the best way to prepare.

    A suggestion for those truly interested in how to prepare, as a US Marine does.

    First: Prepare for the worst possible scanario,.. and hope for the best situation.

    A nice euphemism, but the hell does that really mean?

    Basically, envision that all of your typical support system are down,.. how are you, your family (or friends) going to cope?

    What are your typical “support systems?:
    – Banks, supermarkets, local stores, gas stations, police, medics, internet, telephone, mail,… and even trash pick-up.

    Worst case: All those systems go down (unavailable)

    Hoping for the best: That none of those systems go down, or, only some of them.

    Your position: If your prepared for all of them to go down,.. then by definition anything less that happens (meaning some, if not most, of these infrastructure/support systems are still running) then you only need to mitigate the loss of the few systems you normally rely on, and have covered yourself.

    Second, but actually more important: You DON’T prepare for the actual event,… (Ahhh,.. shear heresey!!!),… you….. (drum roll please,…………….)

    PREPARE FOR THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE EVENT!!! (Ta-DAaaaaaa!!!! horns blaring11)

    I know this sounds almost the same,.. but it is in fact quite a different mindset, that causes a different set of preparation tactics to get carried out.

    You see, there may only be a few dozen or so “Gross” Emergency scanarios,… but there are nearly an infinite possibilities of variations, each requiring a somewhat different plan, albiet, not entirely for the very few similiar ones.

    However,.. a multitude of basic events and certainly any number of variations of these kind of events produce almost indentical consequences, so when you prepare for a particular set of consequences, you have in fact prepared for dozens, if not hundreds of specific types of events.

    Example: If you prepare for a flood of say 3 feet,… does it matter if its from to much rain,.. or a creek breeching its banks,… or an ocean surge,… or maybe a rain/sleet storm?

    Answer: No.

    All that matters to you,.. is the consequences of such flooding and the simple question,.. how many support systems could it effect.

    Lets take everyones grand method of Emergency Preparation,.. the Generator.

    I love this, so many people have, or bought generators without giving the thought to what happens if you can’t get gasoline for it,.. as we have seen this time around.

    Gasoline shortages are nothing new, especially in times of crisis or catastophy,.. however, how many times have you heard of Natural Gas Service Disruptions? (Well,.. in California, this happens with large siesmic events)

    Hence,.. my generator is a Tri-Fuel Unit,… it can run off of Gasoline, Porpane, or Natural Gas.

    My picking this kind of unit was not an accident, but was done with the thought that if an event occurs that is sufficient to knock out my eletricity, it may be sufficient to knock out the electricity to gas stations that need it to run their pumps.

    I did not prepare for an specific event,.. buyt rather the consquences of an event, or simulataneous events,.. as occurred here in the aftermath of Sandy.

    The point is,.. the easiest way to be prepared, is to simply imagine that all support systems are down (external reserves), and you have to rely on what you have on hand only,.. your internal reserves.

    This will cause you to view the question of Self-Readiness in a completely different way, and will allow you to mitigate a much wider variety circumstances even though you did not address that specifically.

    Hope that helps some a little.

    JD – US Marines

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