I suspect that some of the more sporting and adventurous among us would say yes, and perhaps flash back to long or solo voyages, or thrill-seeking activities on the water such as running difficult rapids. Some of the gentler souls among us might answer no, reflecting on a love of fishing, kayaking, or more quiet recreation. Most likely, many of us could answer that question either way. Perhaps we all take, or have taken, risks at various times in our lives.
Could it be a matter of perspective and viewpoint? What constitutes living dangerously? Is it intention? What then if we don’t view any of our activities as risky? What if we train and work toward achieving levels of skill or knowledge that make those activities seem safe and almost ordinary?
If you frame the question solely in the context of emergency preparedness, do you live dangerously?
These recent natural disasters – hurricanes Harvey, Irma, José and Maria; the recent earthquake in Mexico; and the many raging wildfires in the west – have prompted much discussion about disaster preparedness. Hopefully, these events have also prompted action.
Building on my last post, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and practical considerations about personal preparedness. I know the topic can be daunting for many, and manageable (or at least not such a big deal) for others. Then, there are those who don’t see any need to prepare…or who aren’t paying attention.
For the former, I urge you to wade in and get your feet wet! Start by trying to understand the nature of the most likely hazard(s) you may face. Your research should include local websites, video clips, books or articles – as well as sites such as Ready.gov. Better yet, take classes or talk to those who have experience. Is there anything counter-intuitive, odd or specific that might be important or useful to know? Fortunately, most of us know that hurricanes have an eye – a eerily quiet zone in the middle that we shouldn’t mistake for the end – but, until I read it here, I did not know that hurricanes rarely turn south.
Next, assess what might be your most immediate dangers and note others that are nearby. During hurricanes and windstorms, what might become airborne? During an earthquake, what might fall or topple? Can you take steps to remove or secure those hazards ahead of time? What might fail structurally in either of those situations? Which roads might become impassible? Can you find alternatives?
Do you have household chemicals or fuel that might cause problems if they were to spill and/or mingle? Unsecured chemicals pose obvious risks during earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires and many other types of disasters. During winter storms that cause power outages, they may freeze, thaw, expand and burst through containers. Excessive heat might cause similar dangers. If possible, store chemical products in approved containers and in closed cabinets that have child-proof latches. It is best to minimize the amount of these you keep stored on site.
What do experts in your area advise for go kits and storing longer-term supplies? Take a look, and compare recommendations and checklists. Before heading to the store or online, visualize your own situation. How might you customize those recommendations? Think about your personal needs, as well as the needs of your entire household. Who depends on you? Pets? Kids? A family member with health or mobility issues? A neighbor who lives alone? Visiting friends from out of the area or out of the country? A friend who hasn’t the resources to prepare? Similarly, visualize and apply that thinking to go kits and supplies for your boat, workplace, school, or other locations where you might find yourself during an unexpected emergency.
Take steps to mitigate personal injuries. Don a hard hat (or alternatively, a bike or football helmet), eye protection, sturdy footwear, and heavy work gloves as part of your emergency attire. What else would make you safer, more effective or more comfortable? In different situations that might be bug repellant, a dust mask, hearing protection, hands-free flashlight, phone charger, printed maps, write-in-the-rain notebooks, hip waders, a reflective vest and tape, or a tent. What might you add?
How would your plans and go kits differ if you were to shelter in place versus evacuate? For either scenario, start with the necessities (water, heat, shelter, light, food, medications). Try to envision gear and equipment that you might also use for boating, hiking (remember the 10 Essentials?) or camping – that is, warm, resilient, waterproof and lightweight if you intend to carry it. Include any must-have items (toothbrush, hygiene items, some cash, phone/electronics) that you would want if traveling. As we head into the winter months, be sure to keep seasonal considerations in mind. If you have young ones, visualize their needs, and yours (earplugs?), if you were to take them on a trip. Pack things that might be a comfort or a distraction.
Plan to cache your personal longer-term supplies for sheltering in place where they aren’t likely to be ruined or destroyed… yet are likely to still be accessible and available in an emergency. Some of our ideas for earthquake preparedness here include storing supplies near exits or in secure containers outdoors or underground in case we aren’t certain that buildings are safe. In flood-prone areas, it makes sense to store supplies well above ground level.
Storing drinking water is a challenge, as it is so heavy. Did you know that you can also drink and use the water in a hot water tank if the water and other city services have been shut off? The key is to make sure ahead of time that the water tank has earthquake straps so it doesn’t tip over, and to shut off incoming water during, or right after, an earthquake so that it doesn’t get contaminated if waterlines break.
Don’t feel overwhelmed or that you are alone in these preparedness efforts! Have you thought about neighborhood preparedness? The people around you may well share the same concerns. The most resilient communities are those in which neighbors talk about potential emergencies ahead of time, make plans to help each other if something happens, and look out for each other on an ongoing basis.
In a disaster, neighbors might come together post-emergency (assuming power outages) to ‘triage’ and prepare food in order to eliminate loss and waste. Perishables and refrigerated items would be used first, frozen items next, dry goods and canned goods last. Neighbors might also come together to share their skills, tools, and take on recovery-focused roles. Ladders, generators, rope, grills and tools could be shared.
An important takeaway is that everyone should focus most on those things that will ease stress and panic. Communication is a big part of that. FEMA recommends that everyone have an emergency communication plan. Having an out of area central point of contact is also very helpful, in that local phone lines may be overwhelmed or down, yet it may still be possible to send text messages through to other locations. Post-disaster, be sure to let your loved ones know if you are safe! You can do this via Facebook, Twitter, and/or Red Cross’ Safe and Well app and website.
In closing, please give some thought to what knowledge you might wish you had following a hurricane or other disaster. How we spend our free time now – planning, training, accumulating skills in bleeding control and first aid, and learning new technologies – may not make make a dangerous situation seem ordinary, but it may make it much more manageable. Most importantly, it may help us save lives.