Army Marine Team
Saving Pvt. Journalism, Pt. 6

Rational Preparedness, Part One

From the comments, reposting some of my writing on preparedness should be timely. What I am going to do is go back and post some of the best here, and all of it I can will be reposted on my temporary site to archive it in case the old software/site go away.

I was particularly pleased to find the next three to be posted, as they offer a very different way to look at disasters of all types, and preparedness. It is much easier to focus on five things than thousands...

Hope you enjoy, and that it gives some good food for thought. As noted previously, some minor editing to the orginal text may take place.

Originally posted April 29,2003

Into every life, some rain must fall. There is no requirement, however, that it has to fall into your home and on you and yours. Some simple preparations can help you stay warm, dry, and minimize damage when the rain does fall.

Welcome to rational preparedness: common-sense things you can do to prepare for the unexpected and make your life a bit better in the meantime. Just so you know, I have done disaster preparedness consulting and written about the subject for a number of years. I am not a survivalist or such, just a former Boy Scout who took “Be Prepared” very seriously.

Actually, life made sure that I did, throwing a few interesting things my way. With good preparations I learned from my parents, from scouting, and from elsewhere, I did much more than survive: I got through it in style. The nice thing is, so can you.

There are all sorts of nasty things out there, and you can spend a small fortune preparing for each and every one of them. There are people selling all sorts of things at very high prices, from anti-terrorism planning kits to full MOPP gear. There is just so much out there and, yes, you can go buy it. Why? You can let all the different types of disasters possible overwhelm you. Why?
Why do it? Why spend the money? Why worry? Instead of loosing yourself this way, let’s look at things a bit differently. What are the things that are likely to happen to you? No, not the type of disaster that could befall, but rather what are the likely results of any of them? What are the common denominators of storms, earthquakes, explosions, and other natural or man-made fun?

They all boil down to five basic types of damage: personal injury, structural damage, consumables, wire systems, and infrastructure. Five things that are relatively easy to cope with, especially since many of them call for the same basic supplies.

Let’s start with the easiest one: personal injury. Do you have a first aid kit? If no, why not? If you don’t then your family obviously has much better coordination than most of mine, and you clearly don’t have small children. A first aid kit doesn’t have to be a big, expensive item. It can be a disposable storage container that has band-aids, ointment, and other such supplies in it. Making your own can be inexpensive, and can even be a fun home-schooling project.

The basics that I would recommend are: band-aids, gauze, tape, and ointment. If you have to take medicine on a regular basis, or suffer from allergies, make sure you put some of these medicines aside in the kits just in case. If you don’t want to make your own, you can find some very good basic, small kits for sale at very reasonable prices and add to them. I found some good deals at the K-Marts that were being closed down in my area. I have also picked up some good (and some not-so-good) kits as give-aways at trade shows. Look around, there is a lot of good stuff available for cheap or for free.

Now, I have both the small kits and some larger ones as well. Given all that I do, from shooting to hiking, I tend to keep a fairly good kit in the vehicle(s), and have my true disaster kits at home. The larger kits have things like hemostats, burn treatments, all sizes of pads, eye care, and a lot more. The thing to remember here is that you do not have to start big. Start small, and then work your way up as needed. That is what I did.

The main thing is, make it work for you. Have the basics, have some basic medicines that you need, make sure it will work for you for 1-5 days. Simple, and inexpensive to do.

Another good investment of time and money is in first aid books and training. CPR and emergency first aid classes are often taught for free, just call the local Red Cross or emergency response company and inquire. Your company may offer these courses as well, and you can get some kudos for attending. Make use of the cheap or free resources. Also, use the instructors and others to get ideas on really good first aid books and such. One of my favorites is still my old Boy Scout handbook, which while it does have some outdated information, the basics have not changed all that much. Add to it some of the more recent pamphlets and books, and you are set.

Think about things just a bit more, though. Aside from cuts and scrapes, the need for medicines, is there anything else particular to your situation that you need to consider? Any health problems? Do you wear glasses or contacts? You may want to think about keeping an old pair of glasses, or some cheap disposable contacts, in the first aid kit(s) just in case. Remember also that you don’t have to do it all at once, start small and then build up.

Keep in mind also that many things can serve dual uses. A good t-shirt doubled over your mouth and nose can make an excellent “gas mask” that will keep out dust and even many biological agents. Feminine pads and tampons can be used for first aid purposes. A cook I used to love to watch used the catchphrase “Make do with what you got” and he had the right of it. Use your head and there are a lot of resources available to you.

Structural damage is another area where you can begin making some preparations. Long before Tom Ridge developed his duct tape and plastic fetish, I had mine. Where I currently reside, we get thunderstorms, tornados, hurricanes or tail end of same, earthquakes, and other delights. It has been a target area for years for people as well. So, looking at likely damage, I came up with a basic kit that is now in each room of the house.

The kit is a simple latch-top storage unit, that contains: a hammer, brads (small nails), tacks, plastic sheeting, tape of various types, a small first aid kit and/or basic supplies, nylon twine, utility knife, scissors, a church key (bottle/can opener), a couple of decks of cards, candles, matches, lighter, cylumes, and a flashlight. Now each kit may have additional items in it, but this is the basic load out.

The rational is simple. In an emergency, I don’t want to spend 10 minutes trying to remember where I put something, esp. as it may not be in the same place anymore. So, I have plastic and the means to put it firmly in place over a broken window, hole in the wall, or other breach. I can also throw the plastic over room contents while I deal with the breach. I have the means to see what I am doing, I can cut not only plastic but other items as needed. I even have entertainment. Everything I can need for a quick response is right there, so I can do the quick and then go get what is needed to do the rest.

Now, these kits did not happen overnight. They have been built up over years, so don’t think you have to do one for each room. Start with just one basic kit, and then work your way up.
In addition to the basic kits, I do have emergency food and water tucked away. The food is mostly my camping/hiking food, along with Textured Vegetable Protein that is vacuum sealed. In a really bad emergency, I can use this food and my camping gear to cook, and do quite well. Given that I also have lanterns and the like, I have gone for a few days without power in winter without much discomfort.

One point on flashlights is to get a good one. They don’t cost that much more and, believe me, they pay for themselves in real life as well as in emergencies. My flashlight of choice now is a Hubble Light [UPDATE: No longer made, alas]. These are brighter than most Mags, lighter, still can be used in some/most hazardous conditions, and won’t roll. Between the “sides” and built-in clips and such, they are extremely versatile.

I will finish for today by saying that you should also have spare batteries and battery-operated radios or TV’s around as well. They are not expensive, and are good to have.

Stay tuned for the next installment of rational preparedness.